In the 34 year history of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan sneaker line, there have been few models that have made quite as much impact on and off the court as the Air Jordan 3. The original Jordan 3 price, however, was quite expensive. Retailing at $100, it was a sneaker that cost a lot more than almost any on the market. However, when it came to the release, everybody had to get a pair.
When the shoe was released in January 1988, it was an instant hit with sneakerheads and those trying to replicate Jordan on the court. Releasing in four colourways (White Cement, Black Cement, Fire Red and True Blue) the shoe had something for everyone. Constructed of premium leather, a lower cut than previous basketball sneakers and an eye-catching elephant print, the Jordan 3 is as loved now as it was back in 1988.
Jordans with Nike Air on the back played a vital role in crafting sneaker culture into what it is today. Owning a pair of Jordan 3s has become a rite of passage for all sneakerheads and the importance of the sneaker for the last 30 years is simply unrivalled. Air Jordan 3 history is as close to sneaker culture as it possibly gets.
All Jordan 3 colourways have a story and we’ll be taking a look at some of them. In part one of a two-part series, we try and pick 10 of the best Jordan 3s ever made. We’ll be taking a look at the top Jordan 3 shoes, delving into Jordan 3 collabs and even the OG 3 colourways. Let’s get started, shall we?
Solefly x Air Jordan 3 ‘Lotto’ (2014)
Starting with one of the most sought after Jordan 3s in existence, the 2014 Jordan 3 collaboration between Miami sneaker store Solefly and Jordan Brand is one of the simplest yet most expensive Jordan 3s of all time. With no real retail release, the Solefly x Jordan 3 collaboration was inspired by the State of Florida’s lottery tickets.
An all-white leather upper, which features the same iconic elephant print found on the White Cement Jordan 3s, a mixture of green, yellow and crimson accents are found throughout the shoe. A crimson outsole helps to bring this shoe together, as well as a custom ping pong ball covered insole, a nod to the many bingo players found in The Sunshine State.
In 2018, Solefly released a Jordan 88 Racer in the same colours as the Jordan 3, giving customers the chance to win a pair through scratch tickets. These Jordan 3s can fetch anywhere from €5,500-13,500 depending on the size. We hope you’ve got deep pockets if you’re looking to cop these!
Air Jordan 3 ‘Black Cat’ (2007)
It’s difficult to beat an all-black pair of sneakers, but when they are Air Jordans it’s almost impossible. After the success of the Air Jordan 4 ‘Black Cat’ in 2006, the Jumpman brand decided to apply the same formula to the Air Jordan 3.
The all-black suede upper really helps to bring some allure to the shoe. A mixture of materials also helps to add a certain level of texture that raises the sneaker above just a simple all-black shoe. Blacked out Jordan 3 elephant print as well as a slightly glossy panel above the midsole helps to catch the eye on this completely noir sneaker.
It might be one of the simplest colourways, but its also one of the best Air Jordan 3s of all time.
University of Oregon x Air Jordan 3 White ‘Pit Crew’ (2011)
It’s no secret that Nike and the University of Oregon have a close relationship. As the former school of Phil Knight, Nike Co-Founder and former President, Tinker Hatfield and the man behind the Waffle Runner mould, Bill Bowerman, Oregon has a special place in Nike’s history. The athletes at the University of Oregon are also given some of the most sought after exclusive sneakers in existence, with these Jordan 3s being one of them.
In 2011, Tinker Hatfield worked with ex-Oregon football player Jason Williams to create a sneaker dedicated to the University of Oregon’s fans. The ‘Pit Crew’ as they are known is a group of 1500 students who show their support at the school’s countless athletic events. The shoe was gifted to students who continued to show their support, with attendees having to earn their pair.
The shoe features the schools green and yellow colours, the University of Oregon “O” logo stitched onto the tongue and the school’s duck feet replacing the traditional Nike Air logo. There are no known numbers on these but the story behind them makes them one of the rarest Jordan 3s around, with pairs selling anywhere from €4,000-10,000.
Nike Air Jordan 3 ‘True Blue’ (1988)
As one of the original Air Jordan 3 colourways to release back in 1988, the ‘True Blue’ holds a special place in the hearts of many OG sneakerheads. It was the only OG colourway that Michael Jordan never wore whilst playing for the Chicago Bulls (for obvious colour reasons), the fourth ever Air Jordan 3 is still as special now as it was back then.
The shoe uses the same supple white leather found throughout all the OG Jordan 3s, a mix of royal blue accents and the iconic elephant print. In order to make up for Jordan wearing these on court as a Bull, additional elephant print can be found on the eyestays. Michael Jordan did lace the 2001 retro Jordans of the ‘True Blue’ 3 when he spent some time as a Washington Wizard before retiring from the game in 2003.
As one of the best Jordan 3 colourways, these saw a re-release back in 2016 much to the delight of sneakerheads around the world.
Air Jordan 3 ‘Mocha’ (2001)
Jordan retros, and specifically Air Jordan 3 retros, tend to make big waves in the sneaker community. Back in 2001, after 14 years since the original Jordan 3 release, Jordan Brand decided to celebrate by reissuing the sneakers. Now, whilst the first retros of the OG Jordan 3 colourways had happened in 1994, there had been no new colourways ever created. In steps the ‘Mocha’.
