What. A. Year. Like Michael Jordan constantly reinventing his game to dominate the competition, the Jordan Brand have stayed agile in 2021, pumping out some amazing releases! We've seen black sheep models ushered straight onto shelves, while female collaborators are getting more hang time than ever. Join us as we take a look back at some of the defining moments of the year!
Plenty of weight has been thrown behind female collaborators this year. Jumpman Queen Aleali May knocked it out of the ballpark with the Air Jordan 14, Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 4 PE ‘Veteran’s Day’, and Billie Eilish debuted a pair of Jays for her inaugural sneaker.
It wasn’t just women holding it down for the female sneakerheads, either. James Whitner, founder of A Ma Maniére, paid homage to his mother with the Air Jordan 3 ‘Raised by Women’.
‘It has been our priority all along to ensure women, especially Black women, have access to this very special project as it launches. Our team has worked hard to ensure we are able to change the narrative on special launches and we are here to redefine what it means to serve Her first.’
Return of the Air Jordan 2 (and Other Underrated Jays)
Who would’ve thought! An perennially underrated silhouette from the vault, Virgil Abloh’s Midas touch helped revive the black sheep of the early days, the Air Jordan 2 has already been tapped for high-end collaborations in 2022 (Union LA and reggaeton superstar J Balvin are anxiously teasing their renditions online).
Alongside the AJ2, there were plenty of other surprising models returning to the zeitgeist this year. Many sneakerheads were surprised to see Billie Eilish select the Air Jordan 15 for her inaugural Jordan Brand collaboration, but it was a bold move that again emphasised storytelling.
Revolving around ‘childhood memories, individual style, and ethical beliefs’, the Air Jordan 15 is very close to Eilish’s heart, the style being her all-time favourite Jumpman sneaker – she revealed that the first time she finally had the AJ15 in-hand, they ‘felt like a million dollars’.
Has the Air Jordan 2 got you feeling like a million dollars yet?
Fresh Ink for the Jumpman
Plenty of talent was added to their roster in 2021, including BMX prodigy Nigel Sylvester.
The Queens-native became the first ever BMX rider to link-up with the Jumpman, after debuting his first oily Air Jordan 1 in 2018 (it was one of our favourite collaborations in a huge year for the AJ1). A member of the Nike family since 2005, Sylvester has now finally inked his Jumpman deal.
‘I’ve been signed to Nike for years, and Nike is home to me. That being said, it’s an incredible feeling to be signed as an official athlete of the Jordan Brand family,’ Sylvester said of the partnership. '[Michael Jordan] blazed a trail by constantly striving for greatness and breaking down barriers for athletes from every walk of life. His legacy is one that I’ve looked towards for inspiration throughout my career. It’s surreal to get his co-sign and welcome into such an elite team and family of world-class athletes.’
Bill Murray’s ‘Game-Worn’ Air Jordan 2 Appear at Auction
With hype around LeBron James’ Space Jam: A New Legacy hitting cosmic levels, it was only fitting that we’d see some retros from the OG movie hit auction.
Bill Murray’s ‘game-worn’ Air Jordan 2s were certainly a surprise when they came up to the block in April, the sneakers originally featuring in the final game of Space Jam. The sneakers also came with plenty of memorabilia, including the red Acme Clothing brand tee, Tasmanian Devil tee, and the white socks Murray wore. The shoes were also housed in their original box!
The sneakers reportedly sold for around $12,500.
The Air Jordan 4 Brings a Storm
Fuelled by Union LA’s phenomenal collaboration in June, the Air Jordan 4 spread its wings yet again in 2021.
The Air Jordan 4 ‘Red Thunder’ and ‘Lightning’ struck earth with force, while Aleali May’s ‘Veteran’s Day’ PE showed us a beautiful tribute to her father. The AJ4 ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ revealed its feral side, and the AJ4 ‘Shimmer’ once again proved Off-White’s aesthetics are eternal.
The AJ14 also proved it’s credentials as a sneaky MVP candidate, both May and CLOT unleashing stellar renditions of the Ferrari-like model.
Beyond the Air Jordan 4, plenty of other retro models had their time in the sun. The Air Jordan 5 did plenty of damage (thanks largely to the ‘Oreo’ colourway), while the Air Jordan 3 picked up plenty of momentum from the A Ma Maniére collaboration.
Be sure to check out SF's roundup of 2021's best Air Jordan releases here.