It’s been argued that the heyday of the Air Jordan line is over. Fans both young and old will seemingly always have room for new interpretations of the classics or retro releases of OG colorways—specifically numbers 1 through 14. But anything since? Not so much. 

That’s a hard point to argue. Those early models not only served as a catalyst to what the sneaker industry has grown into, based on their performance and aesthetic innovations‚ but they were worn by Michael Jordan in his prime. So it’s fair to say the relevance of the ongoing line has fallen off, but of course it has—MJ retired almost 17 years ago, and design progression is at a point where it’s more incremental than it was in the fledgling years of the line.   

But just because the line isn’t as exciting as it once was, that doesn’t mean that  there isn’t anything valuable to offer. These later models may never have the off-court legacy as their predecessors, yet they represent some of the best performance we’ve ever seen in hoops shoes. 

That brings us to the Air Jordan 34, the most recent entry to the line and headlined by the brand’s biggest name prospect in some time: Zion Williamson. Unfortunately, Williamson’s NBA debut has been delayed by meniscus surgery. In the meantime, it’s seeing action on the feet of Jordan Brand players like Blake Griffin, Mike Conley, and the recently acquired Jayson Tatum. While that’s still a strong lineup of talent, Williamson’s injury has taken a bit of the wind out of the sails of the 34’s on-court impact. 

Looking cool with jeans and having a flashy debut are great and all, but what really matters at this point in the line is how the sneaker plays. It’s on-court track record as of late is so good that there are now expectations—high ones at that—to rank among the best basketball shoes of the year. So, how is the 34 when it comes to performance?

Click on the dots for a full performance review of the Air Jordan 34: