Throughout the majority of his NBA career, Michael Jordan donned the jersey number 23. It’s fitting then that the 23rd instalment of the Air Jordan line be something incredibly special. And it was. Tinker Hatfield’s Nike Air Jordan Retro 23 sneakers (more commonly stylised as Air Jordan XX3) have become an iconic fashion staple since their release in 2008. As the last numbered AJ to release until the XX8 in 2013, they have been a symbol of status, style, and culture, and continue to be some of the most coveted sneakers in the world. See, with the 23, MJ and Tinker Hatfield set out to create the greatest basketball sneaker of all time — which meant that the Jordan Brand team had to focus painstakingly on every aspect of the shoe. In this article, we’ll be exploring the best Nike Air Jordan Retro 23 sneakers of all time.
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Unlike previous releases, the Air Jordan Retro 23 sneaker exudes minimal branding. Yet, Michael Jordan’s presence is still felt in the design, with his thumbprint inside the tongue, his signature printed on the toebox, and the “M” & “J” stitched onto the upper of the sneaker.
As the first basketball shoe to be crafted under Nike’s “Considered Design” ethos, the XXIII seeks to create a sneaker that are both high-performing and durable, while prioritizing the health of the environment. The upper is crafted from premium leather with embroidered detailing. It is further bolstered by high-performance technology and a full-length Zoom Air unit for maximum comfort and an ideal fit.
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1. Air Jordan Retro 23 “Black Stealth”
2008’s Air Jordan Retro 23 “Black Stealth” is one of a kind and is considered one of the best Nike Air Jordan Retro 23 sneakers of all time. Styled as a premium sneaker, its sleek and luxury design, combined with its black, red, white and grey colorway (which is meant to resonate with the colours of the Chicago Bulls), make it a must-have for any sneaker collector. Amazingly, this particular silhouette also became the very first sustainable basketball shoe to ever hit the market. To this day, 15 years later, it remains a highly coveted sneaker. Resellers currently sell them for around $286.
2. Air Jordan Retro 23 “Chicago Bulls”
Like the Black Stealth, the “Chicago Bulls” colourway was released in 2008 and pays homage to Michael Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls. Made of leather, mesh, cotton and rubber, the red, white and black colourway sold for $185 on its release day. Obviously, it will fetch a lot more today.
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3. Air Jordan XX3 ‘Chicago’
The Chicago Air Jordan XX3 Retro utilizes a prominent color scheme of university red — with gum yellow on the sole. The upper is entirely red and features leather panelling, with the words ‘Chi’ and ‘City’ and the Chicago skyline displayed in black on the heel. The outsole and stitching are accented in gum yellow. Additionally, the inside of the tongue showcases the numbers ‘773’ and ‘312’, both of which are area codes that represent the city.
4. Air Jordan Retro 23 “All-Star”
Probably one of the most popular XX3s, the Air Jordan 23 All-Star edition was launched in limited quantities during the 2008 All-Star weekend. The sneaker features a white upper with the iconic MJ pattern repeatedly stitched over a single piece of black and red leather. It also includes Varsity Red detailing on the toe box, a midsole equipped with an Independent Podular Suspension system, and a carbon fibre plate.
5. Air Jordan Retro 23 “CNY Year of the Rabbit”
The Air Jordan 23 Retro ‘Year of the Rabbit’ honours the Lunar New Year by showcasing a refined colour scheme and updated branding elements. The grey tumbled leather upper is adorned with tonal stitching and includes a padded mid-cut collar as well as a perforated white leather tongue. The exterior side of the tongue showcases a floral Jumpman logo, while the interior side features a hidden rabbit graphic. Metallic gold accents can be found on the upper eyelets, lace tips, and toe, featuring an all-over print composed of Michael Jordan’s signature. The Phylon midsole is reinforced with a sculpted TPU cage and features Zoom Air cushioning as well as an exposed carbon fiber shank plate.
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6. Air Jordan Retro 23 “Titan”
The Titan x Air Jordan 23 Retro SP ’10th Anniversary’ is a collaborative design with Manila-based retailer Titan, bringing back the retro hoops shoe that was first released in 2008. The silhouette’s traditional DNA-inspired stitching is swapped with jagged lightning-shaped embroidery, paying homage to Titan’s 10-year history. A metallic gold Titan badge is featured on the right tongue, while the left is stamped with a Jumpman icon. On the medial-side midsole, ‘Titan PH’ is printed along with the style code for the original ‘Black Stealth’ Air Jordan 23.
7. Air Jordan Retro 23 “Trophy Room White”
The ‘Trophy Room White’ model was colored up by Michael Jordan’s son, Marcus, and was released in a limited run of only 523 individually numbered pairs worldwide. The white leather upper features Michael Jordan’s initials throughout, as well as his signature on the toe cap. The tongue of the shoe displays ‘5’ and ’23’, referencing Marcus’ and his father’s jersey numbers. The translucent outsole reveals the Trophy Room branding. They resell for over $1000 on GOAT.com.
8. Air Jordan Retro 23 “Solefly Florida Marlins”
Jordan Brand and Miami-based retailer SoleFly collaborated on a special edition Air Jordan 23, featuring a striking Hyper Turquoise colourway inspired by the vintage team colours of the Florida Marlins. The sneaker’s leather upper boasts the signature stitch detailing of the 23, with the tongue logo on the left shoe replaced by laser-etched SoleFly branding instead of the usual ’23’. The midsole is low-profile and fitted with a carbon fibre shank plate and Zoom Air cushioning, finished with a translucent Hyper Turquoise hue.
9. AJ 23 Motorsports
The Air Jordan 23 ‘Motorsports’ draws inspiration from Michael Jordan’s passion for motorcycle racing and incorporates colours from his Motorcycle team. The sneaker boasts a navy leather side panel with intricate stitching, complemented by white mesh around the heel and a white patent leather toebox. Its dark navy TPU midsole contains Zoom Air for cushioning, as well as a carbon fibre shank plate. The ‘Motorsports’ release coincided with the drop of the ‘Bulls’ and ‘UNC’ colourways.
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10. AJ23 Finale
The Air Jordan 23 ‘Finale’, which dropped in December 2008, marked the end of the numbered Air Jordan models, at least until Jordan Brand decided to revive the practice with the release of the Air Jordan 29. This mid-top sneaker was limited to just 529 pairs and features a Chicago Bulls-inspired black and Varsity Red colourway. The upper is decorated with intricate stitch detailing, while the midsole is encased in TPU.