When Michael Jordan retired from the basketball court in 1999, there was a slight fear that it would mark the end of the Air Jordan line, a fear reminiscent of the first time that MJ retired. Luckily for sneakerheads worldwide, the Jordan Brand had officially been established a few years before his retirement, meaning the sneakers could live on. Two years later, the Air Jordan 16 appeared and marked an era of transition in multiple ways. There are so many stunning sneakers in this line, so here is a list of the 12 best Air Jordan 16 sneakers of all time.
The first thing you might notice about the Air Jordan 16 is its difference from all the sneakers that came before it. The sneakers are entirely different from everything that came before it, and that is for several reasons. First, the year that the AJ16 debuted was 2001, and was the year when Michael Jordan moved away from the action on the court to the “front office” and became the president of Basketball Operations with, and partial owner of, the Washington Wizards.
The idea behind the sneakers was to turn them into something that looked more professional in the business world, to suit Jordan’s new role. The sneaker was also one of the first Air Jordan silhouettes besides the Air Jordan 3 that was not designed by Jordan brand veteran designer Tinker Hatfield but was designed by Nike‘s Senior Footwear designer, Wilson Smith.
Whether the transition between designers was made because of the era of transition that Michael Jordan was going through at the time or because of the perceived failure of the previous Air Jordan 15, we would have to have an insider who was there at the time tell us.
The previous Air Jordan 15 took a left turn regarding inspiration, drawing stylistic details from the X-15 jet plane, which was a minor hit with the public, so the Air Jordan 16 brought the sneaker line back to basics. Once again looking to high-performance automobiles for inspiration, Wilson Smith took the design a step further by looking to sophisticated forms of inspiration, like architecture, to bring the world one of the most sophisticated sneakers on the market.
One of the most significant changes to the construction of the sneakers was the slightly more squared toe, reminiscent of what would be considered a business shoe. The sneakers are still designed for high performance and breathability, but the real draw is the magnetic shroud. The magnetic mantle is a unique removable garter that gives the sneaker a sleek and uniform look, quickly allowing wearers to transform the sneakers from street shoes to what they would wear to the office. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t built for the court, though, and this is clear from the inclusion of visible Air technology in the outer midsole, seen in the odd shapes that protrude beneath the midfoot and the heel. The shroud also adds extra support, furthering the argument that they are built for function. You also might wonder what all the dots and dashes along the side mean, and there are 16 of them in total, making up the JORDAN branding, which is quite genius.
1. Trophy Room x Air Jordan 16 “Rose Gold” Sample
Some people might not know this, but the owner of Trophy Room is Michael Jordan’s youngest son, Marcus Jordan. In recent years, he spoke to Full Size Run, where he mentioned a collaboration he had worked on with Jordan Brand that has yet to make it to the retail market. One of those ill-fated collaborations was a metallic “Rose Gold” colourway for the Air Jordan 16 range. With rose gold metallic patent leather on the upper and tongue, the detachable shroud, dusty pink rubber on the midsole and completely translucent rubber on the outsole, the sneakers are completed by an opalescent button on the shroud. Unfortunately, these sneakers were scrapped in favour of the “French Blue”, which people thought would be better received. However, the stunning reflective patent leather and opalescent detail earned it its spot at the top of the list. Too bad this is just a sample, but it makes it a one-of-a-kind sneaker.
2. Air Jordan 16 Retro “Christmas”
Ray Allen is a well-known name for Air Jordan sneakers, primarily because of the Player-Exclusive sneakers he made in his honour. However, a favourable trend for metallic patent leather went down with the Air Jordan 16, and I’m not mad at it. These sneakers were worn by Allen himself and combine the festive, metallic green with a speckled orangey-red midsole, complemented by green on the outsole. Some orangey-red peaking out above the removable shroud. With some RAY branding on the outsole, it’s impossible to mistake these signature sneakers.
3. “Board of Governors” Air Jordan 16
Yet another pair of exclusive sneakers that we can probably never expect to release to the retail market, the “Board of Governors” Air Jordan 16 takes the sophistication of the range to a whole new level. The sneaker’s colourway is blanketed by a pine green colourway, with intricate detailing on the suede of the toes and a Jumpman logo in the centre of the toes. The shroud is a stunning quilted suede of the same colour, decorated with many embroidered bow-ties for a sophisticated, gentlemanly look. Under the cover, there is another bright yellowy-gold bow tie on the tongue label, and BOG in a yellowy-gold can be found on the heel of the shroud. Unfortunately for those who fall in love with them, these sneakers are reserved only for gifts for some of the Jordan brand’s sponsored players.
4. Russell Westbrook x Air Jordan 16 Retro “Why Not?”
Inspired by Russell Westbrook’s favourite leather jackets, these all-black sleek sneakers combine many materials to give an elegant and sophisticated look. The entire look of these sneakers is symbolic of Russell Westbrook and his gritty play style, with the embroidered elements of the leather shroud symbolising the chain net of outdoor basketball courts, speaking of his heritage. The mesh on the back of the shroud is complemented by the silver metallic studs and a pearlescent button that houses Jumpman branding, all of which combine to create an incredibly sleek pair of sneakers. In addition, the actual upper of the sneaker below the shroud is a stunning soft suede, only lending further to the sophistication of the pair.
