Michael Jordan’s Most Iconic Playoffs Sneakers
Highlighting the eight most memorable sneakers worn by Michael Jordan throughout his many postseason runs.
By AP Sneaker
Once upon a time, there was real intrigue over the sneakers worn by basketball players in NBA Playoff games, particularly those laced up by Michael Jordan. That’s not a dig at today’s crop of talent or their footwear choices. But consider this: had Jordan wore a different colorway of his shoe for every half of every game back in the day—like many players do now—then none of the “Playoff” Jordans that appeared in countless NBA Finals would be iconic.
It remains to be seen which modern “Playoff” sneaker colorways will be deemed legendary five, ten, and twenty years from now. There are certainly a lot of great shoes among the signature lines of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and others. So it’s not out of the question to think that we’ll one day dedicate a blog post to the sneakers Ja Morant wore en route to another Larry O’Brien Trophy. Especially if Ja and other stars ever get back to wearing one or two colorways of a shoe for the duration of the playoffs. Anything is possible!
But we’re not talking about hypotheticals today. We’re talking about the greatest sneakers to appear in some of basketball’s most meaningful games: “Playoffs” Air Jordans.
Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to the NBA Finals six times and collected six rings to break the championship record, but he wore more than just six sneakers along the way. In fact, he made the playoffs thirteen times in fifteen seasons with the Bulls. This gives us an opportunity to cover some of the early Air Jordan "Playoff" models you may have forgotten about.
These are the greatest Air Jordans worn by Michael Jordan during his most memorable moments in the NBA Playoffs.
Jordan 1 High OG ‘’Chicago’’
The Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and coach K.C. Jones, looked like the best in the world during the 1985-86 NBA season. To put the team's dominance in perspective, the Celtics lost just one game at their home stadium, the old Boston Garden, during the entire regular season, a record that still stands.
Jordan, in only his second season with the Bulls and first-ever playoff appearance, faced the Celtics in the first round of the ‘86 NBA Playoffs. To say that the ‘86 Bulls weren’t the Bulls of ‘90s would be an understatement, but that didn’t stop Jordan from giving the C’s all they could handle. In Game 2 of the series, Jordan scored 63 points, a record for most points scored by a player in a Playoff game, which still stands 36 years later. His shoe of choice that day, and throughout the series, was the original Air Jordan 1 High “Chicago.”
Most memorable moment: Jordan scores 63 points in Game 2
Jordan 4 ’’Bred’’
For those of a certain age, “The Shot” refers to “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” a game-winning home run by the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson off of Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds that awarded the Giants the ‘51 National League pennant.
For anyone under 80, "The Shot" almost certainly evokes memories of Michael Jordan's winning jump over Craig Ehlo and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA playoffs. And it almost certainly evokes memories of the shoe Jordan was wearing that day: Air Jordan 4 "Bred". This pivotal moment in Jordan's career helped fuel his determination to become a champion. Which brings us to our next shoe…
Most memorable moment: “The Shot”
Jordan 6 ’’Infrared’’
The stars finally aligned for Jordan and the Bulls in 1991. Having been battle hardened by intense matchups against rivals like the Celtics and most notably, the Detroit Pistons during the late ‘80s, the Bulls emerged as the Eastern Conference’s best team by the time they made it to the ‘91 NBA Finals.
The Bulls bested Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games of that season’s Finals, all with the Air Jordan 6 "Infrared" on Mike's feet. Times were simpler in the early '90s, when star players didn't seem to have another special edition sneaker colorway for every game of the Playoffs. Jordan wore the iconic black and neon red Jordan 6 throughout the '91 Playoffs, and it became his first Championship shoe when the Bulls claimed their first Larry O'Brien Trophy on June 12, 1991.
Most memorable moment: Hand-switch layup
Air Jordan 7 “Black/True Red”
The entire landscape of the NBA changed almost immediately after Jordan and the Bulls won their first championship. By ‘92, stars like Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson were on their way out of the league due to injuries and other contributing factors, leaving Jordan as the game’s best player.
