Overview of the Air Jordan 9
In 1993, the Air Jordan 9 hit the court for the first time, though Michael Jordan never scored a single point with the Chicago Bulls wearing the shoe. When Jordan surprised the world with news of his retirement on October 6, 1993, the AJ 9 was already in production. Nike had no choice but to move forward with the release even though the most famous feet in basketball had seemingly left the court forever.
AJ 9 Retro Releases Still Coming
The original Air Jordan 9 was released in November 1993, roughly one month after MJ announced his retirement from basketball. The retail price in the US was $125. The first Air Jordan 9 retro release took place in 2002 and included the first low-top version of the AJ 9. Additional retro releases followed every two years beginning in 2008, then annually starting in 2015 though the present day. In 2016, Nike released the Air Jordan 9 OG, which included the Space Jam model that celebrated the movie's 20th anniversary. Nike continues to announce more retro releases for the future.
Design Significance of the Air Jordan 9
As Jordan's celebrity reached epic proportions around the globe, shoe designer Tinker Hatfield sought to express MJ's universal appeal by incorporating unique design elements into the Air Jordan 9. Hatfield wanted the shoe to tell a story that captured the international fascination with Jordan and his ability to transcend borders and sports. The designer was inspired by Japanese culture, which is represented by the Rising Sun with the Jumpman logo above the number 23 on the back of the shoe.
Hatfield also incorporated words that best described Jordan's spirit and attitude—Force, Intense, Graceful, Independence, Sport and Hope printed in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian and Swahili—on the outsoles of the shoes. Mark Smith, a designer Hatfield entrusted with realizing the concept, described the goal of the design as something bigger than basketball. In his words, "We were trying to do something that was beyond just sneakers. We wanted to tell a story about being good to people."
The AJ 9's Exclusive Toe-to-Heel Construction
The Air Jordan 9 was released exclusively in a high-top format, though a low-top version appeared when it was retro-ed in 2002. From the ground up, the AJ 9 features an encapsulated Air-Sole unit in front, a polyurethane midsole and a large-volume Air-Sole unit in the heel. Its leather upper is framed by contrasting nubuck leather and has a graduated geometric stitching pattern that goes from large to small as it approaches the toe. Foregoing traditional laces, the AJ 9 features Nike's One-Pull lacing system for fast and easy adjustment. Inside is a dynamic-fit inner bootie inspired by Nike Air's Huarache technology (note: if you're buying a pair of Air Jordan 9s to wear, consider sizing up at least a half size to account for the inner bootie). While MJ never wore the AJ 9 while playing with the Bulls, he did wear a modified cleated version during his brief stint with the Chicago White Sox.
Jordan 9 Colorways and Player Exclusives
Since the first retro Air Jordan 9 release, dozens of colorways have spanned a full range of variations and combinations. Variants like the 2019 "Dream it, Do it" retro are bold and demand attention. Others, like the 2010 "Silver Anniversary" edition, are subtle and understated. The 2020 Air Jordan Racer Blue and 2019 Gym Red are recent collectible colorways that consistently appreciate in value, and 2012's Air Jordan 9 Cool Grey is also an investment favorite for sneakerheads.
The AJ 9 sparked a different kind of revolution when Nike hedged its bet that it would succeed without Jordan on the court. They turned to other basketball superstars and created personalized versions of the Air Jordan 9 for Latrell Sprewell, Penny Hardaway, B.J. Armstrong, Harold Miner, Kendall Gill and Mitch Richmond. Aside from Richmond's, all Player Exclusives used the original colorways with subtle team color accents and the respective player's number in place of the usual 23 on the back of the heel.
The original Air Jordan 9 came in four colorways:
Black & White
The original Air Jordan 9 Black & White
The original Air Jordan 9 Powder Blue
The original Air Jordan 9 Olive
The original Air Jordan 9 Charcoal
The original Air Jordan 9 boast True Red
Since the first collection, Nike has produced countless Air Jordan 9 PEs and colorways for Shaq, Kobe and other basketball heroes as well as NFL players, including Dez Bryant, Golden Tate, Andre Johnson and Dwight Freeney.
The Air Jordan 9 Kilroy Pack that debuted in 2012 took the PE concept to a whole new level, with six colorways created for each of MJ's fictional personas used in Nike ads during his retirement. The Johnny Kilroy version featured "4" on the heel, a number the "real" Jordan never wore.
Checking the Authenticity of Your AJ 9s
There are clear-cut ways to tell if a pair of Air Jordan 9s are real. Besides examining the shoes for any visible imperfections or flaws, you should also:
- Pay attention to the details. The thickness, lines and intricacies of the Jumpman logo are difficult to replicate, especially the fingers and laces.
- Look for strange stitching patterns. The finish work on authentic Jordans should be clean and tight with no loose threads, odd patterns or seams that appear out of place. Inspect the number 23 on the heel, since counterfeiters tend to make them too thick or thin.
- Check the size tag. The fonts and text weights should be consistent. Make sure there are no spelling errors or typos and that the label is evenly sewn onto the shoe.
- Verify the profile. The shoe should sit evenly on a flat surface, and the heel and toe shouldn't lift more than you'd expect. Also, inspect the soles—fakes tend to have bulges or appear to be pumped with too much air.