Jordans are certainly at an all-time high right now, but that definitely doesn’t diminish the fact that they’ve been popular for a number of years. With that being said, we take a look back and based upon popularity, buzz, hype, selling out and a general ‘want’ feeling once sold out, we pick the most popular Air Jordan release from each year of the last 20 years.
In analyzing Jordan releases, both new and retro, over the course of the past two decades, it’s crazy to see how spoiled we are as sneakerheads nowadays. Many ‘old’ sneakerheads complain about the quality of these new retros, but Jordan Brand’s retro cycles used to be far longer, and those releases much more spaced out. Jordan Brand has always ruled over the competition for our wallets, but the heat really turned up around 2008, with the Countdown Packages, and in the following year, with the Holiday “Space Jam” retro. After 2008, Jordan Brand dominated, plain and simple.
We’re sure you won’t be in agreement with all the picks and you will no doubt have your favorite from each year, so please let us know in the comments section below which would be your selections.
1993 - Air Jordan VIII "Aqua"
Back in the 1993, retros hadn’t been introduced yet…something that didn’t occur until the next year. So, the candidates for most popular release were a little thinner. But, the best colorway the Air Jordan VIII ever saw, the “Aqua”, takes the top honors over the debut colorways of the Air Jordan IX.
1994 - Air Jordan III Black/Cement (Nike Air)
The year 1994 ushered in a new era for the Air Jordan brand: The Retro Era. Likely a response by the company to offset the shock of MJ’s first retirement, Jordan Brand dug into the vaults and reissued a few of their most popular models to that point. This also marked the last time you could purchase the Air Jordan III Black/Cement with a Nike Air logo on it, rather than the Jumpman we see today. Other contenders from the year include the early Air Jordan X models and the retros of the white/cement III and Air Jordan II respectively. But, let’s be real, the Black III was the star of the show in ’94.
1995 - Air Jordan XI "Concord"
There’s a reason the Air Jordan XI is such an icon. When MJ broke these babies out in 1995, the debut “Concord” colorway broke some necks for it’s innovative use of patent leather. And, if you’ve tried to cop any of the Concord retro’s, you know the same holds true today. The Concord XI takes top honors over the likes of the coveted Air Jordan X “City Pack”.
1996 - Air Jordan XI "Columbia"
The Air Jordan XI was an interesting sneaker, not only because of it’s crazy look, but because it’s colorway release pattern differed from it’s predecessors in that, up until February, the only model available was the Concord. But, once the ’96 All-Star game rolled around, His Airness laced up the amazing “Columbia” Air Jordan XI. Of course, come playoff time, we also got a chance to pickup the black/red model and even the Air Jordan XII too, but once sneakerheads got a look at that all-white upper and those icy soles? Game over.
1997 - Air Jordan XII "Flu Game"
The legend of the Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” helped propel the black/red colorway of the Air Jordan XII to the top spot in 1997. The black/red colorway was typically released just prior to the playoffs, so when a flu-ridden MJ rattled off 38 points in game 5 of the NBA finals that year, sneakerheads took note. And, if you’ve got the paper, the Flu Game XIIs MJ was actually wearing during that game are currently up for auction: http://catalog.greyflannelauctions.com/6-11-1997-Michael-Jordan-Chicago-Bulls-Game-5-of-t-LOT30862.aspx
1998 - Air Jordan XIII "Playoffs"
Speaking of the playoff colorways, the top model of 1998 was no doubt the “Playoff” Air Jordan XIII. Though ’98s releases include the banging colorways of the XIII and the “Black Toe” Air Jordan XIV, the woven 3M and holographic eye of the black and red XIII were king of the hill that year.
1999 - Air Jordan IV Black/Cement (Nike Air)
Jordan Brand’s second major round of retros happened in 1999 and, naturally, they occupied the top spots of most popular releases that year. This time, JB broke out the Air Jordan IV for a second time, again with the OG Nike Air branding, and again the black/red colorway dominated the rest of the pack. Even with the likes of the “Oreo” and “Midnight Navy” IVs making their debut, the black/red IV proved nothing beats a classic.
2000 - Air Jordan XI "Space Jam"
It was a fantastic year in 2000 for Air Jordan fans, particularly those of us looking to pickup some soon-to-be classics. With gems like the Black/Infrared and “Midnight Navy” AJ VI and the Air Jordan V “Laney” dropping, only a select few Jordans could take the top spot. But, the Air Jordan XI “Space Jam” aren’t just the run-of-the-mill Js. With the hype of the silver screen propelling their popularity to ridiculous heights, it’s crazy that the masses had to wait four years to pickup the “Space Jam” XI. Because of the thirst generated over those four years, the “Space Jam” XI takes top honors in 2000.
2001 - Jordan XI "Cool Grey"
This may have been the most difficult year to select the most popular Jordan release. With some serious competition from the likes of the black/royal Is, “Snakeskin” XI Lows, a handful of Air Jordan IIIs (including the first retro of the “True Blue” colorway) and the first (and only) retro of the “Columbia” XI, top honors go to the “Cool Grey” Air Jordan XI. Let’s be honest, the XI is one of the most popular Jordans of all time. And when JB brings out a new colorway like they did in 2001 with the “Cool Greys”, sneakerheads flocked in mass. Oh you think people scrapping over XI’s in 2013 was news? Cool Grey XIs started riots way back in 2001!
