The journey through the six sneakers Michael Jordan wore on his path to becoming an NBA champion is a testament to their iconic status, mirroring the greatness of the player himself. For sneaker enthusiasts, it’s clear that the NBA playoffs and Finals are moments when sneakers take center stage, with players showcasing stunning Player Exclusives (PEs) and Finals-edition colorways. This phenomenon, however, wasn’t always a part of the NBA landscape; it was Michael Jordan who blazed the trail for the beloved stars of today’s NBA.
With the release of ESPN’s remarkable 10-part documentary “The Last Dance,” we gained unprecedented insights into Michael Jordan’s life, including his profound affinity for sneakers and the enduring partnership with Nike. Back in those days, Nike was a fledgling company, but Michael’s impact was transformative. Thanks to His Airness, the brand now endorses some of the NBA’s most prominent figures, including the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, all of whom have graced the NBA’s grandest stage in the Swoosh.
In response to this unique synergy, Nike has continually introduced fresh styles and bold colorways, perfectly synchronized with their athletes’ performances on the NBA’s grandest platform. Some athletes even receive redesigned iterations of their signature sneakers for the playoffs, exemplified by Nike’s “Elite Series” sneakers created for LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
This business model proves exceptionally effective for sneaker companies, as the introduction of vibrant color palettes and inventive designs leads to a substantial surge in sales during the playoff season. Despite the evolution of brands over the years, it’s important to remember that during the era of Michael Jordan, it was a rare sight to witness a player switching between multiple game shoes. Even the greatest of all time (the GOAT) exclusively donned the same footwear during the regular season, reserving any alterations for his memorable playoff appearances. These six sneakers have become an enduring part of sneaker culture and basketball history, leaving an indelible mark on both realms.
Michael Jordan is an iconic figure in sneaker culture, and his Jordan Brand, a part of Nike, played a pivotal role in shaping today’s sneaker enthusiasm. His remarkable postseason performances have left an indelible mark on his legacy and the enduring popularity of the shoes he sported during his championship victories. Today, we’ll explore the six sneakers that Michael Jordan wore when he clinched each of his championships.
Interestingly, many people might not know that during the regular season, Michael Jordan typically wore sneakers with white-based colorways. However, once the NBA Playoffs commenced, he made it a tradition to switch to black colorways. This practice wasn’t limited to just Jordan; it was a team-wide tradition for him and the Chicago Bulls.
It’s no secret that the “Bred” colorways hold a special place in the hearts of Air Jordan enthusiasts. They are often the most beloved and iconic color schemes, synonymous with the greatness of the player who wore them. In the following sections, we’ll delve into why these colorways hold such significance and when Michael Jordan donned them during his championship runs. Here are the six sneakers that marked Michael Jordan’s championship victories.
1991 – Air Jordan VI (First Championship)
For those passionate about Michael Jordan and eager to learn about the six sneakers he wore when securing his first NBA championship, it’s worth noting that his journey to this milestone wasn’t without its challenges. In 1991, Jordan faced formidable opposition in the form of the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys.” Fueled by his desire to avoid another loss, Jordan underwent a significant transformation, adding 15 pounds of muscle to his frame, transitioning from 200 lbs to a formidable 215 lbs.
This newfound strength proved crucial as the Chicago Bulls emerged victorious against the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. The real test awaited in the 1991 NBA Finals, where the Bulls squared off against Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers and secured a 4-1 series victory. If you’re wondering which shoes marked the occasion of Jordan’s first championship win, the answer lies in the ‘Black/Infrared’ colorway of the Air Jordan VI—an iconic sneaker choice that many consider among the finest releases for this legendary shoe model.
1992 – Air Jordan VII (Second Championship)
Having reached the pinnacle of basketball greatness, Michael Jordan found himself perched atop the metaphorical Mt. Olympus, with the challenge of maintaining his hard-earned position. In his second consecutive Finals appearance, defending their championship, Jordan faced off against another elite shooting guard, the renowned Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. However, this was prime MJ, and he was determined not to succumb to defeat against the formidable Portland Trail Blazers.
The 1992 NBA Finals marked the stage for Michael’s second title conquest, as the Bulls triumphed over the Trail Blazers in a thrilling series that concluded 4-2 in favor of Chicago. During the 1992 NBA season, Jordan laced up the Air Jordan VII, a shoe that bears a remarkable distinction – it was the first in the Air Jordan line to omit Nike branding across the entire shoe. This bold move solidified Michael Jordan’s impact on both basketball and sneaker culture and further elevated Nike’s reputation as a dominant force in the basketball footwear category.
