Air Jordan 13 sneakers don’t tend to be top-sellers, but they break history occasionally. It is an often-underrated silhouette but continues to ebb in and out of the most-wanted sneakers lists throughout history. The release of the Air Jordan 13 “Flint Grey” coincided with ESPN’s The Last Dance, churning up some incredible hype around the documentary and pushing the sneakers to record-breaking sales. With so many epic options, we made a list of the 15 best Air Jordan Retro 13 sneakers of all time.
The Air Jordan 13 debuted in the fall of 1997, on the heels of the explosive Air Jordan 12 release. The sneakers were released during Michael Jordan’s ‘farewell tour’ because of many controversies surrounding the management of the Chicago Bulls during the 1997-1998 season.
These sneakers are regarded as the end of the “OG” era, the end of the line of Nike Air Jordan sneakers that Michael Jordan could actually be seen hitting the court in, where he could be seen rocking the Air Jordan 13 in most of the regular season as well as most of the 1998 NBA Playoffs, marking the final chapter of a dynasty that was built through this epic collaboration.
The construction of the Air Jordan 13 is heavily inspired by Michael Jordan’s nickname, “Black Cat”. Tinker Hatfield went to work incorporating the majestic cat into the design, which you can see in multiple elements of the sneaker. The sneaker’s upper is usually a dotted material to emulate a panther’s whiskers. At the same time, the sole is shaped in a way that resembles the paw of the massive black cat. And we can’t forget the nod to the animal’s mesmerising eyes in the Jumpman hologram that can usually be found on the heel. Each colourway is a variation of this exact epic Air Jordan 13 blueprint.
1. Air Jordan 13 Retro “Doernbecher”
It shouldn’t surprise you by now that Nike makes some of the best collaboration sneakers out there, and many of them have a significant meaning behind them. One of their unique collaborations is the long-standing partnership with Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Each year, children from the hospital can design their own “Doernbecher” sneakers. A lucky winner’s design is chosen to be sold, and the profits raise money for the hospital. In 2015, 11-year-old John Charles, a patient at the hospital battling Crohn’s Disease, created this epic pair of Air Jordan 13 Retro sneakers.
The uniqueness of these sneakers isn’t just limited to the seldom-seen glossy patent leather that makes up the entire upper of the sneakers in snakeskin-embossed black and the dotted teal panelling. Still, the sole has been modified with John’s personal touches. The soles feature John’s soccer number, a caricature of a kid with an arched brow, “Crohn’s” on each sole to symbolise his desire to step on and beat his disease and seven pills that represent the medication he has to take every day to manage his illness at such a young age.
With lime green laces, Jumpman on the tongue label, and “JC” in the hologram eye, these are signature sneakers that support a fantastic cause and deserve to be in the top spot on this list of best Retro 13 Air Jordan sneakers of all time.
2. Air Jordan 13 Retro “He Got Game” 2018
The Air Jordan 13 “White/Black” colourway was first featured in Spike Lee’s famous 1998 film He Got Game, in one of the most iconic scenes in sports drama history. Since then, the sneakers have been known as the “He Got Game” sneakers. The retro sneakers were re-released in 2018. As it was initially known, the colourway features black and white tumbled leather that uses red as an accent colour for the ensemble. The dotted “whisker” section of the upper is white, while the rest of the sneaker construction is black tumbled leather. The Hologram logo is a dark green that contrasts the red accents perfectly.
These He Got Game Air Jordan Retro 13 sneakers deserve a place on everyone’s list.
3. AJ13 “Grey Toe”
These sneakers first hit the scene in 2005 for the first time, whereafter they were retro-re-released again in 2014. The colourway consists of a variety of textures that are white, grey, and red, with white tumbled leather making up the mottled upper, grey tumbled leather making up the toe section (hence where it gets its name from) and slightly distressed suede making up the red midsection that makes its way into the midsole, as well as wrapping around the collar and the hologram logo, which is bright green.
4. Air Jordan 13 Retro “Ray Allen” PE
Ray Allen famously set the all-time record for 3-pointers made in a Player Exclusive version of the AJ13s. The Air Jordan 13 “Ray Allen” Player Exclusive sneakers were a stunning and refreshing break away from the standard red many AJ13s used. The upper part comprises white tumbled leather, while the rest is an incredibly soft suede in muted green that blends in with the hologram logo on the back. This shade of green is just earthy and refreshing, a colour you don’t often see in the Air Jordan 13 world.
5. Air Jordan 13 “Playoffs”
Everyone knows that the playoffs are where history is made. Michael Jordan made history strutting these Air Jordan 13s during the 1998 NBA Playoffs, where they nabbed the name. Still, Nate Robinson was more well-known for sporting these sneakers on the court. These sneakers use a more stingray-leather-like finish than the standard tumbled leather for the toe section. The mottled upper complements the texture starkly with a suede midfoot area that can be seen again on the heel and the tongue label. Of course, it wouldn’t be the AJ13 without the hologram logo on the heel, which is the signature cat’s eye green.
