The 10 Best Performances in the Air Jordan XI

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No. 10 — Michael Jordan

Stats: Game winning dunk (read layup) in Space Jam
Game: 11/15/1996 W vs. Monstars

OK, so the court was a green screen and his teammates were Bill Murray and animated cartoon characters, and to top it off,  his famous game winner was made through a gang tackle of colorful aliens. But it really couldn’t have been any stranger than playing with Dennis Rodman. Plus, as funny as it may seem, Jordan starring in this movie, playing in these shoes, put them in another realm of coolness. The surrounding factors (his return, the movie’s soundtrack, etc.) made them so iconic their rerelease under the “Space Jam” moniker could be traced as one of the first sneakers to the whole camp out craze.

If you did manage to get a pair to play in, it was a new experience. The clear carbon outsole was new and worked on any surface (although the XI’s are usually reserved for indoor play, where they tend to get the best grip). And the nylon upper was a soft, flexible, durable material that breathed well. No way you didn’t feel like Mike in these.

No. 9 — Allen Inversion

Stats: 23 Points
Game: 3/23/1996 86-62 L vs. UMass

Air Jordans are synonymous with hip-hop and hip-hop is synonymous with Allen Inversion. Everything he did was not only cool and accepted, but revered and imitated. He was Tupac on the hardwood. So when young Bubba Chuck led his team to an Elite 8 showing in his last game as a Georgetown Hoya rocking the AJXI “Concords,” the streets were watching. The control given by the carbon outsole was fully tested by the lightning quick kid from VA, when he froze his defender with his still raw crossover, made a sudden stop and rose for the jam. His sudden start and stops would later be contained only by his Reebok, but they were harnessed in Air Jordans. Only a year later, Ivo got the chance to thank MJ for the inspiration.

No. 8 — Monta Ellis

Stats: 48 Points, 7 Rebounds
Game: 2/7/2012 L vs. OKC Thunder

Monta Ellis is the most undervalued scorer of his generation. Like Steve Francis before him, he’s an undersized guard who can score when he wants to. Unfortunately, he’s yet to win anything significant and like most players who are labeled “undersized, shoot-first guards,” only has scoring to show for his NBA career so far (aside from the money, of course). A little over a month before he became a Buck, Ellis delivered a masterful 48-point game (his career high) against the Thunder. OKC Star Kevin Durant had 33 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and a win. Ellis had 48, seven rebounds and, in the AJXI Concords and their breathable, lightweight upper, something for us to talk about. Hopefully Ellis makes a playoff run this year. Sometimes “scorers” have problems with that.


No. 7 — Kemba Walker

Stats: 19 Points, 5 Rebounds, 3 Assists
Game: 2/5/2011 W @ Seton Hall

As great as Kemba Walker’s run to a National Title with UConn was, there came a point that season where he hit a wall. After winning the Maui Invitational with point totals 31, 30 and 29, and giving Vermont a nice 42 point game to start the season, everyone expected him and Jimmer to go game for game a la Magic and Bird. Only Kemba’s tank hit E in the beginning of February when he could only muster up eight points in a loss to Syracuse. It was back to business and back to winning for Walker and Huskies after he dropped 19 points on Seton Hall in the “Cool Grey” XI’s. The lightweight, yet cushiony lining of the upper allowed Kemba to kill with lightning like footwork.


No. 6 — Paul George

Stats: 37 Points, 4 Assists, 4 Rebounds
Game: 11/21/2012 W vs. New Orleans Hornets

When you’re watching a player turn into a star, it’s hard to pin point a game where you can say that was the moment that made him. Paul George has been killing in this season and in the absence of Pacers forward Danny Granger, has become the face of the team. We can’t quite say he’s an all-star just yet, but it was after he torched the Hornets for nine 3-pointers to score his career-high 37 points that we could say he was in the conversation. We peeped this game earlier this season and said it was the confidence factor behind playing in the XI’s that benefited George the most. He’s nearly a complete player and has the rare ability to become noticeably better, really fast. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be a Monstar if they ever make Space Jam II.


No. 5 — Michael Jordan

Stats: 40 Points, 11 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 3 Steals, 2 Blocks
Game: 2/7/1996 W @ Golden State

So it’s MJ’s first full season back and it’s the last game before the 1996 All-Star Game. Shaq, Penny and the rest of the Orlando Magic got rid of Jordan and the Bulls in ’95, but Jordan needed to make his presence felt now that he was truly back. What better way to do that than by giving out 40 plus five times before the season’s mid-point classic? Even though they made their debut in ’95, MJ was back in playing form and could truly display the Concords function. The patent leather toebox, though aesthetically appealing, served to keep the shoes from stretching too far, while still taking shape to the foot and providing a secure fit (think very basic idea behind FlyWire). 


No. 4 — Michael Jordan

Stats: 20 Points
Game: 2/11/1996 W vs. Western Conference All-Stars

This All-Star game was the beginning of a new era. Jordan and the Bulls were about to start their quest for a fourth title, Shaq was becoming the most physically imposing force since Wilt Chamberlain and the legendary rookie class of 1996 introduced themselves to the national scene. MJ was back on his throne as the games best player, so he broke out what was the game’s illest shoes. He says he just wanted to enjoy that weekend, but playing in the “Columbia” XI’s, with their icy blue outsole, his inner competitor broke through enough for 20 points and MVP honors.


No. 3 — Michael Jordan

Stats: 45 Points, 5 Assist
Game: 5/27/1996 W @ Orlando

Michael had already topped 40 points twice during this playoff run, but this one had to be extra satisfying. When MJ retired, Penny Hardaway looked like the can’t-miss pick for heir to the throne as the league’s best guard and possibly its best player. Sweeping the Orlando Magic a year after they had bumped his Bulls out the playoffs, was definite message to the rest of league. He’d say it in style, rocking the “Bred” XI’s and jamming home dunks utilizing their cushion lining for soft, secure landings.


No. 2—Michael Jordan

Stats: 36 Points, 5 Assists
Game: 6/09/1996 W @ Seattle

Jordan Had led the Bulls to a 14-1 playoff record and was again unstoppable. This game against the SuperSonics would be his fourth highest point total of the 1996 playoffs. With  the XI’s, he was able to use his superior footwork to outdo Seattle’s backcourt of Hersey Hawkins and Gary Payton. GP would eventually ask to guard Jordan, but it was far too late. The Bulls went up 3-0 and the series was theirs to take. 


No. 1 — Michael Jordan

Stats: 22 Points, 9 Rebounds, 7 Assists
Game: 6/16/1996 W vs. Seattle

Of all the accolades and titles, Jordan says this one was the sweetest. It’s the first title he had won since the death of his father — and it was Father’s Day. He didn’t shoot particularly well that night (5-for-19), but he dished, rebounded and captured ring number four. Can’t argue with results and MJ got the job done in the Bred’s in ’96.

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