A noteworthy feature of the Air Jordan VII was its incorporation of Nike Huarache technology, introducing innovative elements designed with comfort in mind, revolutionizing the typical basketball sneaker design. Throughout the 1992 Playoffs, Jordan consistently sported the striking ‘Black/True Red’ colorway of the Air Jordan 7, leaving an indelible mark on his journey to a second NBA championship.
1993 – Air Jordan VIII (Third Championship)
The 1993 NBA Season would be the season that separated Michael Jordan from the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. As both players were exceptional in their own rights. None of them achieved the glorious three-peat that only two other teams before the Bulls had. This put Michael’s name into the conversation of the greatest of all time.
The Bulls met the Phoenix Suns, led by the charismatic Charles Barkley in 1994 NBA Finals, Michael strapped up the Air Jordan VIII in ‘Black/True Red’. Fun fact, these sneakers would eventually inherit the nickname “Playoffs” colorway because the ’94 Playoffs were the only time Jordan wore them on the hardwood.
1996 – Air Jordan XI (Forth Championship)
Michael Jordan retired during the 1993-1994 and returned only to lose during the postseason in the first round to the Orlando Magic. After playing baseball for so long, Michael wasn’t in the proper shape to make a run for the NBA Championship. Jordan returned the following year to lead the Bulls back to the NBA Finals in 1996 while also achieving a historic 72-10 season.
The greatest player in the game returned with possibly the greatest Air Jordan sneaker of all time. The Tinker Hatfield designed patent leathered, Air Jordan XI. That same year we got the Air Jordan XI “Concord”, This sneaker also made a debut on the silver screen. What shoes did Michael Jordan wear in Space Jam you ask? The Air Jordan XI “Space Jam”. He also wore these during the 1996 NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics. Michael wore the beloved ‘Black/True Red’ colorway, known simply as the “Breds”. The Jordan 11 would go on to be widely considered as one of the best basketball sneakers of all-time, and a personal favorite of the six sneakers Michael Jordan wore to win a chip.
1997 – Air Jordan XII (Fifth Championship)
The 1997 NBA Finals was something special to watch. The Bulls led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman were once again defending champions and to keep the title they’d have to go up against the Karl Malone and John Stockton driven Utah Jazz. Let’s face it, the Air Jordan XI is a hard act to follow, and somehow Nike pulled it off with the Air Jordan XII which featured bold color blocking and an excellent pebbled leather construction.
During ’97 Playoffs and Finals, Michael wore both the ‘Black/White’ and ‘Black/Varsity Red’ colorways. But it’s the latter we swoon over as sneaker fans. As Jordan would score 38 points in Game 5 of that series wearing these beauties. Dubbed the “Flu Game” because Jordan was severely sick with the flu and during the entire game played with extreme fatigue. There’s even an iconic picture where Scottie Pippen is seen helping an exhausted Jordan off the court. The Bulls would best the Utah Jazz to win their fifth championship with a series score of 4-2.
1998 – Air Jordan XIII and XIV (Sixth Championship)
What shoes did Michael Jordan wear in his last championship? Michael would wear the Air Jordan XIV again in Game 4. He then switched back to the Air Jordan XIII’s for Game 5. But it was in the Air Jordan XIV where Michael Jordan would take his game-winning last shot as a Chicago Bull. Securing his sixth NBA Championship, putting away the Utah Jazz once again with a series score of 4-2. Fun fact, in the six NBA Finals Michael Jordan’s played in. He’s never been to a game 7, and that concludes our list of all the sneakers Jordan won championships wearing.The 1998 NBA Season had a certain allure. Many knew this would be Jordan’s last time gracing us with his one of a kind talent.
The Chicago Bulls came face to face with the Utah Jazz for the second straight year in the ’98 Finals. For this series, Michael switched between two different shoes. The first being the Jordan XIII, he had worn that shoe all season but would introduce the Ferrari-inspired XIV in Game 3 of the 1998 Finals. It was in this shoe Michael would hit the game winning shot to win his sixth title. Not the most popular but definitely one of the most iconic sneakers of the six sneakers Michael Jordan wore to win a championship.