Jordan Brand is slowly but surely turning the tide. There was a time when all anyone ever considered from the storied brand was retro after retro after retro. For many, that is still the case – Air Jordan 3s, 4s, 5s, and 11s will never really vanquish from the forefront of sneaker enthusiasts’ minds because, aesthetically, they’re timeless – but to those enthusiasts I say, “Open your eyes.” The latest and greatest in technology and innovation is being composed from the same brand that gave you those aforementioned classics.
The brand made a valiant effort in attempting to get the masses to focus on their technology-driven mindsets by releasing the unprecedented Air Jordan XX8 – a shoe many frowned at because its design was so contrasting to anything we’ve seen from a basketball shoe – in December of 2012. The shroud turned people away, which is understandable to some degree; it’s not everyday we see a shoe’s cut creep up to one’s shin. However, the majority of those who got past its uniqueness and actually gave it a try raved about the craftsmanship of the shoe and most importantly the Jordan Flight Plate, which has become a requirement and standard because of its unmatched cushioning.
Then, there’s the Air Jordan XX8 SE, which continued the legacy of the Jordan Flight Plate but without the polarizing shroud seen on its predecessor. It was here where the Flight Plate became more popular and where people were more apt to trying Jordan Brand’s newest technology because, aesthetically, the shoe looked “regular.”
“Jordan Brand did a great job from the performance aspect with the XX8 and XX8 SE,” said Kendall Marshall, a Jordan Brand athlete and member of the Milwaukee Bucks. “From all angles – ankle support, toe box and the Flight Plate – it was a great basketball shoe and very well put together. It’s by far one of the best basketball shoes I’ve worn in the past five years.”
Where would Jordan Brand go from there? Enter in the Air Jordan XX9. Yesterday, Jordan Brand officials brought myself, in addition to others of the sneaker media world, to wear test the Air Jordan XX9 for the first time on Michael Jordan’s personal court at his Highland Park home, which is currently on the market (go ahead and make your bids now). There, we engaged in an open run for about three hours. Although I obviously haven’t had the proper time to unleash a detailed, descriptive review of the Air Jordan XX9, I will say this: There were many times that I was oblivious to the fact that I had a shoe on my foot. At just 12.75 ounces, it’s the lightest Jordan ever created (which we seem to hear every year with a new model), but it was the brand new woven upper that distinctively set it apart. The upper is free-flowing, heavily padded and does not restrict the range of motion. It’s almost as if you’re playing with a heavy-duty sock on your foot. The material is very pliable, and overall the XX9 is one of the most out-of-the-box-ready performance shoes I’ve placed on my foot. There is very little structure to the Air Jordan XX9’s upper, which is the main reason it feels so comfortable on foot.
Although retros continue to dominate the shelves, it is time to start noticing the performance gems of this generation. Lately, Jordan Brand has begun to shell out a string of great, groundbreaking performance shoes that deserve your attention. Open your eyes.