The Air Jordan 10 arrived at an uncertain, yet pivotal time for Michael Jordan and his storied legacy. For most of the 1994-95 NBA season, the Bulls hovered around .500 and an unhappy Scottie Pippen was on the verge of being traded to Seattle for Shawn Kemp or Phoenix for Dan Majerle in February of 1995.
But with the Major League Baseball strike in full force, Jordan began weighing his future options. Rumors were circulating that Jordan had been practicing with the Bulls and in early March it was confirmed. On March 9, 1995, the Bulls defeated the Cavaliers by 23 points and Scottie Pippen lifted his foot, pointed to the Jumpman on his shoes, and motioned with his finger for Jordan to come back to the game. The shoes Pippen was wearing were the Air Jordan 10 and Jordan would announce his return nine days later on March, 18 with a two-word fax reading ‘I’m Back.’
Similar to the Air Jordan 9, when the Air Jordan 10 was designed and subsequently released, Michael Jordan’s future was not 100% certain. Like with the Jordan 9, the Jordan 10 outsole listed a number of accomplishments that MJ had on-court celebrating what many thought to be the complete story of Michael.
Something unique about the Air Jordan 10 that is different from any of the other Air Jordans is that there was a slight variation with the lead colorway. When the “Steel” Air Jordan 10 released Michael was not happy with an overlay over the toe of the shoe. Jordan wanted it removed and Nike obliged. However, the shoe had already started in production, couldn’t be recalled and in September of 1994 saw a release that is now dubbed the ‘Toe Cap 10.’ Jordan actually wore these in a Scottie Pippen charity game in the fall of 1994, the last basketball game held at the old Chicago Stadium. All future in-store releases would see the removal of the toe cap for a smooth, sleek finish. Tinker has shared many stories over the years of Michael Jordan’s involvement with the design, but this story is one that is the most significant – Jordan Rules aren’t just in the NBA.
When Michael made his comeback debut on March 19, he scored 19 points with 6 rebounds and 6 assists while wearing the “Chicago” Air Jordan 10, but something was noticeably different. With his number 23 having been retired already, he stuck with his baseball number, 45. Jordan only played 17 regular season games averaging 26 points per game but kicked it up to 31 points per outing in the playoffs. That still wasn’t enough for MJ and the Bulls to get past former teammate Horace Grant and his new team the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Air Jordan 10 also saw the first time Nike would have a regional drop of Air Jordans. Five cities and players were represented. Mitch Richmond in Sacramento, Kendall Gill in Seattle, Hubert Davis in New York, Nick Anderson in Orlando, and of course Michael Jordan in Chicago. Still, some of the rarest and most sought after Jordan’s ever produced, only the Sacramento and New York colors have not seen a proper retro.