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Air Jordan 11 Space Jam

After Michael Jordan’s first retirement in 1993, it looked like his popular sneaker line might finally be coming to an end. However, legendary designer Tinker Hatfield persevered with the next model, undeterred by this possible setback. He was rewarded for his dedication as Jordan returned to the court in 1995, once again playing for the Chicago Bulls and helping them reach another round of playoffs. During Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, he rebelliously wore Hatfield’s new design – the Jordan 11 – but its color scheme contravened the NBA’s rules, so Michael had to adapt. In Game 4, he showed up in a fresh pair with a stealthy all-black upper that he went on to wear for the remaining games in the competition. Unbeknown to those watching, this seemingly temporary colorway would later become one of the most renowned of all Jordan sneakers – the Air Jordan 11 Space Jam.

Although the Chicago Bulls went on to lose the ‘95 playoff series, the Air Jordan 11 made a huge impact, and those who had seen Michael play were eager to get hold of a pair. This became possible towards the end of that year, when the first AJ11 colorway was launched, but its colors were those of the shoe from the first two games, not the one Jordan had worn in Game 4. In fact, this sneaker would not be seen again until November of 1996, when Michael made his Hollywood debut wearing a pair of Jordan 11s with a familiar black and white color scheme. The movie, a sports comedy that combined live-action with animation, was called Space Jam, and it became a surprise success thanks to its clever integration of Looney Tunes characters and real-life basketball stars, as well as its light-hearted storyline. Despite this, the sneaker seen on Jordan’s feet disappeared again, with no similar shoe coming out in the years following Space Jam’s release. Then, in December 2000, the wait was finally over as the Jordan 11 Space Jam went on sale to the public.

This first edition, which was actually preceded by a cleated Player Exclusive model made for baseball player Derek Jeter, has many of the classic features associated with the 1995 original, including the translucent outsole and the carbon fiber plate set behind it. A white Jumpman adorns the center of this last component, and the opaque pods below the heel and forefoot are both blue, herringbone grip patterns lining the surface of each one. Meanwhile, the Phylon foam midsole is white, and the full-length Air cushioning inside it supports the foot from heel to toe. The all-black upper comprises a sleek patent leather mudguard, a durable ballistic mesh quarter panel and a smooth leather heel overlay, with a light blue Jumpman embroidered into the lateral heel beside the number 23 on the heel tab. Another Jumpman appears on the black insole, and the branding patch across the center of the tongue contains one more blue logo along with stylised Jordan and Jumpman text in white.

When the OG Space Jam sneaker was launched, the years of hype and anticipation built up around it meant that it sold out almost immediately. This phenomenon has been repeated in the years since as updated men’s and women’s versions have been released alongside editions made specifically for kids. The first Retro release came in 2009 as part of Jordan Brand’s new tradition of bringing out an Air Jordan 11 just in time for Christmas. It resembles the 2000 Space Jam in almost every way, with the same all-black upper and Varsity Royal highlights, but the Jumpman on the carbon fiber shank plate is blue instead of white.

The next release of the AJ11 High Space Jam occurred to mark the occasion of the shoe’s 20th anniversary in 2016. As it was a celebratory design, Jordan Brand put together an exclusive Space Jam Pack with the new sneaker and a pair of the Air Jordan 31 Space Jam – the latest in the Jordan line at the time. These came in a special box that also contained a water bottle, a customized jersey printed with images related to the movie, and a mini TV set that played a clip from the film. In many ways, the 2016 Retro has been the most faithful to the original, even honoring the one that Michael wore back in Game 4 of the ‘95 playoffs with a white 45 stamped onto the heel tab. Back then, he had returned from a short stint in baseball where he had worn that number instead of his traditional basketball digits of 23, and the very first Space Jam matched this change. However, he soon returned to his favored number, and the 45 was left off all subsequent AJ11 releases. The 2016 update also incorporates a translucent outsole with a hint of blue running through it and a white Jumpman on the carbon fiber plate. On top of this, its rubber outsole pods and branding come in a rich shade of purple known as Dark Concord, which was used on the iconic 1995 original, and its insole hosts white Nike Air text, just like the earliest AJ11s did. The restoration of these heritage features saw the 2016 Space Jam become Nike’s most successful ever shoe release at the time and led to the creation of many more sneakers in this famous colorway.

Just two years later, in 2018, the suave Space Jam colors were added to both High and Low AJ11 Cleats. As well as the sports shoes each having a performance sole unit with molded studs and Lunarlon foam, the branding effects are Metallic Silver, including the Jumpman embroidery on the heel, which has been moved to a central position on the Low version. Then, in 2019, the Low IE Space Jam introduced a new look to the renowned colorway. Its outsole blends a see-through portion with Concord purple herringbone sections, and its carbon fiber plate has a clearly defined grid pattern in a pair of gray tones to go with its white Jumpman. Atop the white midsole, the upper has a distinctive design modelled after the 1996 IE, with black coating its patent leather mudguard and the mesh panels set into it, along with the tighter mesh section above it and the smooth leather toe cap. A purple Jumpman has been embroidered into the black leather of the tongue, and the black interior is highlighted with a white Jumpman on the insole.

A Space Jam sequel was then made in 2021, this time starring LeBron James in the lead role. Following this, the movie’s namesake colorway only increased in popularity, and 2022 delivered the CMFT Space Jam – a sneaker with the black and white color scheme of others in the collection but with a range of updated features focused directly on comfort. These include a white Cushlon foam midsole, which rests upon a pale blue translucent outsole, and a black upper that consists of both smooth and patent leather with added ventilation holes for extra breathability. Alongside this, it has flexible mesh through the quarter, a webbed lacing system and purple Jumpman logos on the tongue, heel and left insole.

The Air Jordan 11 Space Jam has a history unlike most other sneakers. It was first seen half a decade before the public were given access to it, appearing in both a famous playoff series and a Hollywood movie in the meantime. This incredible exposure raised the profile of the shoe way before it came out, and the Jordan 11 Space Jams released since have been among the most popular ever produced by the brand.

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