How This Year’s Air Jordan 11 Playoff Retro Compares to the OG

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Ask five people in a room what their all-time favorite sneaker is and we guarantee you won’t get a consensus.

However, the Air Jordan 11 might be the only model that consistently gets recognized as the greatest Air Jordan model of all time.

More specifically, the “Playoff” colorway has the highest odds of carrying the GOAT title (or maybe it’s the Concords, your call). Kicks are purely subjective – basically, what one finds attractive might not apply to others, and that’s what makes footwear so much fun.

Michael Jordan in the Air Jordan 11 “Playoff” (Photo by Andrew Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the nickname implies, MJ wore these black/red/white Air Jordan 11s in the 1996 NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics. Mike massacred the Sonics with series averages of 27 PPG, 5 RPG and 4 APG en route to his fourth NBA Championship, but his footwear really had people’s attention.

The kicks instantly became the ‘it’ sneakers because Mike, yet again, captivated the minds and imaginations of everyone and the easiest way fans could literally connect with MJ was via his shoes.

The global popularity of MJ, the 1996 season, and these shoes keeps this cherished model in retro circulation.

1996 Air Jordan 11

Lucky for you, the iconic ‘Playoff’ Air Jordan 11 returns in OG retro form this weekend, so you’ll have a chance to buy your first pair or re-up for the first time since 2012.

In preparation for the shoe’s December 16th release, here’s a quick comparison between the OGs from 1996 and the 2019 retro!


1996 Air Jordan 11 ‘Playoff’ via the DNA Show

Materials both literally and metaphorically make a shoe. Tinker Hatfield utilized three core materials when he designed the Air Jordan 11’s upper: patent leather (the first for a basketball shoe), leather (on the ankle) and Cordura mesh (on the quarter).

Aesthetically, MJ aimed for this signature model to function as both a highly-tuned basketball shoe and a viable evening-wear option.

1996’s rendition of the Air Jordan 11 Playoff is praised to this day for its perfect proportions of patent leather and mesh – something later retros would be criticized about down the road… but guess what? We’re at that fork in the road now and OG construction has returned in 2019!


2019 Air Jordan 11 ‘Playoff’ via the DNA Show

Following in line with the Space Jam and Concord Air Jordan 11 retros, 2019’s Playoff 11 utilizes high-cut patent leather on the mudguard.

Conversely, 2008’s DMP retro and 2012’s offering both opted out of the high-cut construction – is that a good thing? Yes and no – it all comes down to opinion.

Every ‘Playoff’ Air Jordan 11 via The DNA Show

Current day sneakerheads/collectors prioritize OG construction when shopping for retro Jordans, so from that point of view, it’s easy to see why the masses welcomed back the thick patent mudguard. On the whole, Jordan Brand killed it in regards to properly capturing the essence of the originals.

A small detail the keen eye will notice across the new ‘OG’ 11 retros is the notch in the patent leather located at the half-way mark of these retros. But other than that, they’re very, very close to what Michael Jordan wore en route to his fourth NBA Championship.

With that said, there’s room to compare the minute differences between the two.

1996 vs. 2019

1996 (left) & 2019 (right) via the DNA Show

Here we get a great angle on some obvious differences between the OGs and 2019 retros. First, the OGs sit higher than the 2019s – the collar is taller and the white pylon region of the midsole is much thicker. 2019’s leather heel is no slouch, but 1996’s leather carries much more character – it’s buttery, creases nicer and it’s aged beautifully.

The supportive straps that reinforce the 11’s lace loops are more indented into the mesh on the 1996 version than the 2019s, too.

2019 (left) & 1996 (right) via the DNA Show

Both iterations feature the ’23’ on the heel as opposed to last year’s Concord retro that released with a 45. To us, rocking with MJ’s number 23 on the back gives the Playoffs that final OG look.

A subtle yet noticeable difference is the shade of red on the outsole and branding. 1996’s vibrant outsole looks like a brighter shade of Varsity Red and the 2019’s True Red appears much darker by comparison.

Another difference you’ve probably noticed is how much more robust the OG’s tooling is – they thiccck. This additional ‘chunk’ also appears throughout the back-end of the shoe as seen above.

Do you have an OG 1996 pair of Air Jordan 11 Playoffs? Do you plan on copping a pair this weekend? Let us know on social and good luck!

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