No. 10 – DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Stats: 27 points (14-for-14 free throws), 3 rebounds, 3 assists
Game: 2/3/2013 vs. Miami Heat
DeRozan might not be as well-known as Michael Jordan, but wearing the Air Jordan Is he showed he can put up Jordan-esque numbers on any given night. The Is are a perfect fit for DeRozan’s game, which largely involves the 2010 and 2011 Slam Dunk Contest participant maneuvering around the big trees in the paint to get to the rim. The toe overlay is perfect for him, then, because it locks his feet down into the shoes as he makes his quick cuts and bursts in between all those defenders. In this game against the defending champion Miami Heat, DeRozan was so effective getting to the hoop that he managed to attempt (and make) 14 free throws in the game.
No. 9 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 27 points, 9 rebounds, 14 assists
Game: 3/15/1985 vs. Phoenix Suns
Jordan was on his game at home against Phoenix, nearly recording a triple-double and playing lockdown defense in his Air Jordan Is as he guided the Bulls to a key home win amid their playoff push. The Is were essential for his performance, as MJ utilized the stability of the leather upper and foam ankle supporters to slide around and bother Suns’ No. 2 scorer Walter Davis into a wretched 6-for-16 shooting performance. Jordan also got it done offensively, with the same stability features enabling him to drive to the basket for a number of easy scores.
No. 8 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 16 assists
Game: 3/17/1985 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
After logging the first triple-double of his career two months prior, Jordan got his second one in equally convincing fashion as he sported his Air Jordan Is in a furious comeback victory over the Bucks. The Bulls trailed 88-72 entering the fourth quarter, but thanks to the Nike Air heel cushion in the Is MJ’s legs were still fresh, allowing him to unleash an absolute barrage in the final stanza to force overtime. Once there, he used the strength of the all-leather upper to get him through crowds of defenders and to the basket as the Bulls completed their monumental comeback.
No. 7 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Game: 2/1/1985 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The 1984-85 76ers had a great team led by future Hall-of-Famers Julius Erving, Moses Malone and rookie Charles Barkley, but on this night they were all outshone by the rookie out of North Carolina. Jordan used the locked in feel provided by the toe overlay of his Air Jordan Is to complete several breathtaking gallops to the basket, including one where he blew through the entire 76ers defense before gently kissing a finger-roll in off the glass. As if he needed it, the Nike Air technology in the heel made these kind of elevation moves routine for MJ, as he tormented the 76ers all night long en route to another huge scoring outburst.
No. 6 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 49 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Game: 4/17/1986 vs. Boston Celtics
Whenever the 1985-86 playoff series between the Bulls and Celtics is discussed, everyone focuses on MJ’s 63-point effort in Game 2 (more on that later). But let’s not sleep on Game 1, where Jordan had nearly as impressive an effort while wearing his Air Jordan Is. Using the Nike Air heel unit to fly through the air, Jordan sliced up a Celtics’ defense that contained four future Hall-of-Fame forward/centers (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton) but simply could not handle the budding star’s raw athleticism. Young Jordan’s game was built to be played above the rim, and the Air Jordan I's were the perfect complement.
No. 5 – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Stats: 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals
Game: 12/25/2009 vs. New York Knicks
Dwyane Wade has often said he models his game after Michael Jordan, and on Christmas Day 2009 he looked a lot like His Airness as he dominated the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Wearing Air Jordan Is, Wade filled up the stat sheet the way his idol once did, making use of the cushioning of the Nike Air unit in the heel to ensure he landed softly as he made his frequent trips above the rim. The full leather upper also kept the slashing two-guard’s feet well protected on his way to the basket, a valuable aspect given Wade’s injury history.
No. 4 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 35 points, 14 rebounds, 15 assists
Game: 1/15/1985 vs. Denver Nuggets
While it took Jordan almost half of his rookie season to record his first triple-double, when he finally did do it the results were absolutely spectacular. Jordan thrashed the porous defense of the Nuggets in his Air Jordan Is, locking into his sneakers thanks to the toe overlay and padded foam ankle collars of the upper, which allowed him to get pretty much anything he wanted all night. Clearly, the shoes had MJ feeling good; he hit 11 of his 16 shots from the floor and 13 of his 15 free throw attempts, leading his team to a win despite trailing as they entered the fourth quarter.
No. 3 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 42 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Game: 3/8/1998 vs. New York Knicks
It was a throwback kind of night for Michael Jordan, who celebrated his last game as a Bull in Madison Square Garden by breaking out his old Air Jordan I's. Making use of the padded foam ankle collars to keep him protected on his way to the rim, MJ lit up the Knicks for 42 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Not only were the pads helpful for Jordan on offense, but they also allowed him to collect three steals and a block on the defensive end as he harassed New York star shooting guard Allan Houston all night long.
No. 2 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 35 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals
Game: 4/24/1985 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Having participated in 179 playoff games and won six championships, MJ is one of the most prolific playoff performers in NBA history. It’s hard to imagine him as winless at any point in his career, but that’s exactly what he was when as a rookie he used his Air Jordan Is to seize his first playoff victory in Game 3 of the Bulls’ first round series against Milwaukee. Taking advantage of the shoe’s Nike Air heel cushion, he drove to the basket time and again, sucking in the Bucks’ hapless defense and creating open looks for his teammates. He was a terror on the defensive end as well, forcing four steals as the durable leather upper allowed MJ to give 100% effort while swarming Bucks’ primary weapon Sidney Moncrief.
No. 1 – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Stats: 63 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
Game: 4/20/1986 vs. Boston Celtics
Quite simply, it doesn’t get any better than this. When you play a game so good that Larry Bird says “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan,” you’ve probably played about as well as you possibly can. MJ was able to complete a 63 point torching of the Celtics thanks in part to his Air Jordan Is. The durable leather upper held its shape for the entire 53 minutes he was on the court (43 minutes of regulation plus two overtimes), with the high cut keeping Jordan’s ankles locked in and stable despite legs that were tiring due to the immense load they were forced to carry all game long.