6. Air Jordan 13 “Flint”
These flawless sneakers dripped in 2017 and caused a stir, changing what we thought all Air Jordan 13s looked like. For starters, the white toe panelling was replaced with patent leather, and the grey suede we sometimes saw on the mid-foot area extended down into the midsole for a seamless look. Instead of using leather for the mottled upper like we are used to, the Air Jordan 13 “Flint” brought a new level of depth with the denim-coloured upper made from a woven material.
7. Air Jordan 13 “Bred”
These classic Black and Red Air Jordan 13 sneakers, cutely named “Bred” as a play on words, were re-released in 2017 when Nike and Jordan Brand brought these sneakers to full family sizes. The classic sneakers brought back the woven texture of the mottled upper, including a stunning blood-red midfoot that seamlessly travelled into the midsole and wrapped around the hologram logo on the heel. There are some peeks of white hinting from the outsole, but the entire sneaker earned its name of “Bred” on the outsole alone.
8. Air Jordan Retro 13 Low “Quai 54”
These sneakers hit the scene in 2015 and are one of the few low versions of the Air Jordan 13 that are almost universally loved. This pair, in particular, is a homage to France’s street ball community and has an entirely unique feel thanks to the patterned midfoot section that connects to the midsole. Unfortunately, the hologram we see in the retro silhouettes is missing from the sneakers due to the shorter length of the heel. Still, the sneaker more than makes up for it in style. The mottled upper is a woven mesh-like fabric, and all the textures keep the colour scheme neutral with blacks and greys, save for the tan outsole.
9. Air Jordan Retro 13 Low “Chutney”
Yet another Low silhouette joins the list with a pair that returned to the world of sneakers in 2017, the Air Jordan 13 Low “Chutney” returned with its wheat-coloured untumbled leather, giving a sophisticated Timberland feel, while the toe section is a classic tumbled black leather, and the midfoot is a stunning black suede, really giving this pair of sneakers a high-fashion, sophisticated look. Additionally, the absence of the hologram logo that usually comes with the Low silhouette elevates the look further.
10. AJ13 Retro “Squadron Blue”
This retro style came back in 2013 when the signature blue shade exceeded the typical navy or denim you might see on some other Air Jordan 13 releases. While the colour is maintained across the entirety of the sneakers’ upper, the sneaker’s different textures bring the colour to life in different ways, from the tumbled leather of the toe section to the suede panelling and the mottled-woven upper. These are classic sneakers with a lime green outsole to tie them together with the hologram logo.
11. Air Jordan 13 Retro “CP3” PE
A tribute to Chris Paul’s days with the New Orleans Hornets, these retro sneakers were released in 2015. With a stunning mix of textures and materials, there’s tumbled black leather on the toe section, bright “Orion” blue hairy suede on the midsole and mid-foot unit, and woven nylon for the mottled upper that makes the whisker-like area of the sneakers. “Sunstone” yellow makes up the CP branding on the tumbled leather tongue label, the Jordan branding where a lace dubrae would typically go, and the outer rim of the outsole.
12. CLOT x Air Jordan 13 Low “Sepia Stone”
Arriving at the end of 2018, these unique collaboration sneakers with Edison Chen’s CLOT featured a variety of premium materials like stitched brick-like suede giving it its “Sepia Stone” namesake, which covers most of the upper, accompanied by portions of grey and brown. The brick texture completely replaced the whisker-like look that the Air Jordan 13 usually has. Still, the sneakers certainly aren’t lacking for it. Another significant change from what we are used to is that the CLOT logo has replaced the Jumpman emblems and is a stunning metallic gold. In addition, the outer rim of the outsole is an icy, semi-translucent pink.
13. Reverse He Got Game
One of the most popular colourways for the Air Jordan 13 would have a reverse option, a play on the colours of the original, switching up the colours of the sneakers to the opposite end of the spectrum. Where there was once white, there is now black and vice versa. The exciting thing about these sneakers is that the white midsection that joins the midsole almost makes it look like they have a platform look, which sets them further apart from the original. Using the same tumbled and smooth leather, the sneakers are very true to their original design while being different.
14. AJ13 “Chinese New Year”
Yet another stunning breakaway from the standard design of the Air Jordan 13, but similar enough to stay in the family, the Air Jordan 13 “Chinese New Year” is a stunning pair of sneakers and my personal favourite on this list (although CLOT is a close second). The pink, tan and white colourway, with the white and tan being a stunning premium suede, and the floral pink making up the opaque outsole. The mottled texture you would typically see on the AJ13 has been replaced with a pattern reminiscent of Chinese coins or maybe ancient armour, which is a perfect look for these sneakers.
15. Air Jordan 13 “BIN 23”
This pair of sneakers set the stage for premium retro sneakers, taking the older designs and recreating them with luxury materials. The sneakers have a touch of shiny leather, but only over the white toe section. In contrast, the rest of the sneaker is a maroon-red soft-touch material and a clay-brown soft suede that makes up the mid-foot section, the heel that wraps around the hologram Jumpman, and the midsole. It’s risky to have suede on the midsole, but that tends to be the mark of a premium pair of sneakers because those who can afford these sneakers probably won’t be using them to trek through the elements.