History of the Jordan 1: Everything you need to know

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The history of the Jordan 1 is perhaps one of the most intriguing of any sneaker in existence today, with its start in life dating all the way back to the '80s.

In fact, to begin with, the world was almost never introduced to the Jordan 1 as it was rumoured Michael Jordan didn't want to sign with Nike in the first place, favouring some of the best Converse shoes available at the time instead.

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However, Nike won MJ around and quickly set about creating one of the most iconic signature sneakers of all time, a point evidenced by the fact they're still being made to this day, as evidenced by the new "White Cement" Highs.

The Jordan 1 also helped create a globally recognised brand that has gone on to produce the longest line of signature sneakers in history, complete with Highs, Lows, and even mid-top variants.

But how exactly did the Jordan 1 become so popular? Well, we've rounded up some of the most defining moments in the history of the Jordan 1 to give a little more insight into its meteoric rise to legendary status.

So, without further delay, let's dive into the history of one of the best Air Jordans of all time...

History of the Jordan 1

The Jordan 1 has a long, rich history dating all the way back to 1985, but where exactly did it all begin for one of the most iconic shoes ever made? Let's take a closer look...

The beginning

The Jordan 1 owes its beginning in life to the Chicago Bulls who, during the 1984 NBA draft, selected the then-rookie Michael Jordan as their third overall pick for the season.

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Alongside signing for the Bulls, Jordan also agreed to a deal with Nike which, despite the rumours of MJ preferring the Converse Chuck Taylors, gave way to MJ wearing Nike shoes on the court.

Interestingly, Jordan began his NBA career playing in a red and black pair of shoes known as the Nike Air Ships. Eventually, Nike used the Air Ships as a template for MJ's first signature sneaker - the Air Jordan 1.

History of the Jordan 1 - Nike Air Ship product image of a white and red high-top pair of sneakers.
Credit: Nike

The Jordan 1 was officially released in 1985 following the shoes appearing on MJ's feet during the 1985 All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest, and went on to take the remaining season and sneaker market by storm.

This is, in part, due to Peter Moore, the man behind some of the best Nike Dunks at the time, and his idea of what a basketball shoe should look like. The end result is timeless, evidenced by the fact that it still remains popular to this day.

The debut season

Jordan's debut season in his signature sneakers was nothing short of impressive, as was the way Nike marketed the Jordan 1 to fans.

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According to Nike, the debut colourway, known these days as the "Bred" or "Banned" 1s, broke the league's uniform policy of shoes having to be 51% white. As a result, it's said MJ was fined every time he stepped foot on the court in the sneakers.

However, Nike used this story to its advantage and made it the focal point of its "Banned" commercial, hence the nickname of one of the best Jordan 1 colourways ever released.

Performance-wise, His Airness and his Jordan 1s delivered on the court, arguably making the 1s some of the best basketball shoes around at the time.

MJ picked up three Rookie of the Month awards over the course of the 1984/85 season wearing a handful of different colourways, and ended up as the league's Rookie of the Year.

His follow-up season was not quite as successful though as a broken foot in the Bulls' third game saw Jordan miss the next 64 fixtures. However, his rookie year was enough to secure the Jordan 1's place in sneaker history.

The legacy

The Jordan 1 was initially released in 13 different colourways, with the aforementioned "Bred" and the following "Chicago" design arguably the most memorable due to their on-court appearances.

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However, one of the most iconic moments in MJ's career and in the history of the Jordan 1 came during an exhibition game for Nike on August 26, 1985, in Italy.

During the match, Jordan scored a dunk which actually shattered the backboard of the hoop whilst wearing a pair of "Chicago" Jordan 1s.

Over the years, these sneakers have become some of the most highly sought-after shoes in existence. In fact, in August 2020, the shoes sold at auction for a reported $615,000.

Since then, we've seen Nike capatilise on the popularity of this moment by releasing an orange design dubbed the "Shattered Backboard" colourway in reference to the kit Jordan wore during the game.

History of the Jordan 1 - Air Jordan 1 Retro "Shattered Backboard" product image of a white, orange, and black high-top sneaker.
Credit: GOAT

Fast forward to today and it's clear to see the legacy the Jordan 1 left behind. The 1 kickstarted an entirely new brand of Nike shoes which, at the time of writing, is the longest signature sneaker line in history, with a total of 37 models and counting on the market.

Moreover, the Jordan 1 is still being made to this day after Nike re-released some of the original colourways in 1994.

You can now find countless new designs and adaptations on the market as well as Retro releases like, for example, the 2022 "Chicago" Jordan 1s. Moreover, the Jordan 1 has been the catalyst for several amazing sneaker collaborations over the years, which includes this popular Travis Scott "Black Phantom" collab.

History of the Jordan 1 - Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Low "Black Phantom" product image of an all-black pair of low-tops with exposed white stitching.
Credit: Nike

High, Mid, and Low variations have all debuted over the course of the Jordan 1's long history, and you can even buy variations which have been adapted for golf. Check out our list of the best Jordan golf shoes if you're interested in a pair.

It's safe to safe the Jordan 1 has transcended the title of one of the best Jordans for basketball and has become an icon of sneaker culture that doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Read More: Best Air Jordan 1 Under 200 - Our Top Picks