Nostalgia once again dominates this year’s list of top Air Jordans, but the generational shift that appeared to be emerging on our mid-year list has solidified as the year closes. We are now undoubtedly in an era where non-original colorways like the “Cool Grey” Air Jordan 11 and “Lightning” Air Jordan 4 have been in the pantheon of sneaker culture long enough to come back and be cherished as if they were worn by Michael Jordan in his prime. 

Returning not-quite-classics were only part of the equation though, as new collaborations predictably played an important part in Jordan Brand’s year. Marcus Jordan, Virgil Abloh, and Travis Scott all added to their respective Air Jordan résumés, however each of those shoes carries its own unique baggage thanks to the controversy surrounding the Trophy Room launch, the Astroworld Festival tragedy, and Abloh’s unexpected passing. Meanwhile, A Ma Maniére and Union dropped projects that fell on opposite ends of the theme spectrum, but were each coveted for their own respective approaches. 

As we wrap up the year, take a look back at which Air Jordans stood out the most. These are the best Air Jordans of 2021.