words // Zac Dubasik
For better or worse, when most people think of Jordan Brand these days, attention tends to quickly focus on retro shoes. And rightfully so. There's never been a line of sneakers as successful and beloved.
That said, while the year did have its share of terrific retro releases, both in the form of brand new colorways as well as truer-to-the-original-than-ever versions, there were also standouts on the performance front. No other brand had as many elite-level on-court shoes.
Were the title of this list "Most Hyped" rather than the "Best," shoes like the Bel Air 5s and Gamma 11s may have made the cut. They were significant for sure, but not the best in our opinions. What were the best though? Read on to see our picks.
10. Air Jordan 5 Doernbecher Retro
While any limited Air Jordan recieves extra attention these days, the Doernbecher 5s took on a special significance. The shoe paid tribute to Isaac Arzate, a patient at OHSU Doernbecher who passed away in April of 2012, and was based on designs he sketched earlier in the year.
9. Jordan CP3.VII
It's hard to believe that Chris Paul is already on his seventh signature shoe (possibly because it was hard to tell the 4, 5 and 6 apart), but the latest edition to his line may be the best version yet. A solid on-court performer, the VII still felt like a CP shoe, while finally offering something new from a design perspective.
8. Air Jordan 4 Retro - "Fear"
2013 was a great year for new colorways of the Air Jordan 4. More than one made our list, and including the Glow Greens was also discussed. These 4s kept things simple with their black, white and grey colorway, and were the standout of the Fear Pack.
7. Jordan Super.Fly 2
It's been a long time since a Team Jordan shoe made an impact like the Super.Fly 2. But pair benchmark-level forefoot cushioning (thanks to Flight Plate) with a solid aesthetic design, have one of the game's most popular players wear it, and top it off with a memorable ad campaign, and you've got one of the best Team Jordans ever.
6. Air Jordan 1 Retro High OGs
Original colorways, in the original high cut, with original branding? The response was a resounding "yes." While similar versions of every pair have retroed before (and in the case of Black / Reds, even recently released), their continued popularity and demand speaks volumes about how great these shoes really are.
5. Air Jordan 5 Retro "Black Grapes"
Fans have speculated and Photoshopped for years about what a black version of the popular Grape 5s would look like. And we weren't disappointed when they finally released.
4. Air Jordan 3 Retro '88
It only took 25 years, and more complaints / requests from fans than you could ever count, but the Air Jordan 3 finally brought back the "Nike Air" on the heel in 2013. Was it a one-time-only thing, or could we see "Nike Air" back on our 2014 list for a different shoe?
3. Air Jordan 11 Retro Low - White / Black / True Red
The first samples to hit the net of the summer's 11 Low may have been underwhelming, but a few simple changes yielded one of the year's best releases. The color block lended itself perfectly to a low cut.
2. Air Jordan 4 Retro - Fire Red / White / Black / Cement Grey
Backstories and contrived themes can at times take an otherwise normal shoe to a different level. Sometimes things are best kept simple though. Sure, it was a Bulls-friendly colorway, but at the end of the day, all that mattered was that an all-red Air Jordan 4 looked great. In a year when red kicks were as hyped as it got, this one actually came out, and became an instant hit.
1. Air Jordan XX8
There was no easier shoe to choose for this list than our #1 pick. The Air Jordan XX8 was a breakthrough on many levels. It debuted Flight Plate, which immediately became the new gold standard in performance cushioning, and was outstanding on-court. The shoe also offered a shocking aesthetic that was actually functional. It may not have been for everyone, but by taking bold chances, the XX8 stood at a level all its own.