lead & group photos by Rob Mata
Welcome to Nice Kicks’ Throwback Thursday where we pay tribute to arguably the most iconic and popular Air Jordan silhouette in brand history: The Air Jordan 11.
This Saturday will see the year’s most anticipated and coveted general release of the year: the Air Jordan XI Retro in the classic Concord colorway. OG collectors and Jordan historians will be quick to specify that this particular retro is, in fact, a re-release of the very pair MJ wore on court during Games 1 and 2 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Orlando Magic, complete with his #45 on the heel. This marks one of the only times in Jordan Brand history when a game-worn MJ PE has been given the retro treatment in near OG-correct color blocking, detailing, and packaging.
So, strap on your seatbelt and take a ride on this fantastic voyage all the way back in time to the year 1995 as we once again celebrate sneaker history and pay tribute to the Air Jordan 11 Concord.
There are many descriptions that come to mind when one thinks of the Air Jordan XI Concord: “Most beloved Jordan,” “overwhelming masterpiece,” “best sneaker ever.” Such high praise for high fashion, and as history has shown, it is fully justifiable. Nearly 25 years after its original debut, and multiple retro versions in both OG and new garde colorways, the Jordan XI has earned mythical status among collectors and enthusiasts as an icon and symbol of success, style, sophistication, and urban fashion, a consequence and product of mass hysteria, an everlasting and enduring love of Jordan, as well as consumer’s appreciation and respect for beautiful aesthetics.
In August 1994, while Jordan was busy playing baseball following his first retirement from basketball, Tinker Hatfield – the ultimate sneaker guru and creative genius behind many Air Jordan silhouettes – began sketching the newest Air Jordan project which he called the Jordan XI. What initially developed as an Air Jordan sock, the Jordan XI gradually evolved into something much greater than just another piece of footwear. Its initial completely lace-less design was meant to provide a custom fit with maximum comfort vis-a-via incorporating high-tech fasteners in order to provide stability and lock in the foot.
In March 1995, Jordan once again returned to the NBA hardwood, this time wearing #45. After an abbreviated regular season, Jordan entered the 1995 playoffs where he helped the Bulls oust the Charlotte Hornets in Round 1. However, Jordan would once again send shockwaves throughout the sports community, particularly for sneaker enthusiasts when he debuted without warning a brand-new pair of tuxedo-like basketball shoes: the Air Jordan 11.
MJ debuted the XI #45 PE in its iconic Concord colorway in Game 1 of the 1995 ECSF series against the Magic and was subsequently fined for violating the league’s uniform rule as his pair did not match his teammate’s sneakers. Prior to Game 2, MJ made another bold move by switching back to his old jersey # 23 and rebounded beautifully from his subpar Game 1 performance, scoring 38 points en route to a Bulls win to tie the series 1-1.
Prior to Game 4 at the United Center in Chicago, NBA on NBC sideline reporter and Michael Jordan’s “main man,” Ahmad Rashad, wore a pair of Concord XIs during a brief pre-game sideline piece for the TV audience introducing Jordan’s new sneaker in both both the Concord and “Space Jam” colorways, providing Nike and the XI with additional visibility, marketability, and hype.
While the Bulls eventually lost the series to the Magic, the stage was set for what would become a historic regular season the following year while wearing the Concord XIs, this time with his #23 marked onto the heel. Jordan proved he was back to his former self by winning a record 8th scoring title and led the Bulls to their 4th NBA championship in the ’90s.
Besides his league-leading 30.4 points per game, Jordan averaged 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game – 3rd in the league – accomplishments performed while wearing the Concord XI.
In 1996, in one of the most popular and memorable Jordan commercials of all time, MJ donned his pair of Concord 11s in an indoor gym, first stepping back for the beautiful product placement, dribbling hard to the basket and then soaring through the air en route to an emphatic slam dunk. The commercial, entitled 100-foot rim, comically shows MJ hanging on the rim after the dunk with both hands, his Concords shining beautifully high above the earth’ surface and the competition.
The Air Jordan XI is the perfect illustration of high tech and high fashion, serving as the last Air Jordan model to use encapsulated Air as the line switched to Zoom Air the following year. High-quality mesh, thick rope laces, a small tag on the tongue in a unique sideways facing font which indicate the words “Jumpman Jordan,” a thick, carbon fiber spring plate, and a clear outsole provided the finishing touches on this formal sport and fashion statement piece.
The most important feature of this silhouette, however – its defining quality, attribute, and feature – is its use of shiny, thick patent leather which introduced the Air Jordan XI as a sophisticated, refined, and stylish sneaker that could be worn on court, casually at the function, at a black-tie event with a tuxedo, and lastly, while performing on stage at the Grammy Awards.
For those keeping track at home, the Jordan XI Retro in the Concord colorway has been given the retro treatment in the past, first in 2000, then in 2006 as part of the Defining Moments Package, and most recently in 2011, all of which were met with extreme hype, anticipation, and hysteria.
The latest chapter continues this week with what will surely be a highly popular and heavily anticipated launch.
Proving truly timeless, the Air Jordan 11 was named Best Shoe of the Slam Era and rightfully so.
Sneaker enthusiasts and collectors of the new generation who were too young to remember the time when Jordan rocked his patent leather XIs on court back in the day have grown fond of and have developed a strong respect and appreciation for this timeless and iconic silhouette, illustrating the timeless appeal and effect the Jordan XI Concord has across multiple age groups and generations, a classic, unparalleled, unrivaled, and enduring sport and fashion icon, like the man for whom they were designed.
The Air Jordan 11: aerodynamic, ingenuous, elegant, refined, and innovative.
It continues to be, then and now, the ultimate footwear statement piece, the epitome of tuxedo basketball.