2017 was an interesting year for Jordan Brand. Adidas surpassed the Nike off-shoot to become the second biggest sneaker company in North America, a lot of Jordan's inline product sat on shelves, and, yet, the brand still found a way to make noise through special collaborations and limited sneakers.
This year saw Jordan Brand work with the likes of Kaws, Virgil Abloh, Don C, Aleali May, DJ Khaled, Drake, and Travis Scott. It had big releases at ComplexCon and Art Basel, all while picking moments from the brand's history to pay tribute to in thoughtful ways.
While naysayers might be looking for something new from Jordan Brand, the Jumpman delivered with some of the strongest hits from any footwear company this year.
Here are the Best Air Jordans of 2017.
10. Air Jordan 32
The unveiling of the new Air Jordan is a yearly occasion. Everyone wonders if it’s going to capture a bit of the same magic from when Michael was wearing the shoes. The past two years have seen Jordan Brand dig back into its archive to create the sneaker that’s going to be worn on-court by its host of NBA athletes. Last year saw the Air Jordan 1 guide the Air Jordan 31, and this year it’s the Air Jordan II that fuels the spirit of the Air Jordan 32. Michael Jordan’s love for Italian sports cars inspired Jordan designer Tate Kuebris to make the shoe, which ties back to the fact that the original Air Jordan 32 was made in Italy. The 32 takes on the Air Jordan II in more subtle ways. The tongue patch and ankle collar look almost one to one, but the shoe itself is firmly rooted in 2017 and is moving Jordan Brand in a new direction. One that is welcomed.
9. Air Jordan VI "Gatorade"
Michael Jordan made everyone want to "Be Like Mike" in the '90s. That meant everything from his playing abilities down to the products that he endorsed. No two brands are more intertwined than Jordan and Gatorade, and Jordan Brand was able to do an official collaboration with the sports drink this year, re-imagining the Air Jordan VIs that MJ wore in his first commercial with the brand. The shoes themselves were a flip on the O.G. “Carmine” colorway of the VI, that replaced the red with Gatorade’s signature orange. Often times, brands have to allude to inspirations behind shoes, but it was great to see Jordan Brand able to publicly say that they’re doing a sneaker with Gatorade, rather than leaving it to public interpretation.
8. OVO x Jordan Trunner
Jordan Brand is known as a basketball company, but the brand has tried to make its presence known in other categories, too, most notably cross training. The Trunner was an early 2000s shoe and very much of that era: bulky, loud design with thick midsoles. Its futuristic look still feels modern to this day. Jordan gave Drake his own pair of the OVO Trunners this year and released them at the new Jordan Brand flagship store in Toronto. It was an unexpected move for the ongoing collaboration with the rapper, but sometimes the best sneakers are the ones we never see coming.
7. Air Jordan IV "Do The Right Thing"
In 1989’s Do The Right Thing, Buggin’ Out infamously had his Air Jordan IVs stepped on by a white guy in a Larry Bird T-shirt. The moment was seen by many as the genesis in sneaker culture and has been told time and time again. The sneakers he was wearing in that scene were the “White/Cement” Air Jordan IV with a custom red, black, yellow, and green rope going through the bottom laces. Jordan Brand put together a promo pair of these this year and seeded them to influencers, complete with the scuff on the shoes and a toothbrush to clean them. It’s a backstory and execution that can’t be beaten. If only the sneakers had actually released to the general public.
6. Just Don x Air Jordan II "Arctic Orange"
Don C and Jordan Brand have worked together on three different Air Jordan IIs, and the last one might just be his best. The Just Don x Air Jordan II released in an Arctic Orange this year, and it was finally made in sizes for the whole family. Inspired by luxury handbags, the sneakers were released in a pinkish color that was on-trend this year and did the quilted design justice. Of course, 2017 also saw Don C work with Nike on the Air Force 1, but his sneakers with Jordan Brand are what cemented his status as a top-end footwear collaborator.
5. Air Jordan 1 "Gold Top 3"
Let's call a spade a spade: The faux-limited release of the Gold Top 3 at ComplexCon was completely unnecessary and a desperate move to make headlines. That’s further proven by the following hype that ensued after the sneaker received a wider release. The over-marketed first drop didn’t need to happen, and these sneakers still would have been regarded as one of the more important shoes of the year, as evidenced by their top 5 placement on this list. The Top 3 Air Jordan 1s from last year were a polarizing shoe, but the Gold version received a warmer reception this time around. The patent leather, coupled with the mismatch shoes, was a strong look for some, but it came across in a tasteful, eye-grabbing way. It’s tricky to find a balance between both ideals, especially on a sneaker as storied as the Air Jordan 1, but it was pulled off with this pair.
4. Aleali May x Air Jordan 1
The first woman to ever receive her own Air Jordan collaboration was Vashtie in 2010 with her Air Jordan II, and Aleali May is following in her footsteps with an Air Jordan 1 that released eight years later. The sneaker was inspired by May going to the Slauson Swap Meet in Los Angeles with her uncles growing up and seeing the house slippers they’d buy. She took the “Shadow” colorway of the Air Jordan 1 and retrofitted it to look similar to vintage Los Angeles Raiders gear, complete with corduroy paneling. It was a strong colorway on its own and was furthered by the mom-and-pop-esque pop-up shop that Jordan Brand placed in Undefeated for the launch of the shoes. There was also a friends-and-family Air Jordan VI from the project, too, that further made Aleali May x Jordan Brand something that people were checking for.
3. Air Jordan 1 "Black/Royal"
The “Black/Royal” Air Jordan 1 is the one of the most pivotal sneakers in the canon of Air Jordans, even if Michael Jordan never actually wore them on an NBA court. Jordan Brand brought them back this year in a few forms: an O.G. retro, a Satin version that only released at two stores, and a new pair that was done in Flyknit. The first two versions, however, are what caused all the hype, with the Flyknit being something that took a bit longer for fans to warm up to. It’s hard to mess up a black and blue Air Jordan, and Jordan Brand only added to the sneaker’s legacy this year. It’s easy to run good ideas into the ground, but Jordan played things perfectly when it came to “Black/Royal” in 2017. It might be 32 years since the sneakers first made their debut, but there’s an ever-growing audience waiting for them to hit the stores again.
2. Kaws x Air Jordan IV
Kaws x Air Jordan. Nothing more really needs to be said, but the legendary street artist from Jersey City got the chance to do three pairs of Air Jordans this year: two colorways of the Air Jordan IV and a special version of the Swooshless Air Jordan low, because he felt too nervous to wear his own sneakers. The IVs were done in a way that put Kaws’ signature artwork on the upper, replaced the “Nike” on the heel tab with his XX, and came with translucent soles. They were everything that Kaws fans wanted and were enough to satisfy sneakerheads. The black pair was rumored to only be friends and family, but ended up dropping on Cyber Monday. But the grey version is one that gets the most recognition and rightfully so: People love Kaws for his art, and it shines through strongest on these sneakers.