5. Jordan 16.5 Team “Black Metallic”
This one might be considered cheating a little bit because the Jordan 16.5 isn’t technically part of the Air Jordan 16 line, but it also technically is. The Jordan 16.5 takes everything we love from the Air Jordan 16 and the Air Jordan 17 into one magnificent sneaker. It still counts as part of the Air Jordan 16 list because many of the design elements come from that line, including the shape of the outsole, the toe area, and the upper looks reminiscent of the shroud of the AJ16. The only authentic detail from the AJ17 is the large eyelets for the laces. The Jordan 16.5 “Black Metallic” is a stunning pair of sneakers with black suede, black leather, black mesh, golden-yellow decorative stitching, blue on the inner lining, massive eyelets, and the midsole. The “metallic” from the name comes from the patent leather that makes up the toe area and heel counter, giving a reflective, sports car look to the sneakers.
6. Air Jordan 16 “Pantone Collection”
These stunning baby blue sneakers have many interesting elements to them, like panelled leather on the shroud, quilted fabric over the top of the shroud, a stretchy mesh on the back, and the majority of the sneaker itself is that same baby blue leather with the perfect amount of white sprinkled in as an accent to the blue. There is also an icy element with the clear outsole, an aspect that the Air Jordan 16 loves to use. As always, the shroud allows for these sneakers’ sophisticated look.
7. Air Jordan 16 Retro “Veteran’s Day” Sample
Jordan Brand loves to commemorate great causes and holidays, and that’s precisely what they did with these Air Jordan 16 Retro “Veteran’s Day” Sample. Unfortunately, they were Player Exclusives that were never released to the public. However, we still got the opportunity to appreciate them nonetheless. They feature an olive upper made of nubuck, which extends onto the shroud, which is completed by mesh at the heel, and a pearlescent button with the Jumpman housed inside. The hidden detail, protected by the shroud, is a camouflage print on the sneakers. At the same time, the tan outsole is covered with transparent moulding that we know and love from the Air Jordan 16.
8. Air Jordan 16 Retro Ray Allen “Miami Heat” PE
I know, I know, Ray Allen again. What can I say? He has worn some of the greatest Air Jordans on the market. Unfortunately, many were made just for him, so they are almost impossible to get your hands on, but possible. These sneakers were made to commemorate Allen being part of the Miami Heat, and wearing them on the court reminded people that they are built for more than just the office and are still perfectly functional on the court. These sneakers have a mostly white colourway, with red accents on the shroud and fiery yellow components on the sneakers themselves. As always with Ray Allen’s sneakers, RAY replaces any usual JORDAN branding on the mantle, save for the Jumpman on the button.
9. Air Jordan 16 Retro “Midnight Navy”
These sneakers first emerged in 2001, beginning the Air Jordan 16s journey. With “Midnight Navy” patent leather on the toe, the sneakers quickly transition into crisp white tumbled leather that makes it clear its intentions are for on-court and off-court use. These sneakers helped make the 19th century-inspired shroud combined with the Zoom Air and Nike Air cushioning popular as footwear on the court. Unfortunately, fans had to wait fifteen years before they were retro-ed in 2016. Sometimes simplicity is the best policy, and these simple yet sophisticated sneakers check all the boxes for function, fashion, breathability, and comfort.
10. Air Jordan 16 OG “Ginger”
The Jordan Brand loves to bring out a “Ginger” colourway, and it’s easy to see why. Inspired by dress shoes and those that would have been worn with ‘spats’ or the shroud in the 19th century, these sneakers are definitely sophisticated-looking. Sneakers created in the “Ginger” colourway are generally designed for lifestyle use, similar to the Timberland boots that are famously worn for fashion. Still, they are functional on the court nonetheless. This particular OG colourway is known for being laced up by Michael Jordan during his time with the Washington Wizards.
11. Air Jordan 16 Retro “Countdown Pack”
First retro-ed in June of 2008, this beloved pair of Air Jordan 16 sneakers pays homage to Michael Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls with the black and red colourway. The toe section and tongue feature some premium patent leather. At the same time, the rest of the sneaker’s upper is made from mesh and black leather that matches the black midsole, which is copied on the black shroud. The red of the Chicago Bulls is represented in the Air technology in the heel, which is then covered with translucent rubber, a signature style of the AJ16.
12. Trophy Room x Air Jordan 16 Retro “French Blue”
The Trophy Room x Air Jordan collaboration made it to retail when the “Rose Gold” colourway didn’t. Designed by Marcus Jordan, the sneakers are the epitome of luxury, with tumbled leather covering the majority of the upper and the shroud, a different-looking elastic detail on the heel of the shroud, and a bit of patent leather that looks a lot like some of Michael Jordan’s favourite models, all swept up with a sophisticated monochromatic look. These luxury sneakers were released in a limited stock of only 5000 and sold at pop-up events and on TrophyRoomStore.com.