The Jordan 9 is probably one of the strangest Michael Jordan sneakers of all time. Not because it’s ugly or because it has a bad design, but rather because it seems to be less popular than all the Jordans that came before it. “An enigma” might be a better way to describe it. All that said, the sneaker seems to be making a big comeback in 2024 – with the Air Jordan 9 “Powder Blue” being one of the most anticipated sneakers of the year. But until that sneaker drops, let’s look back at the fifteen best Jordan 9 Retro sneakers of all time.
The History and Story of the Air Jordan IX
Originally released in 1993-94 and designed by Tinker Hatfield, like every other Jordan model, the Air Jordan 9 has a rich history. These sneakers were unique in that they were released during Michael Jordan’s retirement from professional basketball to pursue a career in baseball, meaning they were the first Nike basketball shoes that weren’t worn by the NBA star on the court. Still, despite MJ’s absence, the Air Jordan 9 was definitely not absent from the game. Several player exclusives were made for athletes like Kendall Gill, Penny Hardaway, and Mitch Richmond. NBA star BJ Armstrong even wore a version with his jersey number on the back instead of the usual “23.” Again, while the AJ9 was the only signature sneaker not worn by Michael Jordan during his time with the Chicago Bulls, it still holds a special place in sneaker history. The sneakers showcase a globe icon and various languages on the outsole to reflect Jordan’s international appeal and fame.
Here are the fifteen best Jordan 9 Retro colourways of all time.
1. Air Jordan 9 Retro Johnny Kilroy
Named after the character played by Michael Jordan’s alter ego in a well-known series of commercials from 1994 (released in the 1994-95 NBA season during Michael Jordan’s first retirement), the Air Jordan 9 Retro Johnny Kilroy sneakers pay homage to Kilroy’s persona and association with MJ. Launched in October 2012, the sneaker’s colourway is Black/Gym Red-Metallic Platinum. What makes this pair of Jordans stand out from the rest is that instead of the traditional ‘Air Jordan’ branding on the tongue, the sneaker showcases the name ‘Johnny Kilroy,’ while the heel trades Jordan’s iconic #23 for a #4.
2. Air Jordan 9 Cool Grey
The Air Jordan Retro 9 Cool Grey colourway has quickly become a fan favourite due to its stylish yet minimalistic design. The combination of sleek grey patent leather and nubuck material gives the sneaker a unique and attractive look, setting it apart from previous Jordan 9 releases. It’s no surprise, then, that these sneakers have an average resale price of $400.
3. Air Jordan 9 Retro Doernbecher
Designed by 11-year-old Oswaldo Jimenez, the Air Jordan 9 Retro Doernbecher is one of the most sought-after and expensive sneakers on the resale market. The current resale price for these sneakers is around $875. Ouch. The sneaker boasts a unique black and gold trim with feather-inspired designs on the mid-sole and upper, making it the most creative Jordan 9 release to date.
4. Air Jordan 9 Retro “Silver Anniversary”
In 2010, Jordan Brand released a special edition sneaker, the Air Jordan 9 Retro ’25th Anniversary’, to celebrate its 25th year. Devoid of any colour, the minimalistic basketball shoe has a white tumbled leather upper with metallic silver accents on the branding elements, such as the woven Jordan tongue tag and ’23’ embroidery on the heel.
5. Air Jordan 9 Retro Premio “Bin23”
The Air Jordan 9 Retro Premio “Bin23” is an exclusive release with just 1,331 pairs available globally. It boasts a luxurious design, featuring a white leather upper with a metallic gold nubuck overlay that envelops the base and collar. The midsole, eyelets, and tongue tag also feature metallic gold accents. A Bin23 emblem with a red faux wax seal can be found on the lateral collar.
6. Air Jordan 9 Retro “Bentley Ellis”
Another amazing limited edition sneaker that pays tribute to Michael Jordan’s character in a 1994 ad campaign, the Air Jordan 9 Retro “Bentley Ellis” features the Crawfish team colours and includes notable details such as “Bentley Ellis” on the tongue tag and “Crawfish” on the inside. The funny ad campaign hilariously suggested that Jordan had disguised himself as a member of the fictitious Crawfish team instead of retiring. The unique colourway is a must-have for fans who are looking for sneakers that stand out in a crowd.
