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60 signature Air Jordan 1s were released in 2018 — these are the 15 most fly

From a supermodel to a BMX legend to Virgil Abloh — boss collaborations ruled Jordan’s signature kicks

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, marking the arrival of 2019, it’ll be exactly 35 years since Nike and Michael Jordan debuted his first signature sneaker, the Air Jordan 1. First seen on the basketball court in 1984, the shoe was officially released in 1985. As a warmup to the anniversary, the Jordan Brand essentially made 2018 the year of the AJ1. Exactly 60 signature pairs of the famed silhouette dropped this year. In comparison, the second-most released Air Jordan of 2018 was the AJ3, with 18 pairs.

We’ve should’ve known them boys at Jumpman were up to something, based upon the early calendar of releases. In January, 13 different models of AJ1s dropped — and it didn’t stop there. In April, the “Shadow” 1s returned for the first time in five years. Later that month, 2,300 individually numbered pairs of the “Homage to Home” 1s — a split combination of the iconic “Banned” and “Chicago” colorways on one shoe — dropped exclusively in Chicago. Pairs of the special edition, and very limited “Pass the Torch” 1s were unveiled as part of Nike’s Art of a Champion collection to honor Kawhi Leonard (who left Jordan for New Balance in November) being named the 2014 NBA Finals MVP. The Pass the Torches, by the way, are now being sold for more than $2,000.

Through the “Best Hand in the Game” collection, the Jordan Brand experimented with new palettes, crafting AJ1s in “Track Red,” “Yellow Ochre,” “Clay Green,” and “Blue Moon” colorways. The acronym “AWOK,” which stands for “Anna Wintour OK,” took on new meaning in the sneaker community after Wintour, the Conde Nast artistic director/Vogue editor-in-chief, collaborated with Jordan to design two pairs of women’s zip-up AJ1s in white and red colorways. The “PSG” AJ1, designed using neoprene on the silhouette for the first time, celebrated Jordan’s first line of products with a soccer club, France’s Paris Saint-Germain. And in early December, police had to shut down the exclusive release of the “Art Basel” AJ1s at Miami sneaker boutique SoleFly due to safety concerns.

All of the above-mentioned pairs are dope and were highly sought-after. But none of them made The Undefeated’s list of 2018’s top Air Jordan 1s. We narrowed the list down t0 15 looks, and ranked them in descending order. From the colors, to the materials and, most importantly, the storytelling, these are the best AJ1s the year had to offer.


15. “Game Royal” Air Jordan 1

Release date: March 24

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $280

Following the road map of the classic “Chicago” AJ1, the Jordan Brand swapped out red for a beautiful shade of blue and delivered the “Game Royal” colorway. This shoe truly feels like a “little brother” to the iconic “Fragment” Air Jordan 1s — a grail for many sneakerheads, though the resale value of the shoe, which released in 2014, has skyrocketed to more than $2,000. The only real difference between the two? The Fragments feature a black toe cap and eyestay, while on the Game Royals it’s blue. So f0lks got creative, and started customizing their Royals into Fragments. No matter how you wear them, the Game Royals are a definite sleeper on 2018’s long list.

14. “Gold Toe” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Feb. 16

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $340

At ComplexCon in November 2017, streetwear/sneaker boutique Union Los Angeles collaborated with the Jordan Brand to debut the limited edition and supercrispy “Gold Toe Top 3” Air Jordan 1s. Three months later, during the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, the brand gave the people what they wanted: a wider release of the very similar “Gold Toe” AJ1, designed with metallic gold, black and white accents and a glorious patent leather upper. Side note regarding the drop of the Gold Toes: when a customer pulled up to CoolKicksLA and traded the sneaker consignment store a pair featuring a factory defect in the form of an upside down swoosh. The superrare 1-of-1 shoes went viral, so the store put the size 9 up for auction on eBay, and bidding surpassed $100,000. Moral of the story: If you ever come across a pair of kicks with an upside down swoosh, keep ’em.

In early December, police had to shut down the superexclusive release of the “Art Basel” AJ1s at Miami sneaker boutique SoleFly due to safety concerns.

13. “A Star is Born” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Dec. 27

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $210

A late submission to the list, because the storytelling behind the “A Star Is Born” Air Jordan 1s — which released less than five days before the end of 2018 — is amazing. The shoe’s design is inspired by the Dec. 10, 1984, issue of Sports Illustrated, covered by Jordan during his rookie NBA season, slicing through three Milwaukee Bucks defenders. The colors and detail of his opponents’ uniforms find their way into the swoosh of these new AJ1s, which look superdope with the lime green alternate shoestrings that come with the shoes. Fun fact: Jordan hasn’t agreed to be interviewed by SI for nearly 25 years, following the release of the March 14, 1994, issue, on which he was covered while pursuing a career in Major League Baseball during his first retirement from the NBA. Cover line: “BAG IT, MICHAEL! JORDAN AND THE WHITE SOX ARE EMBARRASSING BASEBALL.” So either His Airness REALLY loves that rookie year cover, or he’s trolling SI. Either way, the shoe is solid.