2002 - Air Jordan XVII+ "Copper"
Following all the crazy retros and new colorways of 2001, Jordan Brand had a “lower profile” in 2002. But, that’s not to say they didn’t drop some bangers. Even with dope drops like the Air Jordan IX “Olive” retro, “French Blue” VIIs and the XVII Low All Star Game “Lightning” colorway, top honors go to the luxurious Air Jordan XVII+ “Copper” colorway. Sporting an updated look from the debut XVII colorways, the ‘plus’ model dropped the lace covers and upped it’s game by featuring a smooth croc-print leather piece on the heel.
2003 - Air Jordan XII "Nubuck"
In 2003, Jordan Brand dropped a new colorway of the Air Jordan XII, the “Nubuck”, that was exclusive to their Jumpman23.com site. And though we’ve since received a retro of this dope colorway, the exclusivity and the price tag (they came bundled with a hoodie and a hat for $200) made the “Nubuck” Air Jordan XII the top release of 2003.
2004 - Air Jordan IV "Cool Grey"
There were some really solid new colorways introduced in 2004. Among the top contenders for ’04s most popular drops were the Air Jordan XIII “Wheat”, “Melo” IIs and a handful of sweet retros. But the top spot belonged to the new “Cool Grey” colorway of the Air Jordan IV. The Cool Grey IV is currently among the most requested retros in the Jordan vault, having released once, and only once, in 2004. Can you hear us Jordan? Rrreeeetrrroooooo!
2005 - Air Jordan IV "UNDFTD"
With “Altitude’ XIIIs, a retro of the “Ice Blue” X, and the ‘Rare Air’ Laser IVs set dropping, 2005 was a tough year to pick too. But, as in most cases in the sneaker game, exclusivity is king. And UNDFTD’s Air Jordan IV collab, and those 72 lucky souls who possess them, can’t be topped. These are likely to go down as one of the dopest (and hardest to acquire) Jordans ever.
2006 - Air Jordan XI/VI "DMP
With absolute classics like the respective debuts of the Air Jordan IV “Lightning” and “Thunder” colorways, as well as the first retro of the highly coveted “Grape” Vs, 2006 had some amazing releases. But, that’s just a testament to how fantastic the Defining Moments Pack was. Containing a gold gilded version of two of the most popular Air Jordans ever, this pack was an absolute killer. And, even though JB has dropped some impressive packs before, we’re not sure they’ll ever top this combo. It was a good year in 2006 to be a sneakerhead.
2007 - Air Jordan III "Fire Red"
Even in a year when some crazy limited PEs, like the Ray Allen and QRich VIIIs dropped, there was one release that jumped ahead of the pack. Jordan fans had to wait nearly 20 years, but in 2007, they finally got another chance to scoop up the Air Jordan III “Fire Red”. It’s crazy that it took so long to bring back out. But, once they dropped, you know they were a must for many a Jordan head in 2007.
2008 - Air Jordan VI "Carmine" / XVII CDP
With all the Countdown Packs that released in 2008, it was tough to pick a frontrunner, but then we remembered the thirst Jordan heads had for the Air Jordan VI “Carmine”. Released in 1991, and not seen again until 2008’s CDP, it didn’t even matter that the “Carmine” was paired with a “less-desirable” Air Jordan XVII. Those 17 years of anticipation were enough to propel this pack over the likes of the “Miro” VII and the slew of awesome CDP releases.
2009 - Air Jordan XI "Space Jam"
This is where things really start to heat up. A retro of the highly coveted “True Blue” Air Jordan III, and the fantastic combo of the “Raging Bull” Air Jordan V pack provided some serious competition for the hearts and wallets of sneakerheads in 2009. But only one pair of Js can sit atop the hill and lay claim to the most popular release of the year, and that was the retro of Air Jordan XI “Space Jam”. Jordan Brand has always had a magnetic pull on our disposable income, but in 2009, they really started going hard during the holidays. The 2009 “Space Jams” released a few days before Christmas, and thus began a new yearly Holiday tradition…scrapping over the new Jordan releases.
2010 - Air Jordan VI Black Infrared
Another heated year of competition saw the fantastic Air Jordan III “Doernbecher”, a holiday retro of the “Cool Grey” XI and the introduction of the amazing “Premio Bin 23″ collection. But the top spot in 2010 belonged to a Jordan Brand classic, the black Infrared Air Jordan VI. Not seen in retro form for a decade, the Infrared VI was a hot commodity in 2010.
2011 - Air Jordan XI "Concord"
Another holiday release takes the top spot for 2011. This time, the center of the attention for your holiday cash was the Air Jordan XI “Concord”. Obviously calling this one a fan favorite is a serious understatement. Because not only did these babies beat out the likes of the tremendously popular Premio Air Jordan V, Ray Allen PE XIII, they also caused riots from coast to coast. Yay consumerism!
2012 - Air Jordan IV Black/Red
Yet another fantastic year for Jordan Brand was 2012, not only in the retro department, but for new colorways too. With the likes of the “Gold Medal Pack”, the gold-gilded Doernbecher IX and retros of the “Olympic” VI and black/red XI, the competition was stiff. But, a classic is a classic, and the black/red Air Jordan IV, particularly because it was a Black Friday release, was definitely the most popular Jordan release of 2012.
2013 - Air Jordan I Black/Royal
With the year nearly over, it’s possible this entry may need updating…but seeing how quickly the black/royal Air Jordan I sold out this year, it’s going to be tough to beat. Rumors of production problems meant that the masses grew even thirstier to scoop up the legendary colorway that we hadn’t seen since 2001. The “Royals” even beat out the “Retro 88′” Air Jordan III and spoiled the return of both the “Grape” and “Laney” Vs. And even with some superb December releases on the horizon, we don’t see the “Royals” budging from their top spot.