7. Air Jordan 9 Retro “Calvin Bailey”
The AJ9 Retro “Calvin Bailey” features a Deep Royal nubuck upper with perforations for breathability and an elasticated lacing system. Part of the Johnny Kilroy pack, the iconic sneaker also boasts University Gold accents on the eyelets, lining, and outsole. This is another sneaker that’s a homage to the fictional characters that Michael Jordan adopted while he was retired. The colour scheme of the shoe is deeply mystical, inspired by the team that Calvin Bailey played for.
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8. AJ9 Retro “The Spirit”
“The Spirit” is a sculpture created by Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany to commemorate Michael Jordan’s initial retirement in 1993. What many haven’t noticed is that MJ is wearing the above sneakers in the sculpt. Paying tribute to the special sculpture, Jordan Brand also released a special sneaker in memory of the iconic monument, the Air Jordan IX Retro “The Spirit”. The sneaker is designed with a white base and “Milita Green” accents that mimic the colour of the sculpture.
9. Air Jordan 9 Retro “Motorboat Jones”
Yet another sneaker based on a character played by Jordan in ads, the “Motorboat Jones” features a tonal Challenge Red suede upper that gives it a lifestyle aesthetic. A part of the “Alter Egos” Pack, it is a limited release that features “Motorboat Jones” on the tongue tag and a faux “Bandits” Logo on the inside of the tongue.
10. AJ9 “Kobe”
A version of Kobe Bryant’s previously unattainable Air Jordan 9 Player Exclusive was released in 2016. Los Angeles Lakers supporters were delighted. Bryant wore these exclusive Jordans during his season of sneaker free agency in 2002-03, making them a historic pair of Jordans.
11. Air Jordan 9 ‘Fire Red’
A modern retro, this Air Jordan 9 is dressed in a White, Fire Red, and Cool Grey colourway, with a White leather base, Grey patent leather overlays, and Red accents to create contrast and juxtapose the minimalistic/plain look. The design is completed with a glossy Grey midsole atop a White rubber outsole.
12. Air Jordan 9 Retro Particle Grey
Another simple design, this silhouette of Michael Jordan’s ninth signature sneaker features a “Particle Grey” colourway, with black-based nubuck upper and grey overlay panels on the mudguard and ankle collar. The shoe is accented with red Jumpman branding on the tongue, insoles, and heel pull tab. If you like a clean look, it doesn’t get cleaner than this.
13. Air Jordan 9 Retro ‘Gym Red’
The Air Jordan 9 Retro White Gym Red was first released on October 5th 2019, with a retail price of $190. The Jumpman sneakers feature a white tumbled leather upper with a red patent leather mudguard, collar, and heel. The inner bootie has a tricolour scheme, while the heel displays a black Jumpman logo on the Air-Sole. The outsole of these jays is made of solid rubber with a multi-directional pattern, and the shoe also includes moulded eyelets and a white #23 branding on the pull tab.
14. Air Jordan 9 Retro Pinnacle ‘Baseball Glove Brown’
Released on July 15, 2017, the premium Air Jordan 9 Retro Pinnacle ‘Baseball Glove Brown’ is a really special edition release that pays homage to Michael Jordan’s brief stint in professional baseball. One of the most distinctive features of these jays is the number “45” that is stitched onto the heel, a reference to the number that Jordan wore during his time with the Birmingham Barons, a minor league baseball team. Today, these kicks are still highly sought after by collectors and fans alike.
15. Air Jordan 9 Retro Boot NRG ‘Green Abyss’
Boasting a striking combination of Green Abyss, Concord, and orange, arranged in an overlapping pattern from the outsole, the new NRG variant to its Air Jordan 9 Boot collection showcases a waterproof coating over a grey nubuck upper. Unlike other sneakers on this list, it features D-ring eyelets, work boot-style laces, and a lugged outsole for better traction. These are just downright awesome.