After a relatively painless regular season, the Bulls made it back to the playoffs, and once again found themselves in the Finals for a second year in a row. Their opponents in the ‘92 Finals were the upstart Portland Trail Blazers led by Clyde Drexler, a swingman who was often compared to Jordan throughout his career. Jordan and the Bulls defeated the Trail Blazers in the Finals, and on Jordan’s feet for the series was the Air Jordan 7 “Black/True Red.” We’re going with its original color name here, because the shoe’s other nickname, the “Raptor” is based on the Toronto Raptors, who weren’t even a team back in ‘92.
Most memorable moment: “The Shrug”
Jordan 8 ’’Playoffs’’
There’s no other way around it: Jordan and the Bulls were on top of the world by 1993. “The Last Dance” docu-series may have revealed some turmoil between several Bulls players, but on the court, the team was unstoppable, making it back to the Finals for a third straight year, this time to face Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns.
As far as Jordan’s shoes for the Finals, and the playoffs, he wore the Air Jordan 8 in a black, white and red colorway called, now aptly nicknamed “Playoffs.” It would end up being John Paxson who clinched the series for the Bulls with a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 6, but of course, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity without Jordan’s help. In ‘93 Jordan had his highest points average of all of his six Finals victories at 41 points per game. It was a Three-Peat for the Bulls, and Jordan’s third Finals MVP honors in as many appearances.
Most memorable moment: Jordan scores 55 points in Game 4
Jordan 11 ’’Bred’’
Looking back, Jordan’s decision to take time away from basketball to pursue a career in baseball, and shoot “Space Jam,” as well, probably helped him in the long run. Yes, he was a little rusty upon his return to the NBA in the spring of 1995, but as we saw throughout the ‘95-96 regular season, Jordan had fresh legs, and was at the height of his powers.
The Bulls finished the ‘95-96 regular season with a 72-10 record, and continued to dominate in the playoffs, too, returning to the Finals following a two-year absence in ‘96. As far as Jordan’s shoes, after lacing up a player exclusive Air Jordan 11 Low in the same colorway for Game 1 (similar to this released version), Jordan wore the standard Air Jordan 11 "Bred" for the next five games of the 1996 NBA Finals. The underdog Seattle Supersonics proved to be worthy adversaries to the mighty 72-10 Bulls team, but in the end, MJ got the best of them to win his fourth title after his first full season back from retirement.
Most memorable moment: Jordan gets emotional after winning Game 6 on Father’s Day
Jordan 12 ’’Flu Game’’
’Another year, another NBA Finals appearance for Jordan and the Bulls in 1997. This time, the team faced the Utah Jazz led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, who pick-and-rolled enough to get by a very formidable Houston Rockets team in the ‘97 Western Conference Finals.
Once again, the best team in the West was no match for Jordan and the Bulls, as they completed the series in six games. But not without some theatrics. First, the ‘97 Finals were the first time Jordan wore two colorways of his latest Air Jordan model. For home games he wore the black and white Air Jordan 12 “Playoffs.” For road games he wore the black and red Air Jordan 12 “Flu Game,” a colorway whose name is inspired by Jordan’s legendary Game 5 performance while battling flu-like symptoms.
Most memorable moment: 38-point Flu Game
Jordan 12 ’’Flu Game’’
Jordan’s Finals footwear has been relatively easy to track up until now. But in 1998 (once again versus the Jazz) he hit the court in a variety of models and colorways. He really made things complicated for sneaker historians by wearing standard Air Jordan 13s and Air Jordan 13 Low Player Exclusives (one which was similar to this released version) for different halves of two games. (Maybe inspiring modern players to switch out their shoes, hm?) Most notably, the Air Jordan 14 made its debut in Game 3, months before it was released in 1999 while Jordan was retired for the second time. Jordan wore the black and red colorway that would become known as the Air Jordan 14 “Last Shot” after he poetically sent the Jazz packing for a second consecutive season by nailing a series-winning jumper in the shoe in Game 6—his last shot as a Chicago Bull.
Most memorable moment: The Last Shot.
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