Sneakerheads still resold both pairs of Not For Resale 1s like crazy. This is why we can’t have nice things.

12. “Origin Story” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Dec. 14

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $330

Fam, even Spider-Man got his own Air Jordan 1 this year! The “Origin Story” edition of the shoe debuted in celebration of the release of the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which features Marvel’s first black Spider-Man, Miles Morales. The kicks are a remix of the retro “Chicago” AJ1s — a trademark of Morales’ swag while he’s fighting crime in his Spidey suit. Cool details include a textured 3M reflective upper, a blue tongue tag and icy outsoles, as well as a commemorative box. Spider-Man fans and sneakerheads of all ages will definitely appreciate this shoe.

 

11. “Court Lux” Aleali May x Air Jordan 1

Release date: Dec. 22

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $225

International supermodel/stylist Aleali May did her thing with her first AJ1 collaboration in 2017. Her “Satin Shadow” edition of the shoe made the sneaker world go bananas. But for her second AJ1? May was really in her bag. She teamed up with four-time WNBA champion and Team Jordan member Maya Moore for one of the hottest collabs of the year. May crafted a premium suede multicolored AJ1, while Moore designed a similarly styled similar pair of Air Jordan 10s. There’s just something about that red, blue, purple and faint pink that come together so harmoniously. If you scooped a pair of May’s AJ1s, hope you’re wearing them with the superfresh removable faux-fur tongue cover, which she incorporated to represent the intersection of streetwear and high fashion.

 

10. “Rookie of the Year” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Nov. 17

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $250

Who would’ve thought that an outfit Jordan wore during his rookie season would inspire the design of one of his shoes 33 years later? At a 1985 news conference during which Jordan was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, he broke out a harvest gold and black ensemble to celebrate the milestone — those colors are now incorporated into the premium leather “Rookie of the Year” AJ1s. Printed underneath the collar flaps of the shoes are his rookie statistics and a quote from his acceptance speech: “This award is nice, but I just feel it is very important for each individual to go out and contribute to his team.”

9. “Pine Green” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Sept. 22

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $280

In 2009, Jordan released a Boston Celtics-themed pair of Air Jordan 1s as part of the “60+ Defining Moments Pack.” Almost a decade later, the brand came back even stronger with the “Pine Green” AJ1, crafted with leather so soft that Lil Wayne and Birdman would be fans. The biggest difference between the 2009 version and this year’s pair is that the toe boxes on the new shoe are green — not white. Pretty sure every Celtics fan on the planet geeked out over these.

8. “Court Purple” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Sept. 22

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $360

The “Court Purple” AJ1s dropped with the Pine Greens — but were slightly more hyped, and rightfully so. Just look at that rich purple, most notably in the toe boxes. Huge shout-out to Jordan Brand’s team of designers for taking a concept — which began at the beginning of the year with the “Bred Toe” AJ1s (more on those later) — and really running with it. After pulling off toe boxes in red, green and purple, the question is, Which color is next? Because we’re here for them all.

7. “Satin Shattered Backboard” Air Jordan 1

Release date: May 5

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $430

This year, 19 different pairs of women’s Air Jordan 1s dropped — and the “Satin Shattered Backboard” edition of the shoe is, without question, the best of the collection. You know why? Because even though they were announces as being made for women, male sneakerheads went for these shoes, which serve as an updated take on the also highly sought-after “Shattered Backboard” AJ1s that released in 2015, and now boast an average resale value of close to $1,000. The 2018 “Satin” version delivers the highest quality materials, including an embroidered swoosh and a “full satin interior that melts around your foot.” These joints are straight fire.

6. “UNC” Off-White x Air JordaN 1

Release date: June 19

Retail Price: $190

Average resale value: $900

Perhaps no rap lyric resonated more with sneakerheads this year than Drake’s line on the Gunna and Lil Baby track “Never Recover”Virgil just chef’d me a whole different colorway. Since 2017, no sneaker collaborations have been as hyped, or as a beautifully executed, as the Virgil Abloh-designed Off-White x Nike “The Ten” collection (which will soon end following more than 20 releases). Simply put, Abloh hasn’t missed. And after giving us the “Chicago” Off-White Air Jordan 1s and a European exclusive “White” edition, Virgil chef’d up a whole different colorway with the “UNC” Off-White AJ1 by deconstructing the timeless shoe modeled after the school colors of Jordan’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Out of all three pairs of Off-White AJ1s, the UNC version is the easiest to find, though the shoes will still run you close to a stack. But every sneakerhead needs these in his or her rotation — especially with those bright orange interchangeable laces.

5. “Bred Toe” Air Jordan 1

Release date: Feb. 24

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $365

In November 2017, a sneakerhead named Jake Johnson placed an Eastbay order for a pair of “RE2PECT” Air Jordan 1s. But when his shipment arrived, he soon realized that the shoe supplier had made a mistake. Instead of the “RE2PECT” 1s, he received a pair of the then-unreleased “Bred Toe” 1s, making him one of the first people to get his hands on the shoe that would eventually rock the culture. So, Johnson listed his superearly pair on eBay for a whopping $10,000. Three months later, the Bred Toes officially released as the perfect combination of “Bred” and “Black Toe” — two of the most iconic AJ1 colorways. And if it weren’t for the Bred Toes, who knows? Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten the Pine Green or Court Purple 1s. Hype surrounded these sneakers as soon as Johnson gave us an early look. And the Bred Toes lived up to it — most definitely one of the year’s best pairs of AJ1s.

4. “Not For Resale” Air Jordan 1 (Varsity maize)

Release date: Nov. 14

Retail price: $160

Average resale value: $1,190

Jordan gave superspecific instructions for this pair of 1s. The text printed on the midsole — “NOT FOR RESALE” — says it all. These were meant to be worn — not purchased, and flipped, like seemingly every hyped drop nowadays. Other details on the shoes stick to that theme — from “PLEASE CREASE” etched on the toe boxes (intentionally facing the wearer), to “WEAR ME” on the tongues, “NO PHOTOS” stitched on the heels, “NO L’s” on the insoles, and the phrases “GENERAL RELEASE” and “SORRY, THIS PAIR IS NOT NUMBERED” both printed on the sock liners. Some pretty cool storytelling here for a pair, in this varsity maize, black and sail colorway, that dropped in superlimited fashion. As one sneaker blogger pointed out, the varsity maize NFR 1s only went on sale in one location in the United States — the Jumpman store in downtown Los Angeles. There was a wider release of the same shoe, but in a varsity red, black and sail colorway. And guess what? Sneakerheads still resold both pairs of NFR 1s like crazy. This is why we can’t have nice things.

3. “White” Off-White x Air Jordan 1

Release date: March 3

Retail price: $190

Average resale value: $2,570

The “Chicago” colorway is hands down the best version of the Off-White x Air Jordan 1s. However, checking in at a mighty close second is the “White” colorway. These shoes are just superclean, and the light blue threading adds a nice touch. The crazy thing is, the “White” Off-White 1s were only released in Europe. So unless you had an overseas plug, they were very hard to find, especially at a reasonable price. The European exclusive rollout only added to the mystique of the shoe, which has a feel you don’t typically get with an AJ1.

Printed underneath the collar flaps of the shoes are Jordan’s rookie statistics and a quote from his acceptance speech.

2. Nigel Sylvester x Air Jordan 1

Release date: Sept. 1

Retail price: $180

Average resale value: $325

BMX rider Nigel Sylvester loves Air Jordan 1s. They’re his go-to sneakers when he’s on a bike. So this year, the Jordan Brand gave Sylvester his own signature model of the shoe — which is all about the details. The discolored kicks look worn, with handmade distress marks to mimic the same ones he picked up on his pairs of AJ1s that he rocked while mastering tricks. There’s also a reflective swoosh to provide a flashing effect while riding at night, a mini swoosh right outside the toe box of each shoe for the first time on AJ1, and each pair even comes in a white box — not the traditional black one. One of the best elements of the shoe is inside the collar, which reads “Jordan Biking Co., Est. 2017.” That means this project was long in the making. Big salute to Sylvester on becoming the first BMX rider to rock his own AJ1.

1. Union Los Angeles x Air Jordan 1 (“Storm Blue” & “Black Toe”)

Release date: Nov. 17

Retail price: $190

Average resale value: $840 (“Storm Blue”), $655 (“Black Toe”)

This list all started with a tweet of mine from mid-November, featuring photos of then-upcoming two pairs of Union Los Angeles x Air Jordan 1s, and a simple question: “Are these the best Air Jordan 1s to drop this year?” The Twitter responses were, to say the least, interesting: “Negative” … “Not even close” … “Let’s be honest … these look weird.” It’s not that surprising folks reacted this way. Because in late October — when the shoes were subtly put on display at a staged booth during the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California — many sneakerheads were fooled, as hidden cameras rolled. At first glance, they didn’t believe the shoes were real. But they are. Take a closer look, because the Union AJ1s are absolutely incredible. The design is from the mind of Chris Gibbs, owner of Union L.A., who wanted to revisit the 1980s and ’90s by creating a vintage-style Air Jordan 1. Gibbs and the Jordan Brand ended up designing two different pairs — each of which merges two original colorways with contrasting yellow stitching. The “Storm Blue” Union AJ1 combines the classic “Storm Blue” and “Bred” colorways, while the “Black Toe” Union AJ1 is a mix of the throwback “Black Toe” and “Natural Grey” colorways. A lot of work was put into these shoes, including nine attempts to recreate the fuzzy ankle heel from the original 1985 AJ1s. This is the probably the closest many sneakerheads have ever gotten to wearing an OG AJ1. The Union collaboration isn’t just the best AJ1 of the year — it’s the best sneaker of the year.

Aaron Dodson is an associate editor at The Undefeated. Often mistaken for Aaron Dobson, formerly of the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals, he was one letter away from being an NFL wide receiver.