This is the first-ever Jordan 3 colourway to release that was not an OG colourway. In 2001, Nike experimented with a light brown elephant print on the shoe, featuring a Jumpman logo of the same colour on the tongue and, for the first time ever, a Jumpman logo on the back of the Air Jordan 3 heel.
The Air Jordan 3 ‘Mocha’ kickstarted the revolution of new colourways on one of the most iconic silhouettes in sneaker history. Ranking Jordan’s is hard, but in terms of importance, these are definitely up there. The Mocha Air Jordan 3 retro appeared in 2018 with many celebrating.
Air Jordan 3 ‘Kobe Bryant PE’ (2002)
2002-2003 was an exciting time for Kobe Bryant’s footwear career. Having signed with adidas in 1997, the relationship between the two was cut short in 2002 when The Black Mamba paid a rumoured $8 million to leave adidas. Contractually, Bryant was not allowed to sign to any brand for one year, meaning that the 2002-2003 season saw him in the likes of Nike, Reebok, Converse and Jordan.
Bryant wore a number of Jordan models in that year, including the VI, VII, VIII and XI. However, none drew more heads than the III. Made up of the Los Angeles Lakers colours, this Jordan 3 was gifted to Bryant by Jordan Brand. This Kobe Bryant PE saw the classic purple, gold and white adorned the iconic silhouette, making for one of the athletes most memorable sneaker moments.
The shoe saw a friend and family release back in 2016, getting fans hyped at the prospect of a wider release later that year. However, it wasn’t to be.
Air Jordan 3 ‘Seoul’ (2018)
All Jordans have a story, just like all Jordan 3s have a story. 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of both the Air Jordan 3 and the Olympic Games that took place in Seoul. In order to celebrate the importance of both of these events, an Air Jordan 3 made by Tinker Hatfield and Dan Sunwoo in Nike’s famed Innovation Kitchen.
An all-white leather upper features colour accents reminiscent of the South Korean flag. Bright blues, scorching reds and deep blacks are found throughout the shoe, with a black Nike Air logo found on the heel. The real start of the shoe, however, is the Korean flag on the tongue. Traditional Hagul embroidery can be found on the sneakers, with ‘Seoul’ on the left shoe and ‘Harmony and Progress’ on the right shoe; the motto of the 1988 games.
The shoe released exclusively at the Jordan Hongdae store, making it one of the most hyped Asia exclusive Jordan’s in history.
University of North Carolina x Air Jordan 3 ‘UNC PE’ (2018)
March Madness is one of the most celebrated athletic events in American sports. Every March, 68 colleges battle it out on the basketball court for the chance to win the NCAA Division One Championship and take the glory back to their school. In March of last year, Jordan Brand wanted to gift the basketball teams on their roster with their own exclusive PEs. Michigan, Marquette, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina all got exclusive Jordan 3s, with the final being the best pair to drop.
As alumni of the UNC Tar Heels, Michael Jordan dropped an Air Jordan 3 in the school’s colours. The white leather, baby blue accents and elephant print were a great combo, making for one of the best looking new Air Jordan 3s in recent history. The UNC logo was also embroidered on the tongue, leaving fans of the sneaker begging for a much wider release.
The shoes are expected to hit retail stores at some point next year, without the embroidery.
Nike Air Jordan 3 ‘Black Cement’ (1988)
Fewer sneakers have greater cultural importance than the Nike Air Jordan 3 ‘Black Cement’ and it is arguably the greatest Air Jordan 3 colourway ever made. The 1988 Jordan 3 ‘Black Cement’ saw one of Michael Jordan’s greatest ever games, in which he wowed the crowd by scoring 40 points in an All-Star Game, earning his Most Valuable Player title in some fashion.
An all-black leather upper, elephant print, light grey and red accents make the Jordan 3 Black Cement’ one of the greatest sneakers of all time. What also makes the shoe so collectable is the fact that Jordan only wore the sneaker once in the entire 1988 season. The illusiveness of the shoe, as well as the fact that it was not regularly on MJs feet, gave the shoe a cult-like status amongst sneakerheads.
The shoe has seen multiple retros over the past 31 years, with fans seeing a Jumpman logo on the heel before the original Nike Air logo replaced it for the 30th anniversary in 2018.
Nike Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’ (1987)
In 1987, Michael Jordan was on the verge of leaving Nike. After Peter Moore, the designer of the first two Nike Jordan models, and Rob Strasser, VP of Marketing, both left within a week to start their own brand. As well as losing two of their biggest players, Jordan’s contract was about to come up for renewal. Things were looking bad for the Swoosh.
Thankfully, a young designer named Tinker Hatfield had just entered the picture. After two enormous hits in the form of the Nike Air Max 1 and Nike Air Trainer 1, the former University of Oregon pole vaulter with a degree in architecture had landed himself the gig of a lifetime: designing the next Michael Jordan signature model.
Hatfield wanted to understand exactly what MJ wanted from his next shoe, to which the Chicago Bulls star player answered: something that was mid-cut instead of the high tops everyone else wore; something comfortable that used soft leather; something that would catch people’s eye.
Having turned up four hours later to the initial presentation after playing golf with Moore and Strasser, Jordan was agitated when he sat down with Phil Knight, co-founder and president of Nike and Hatfield. Recalling their earlier conversation, Hatfield explained that he had taken Jordan’s thoughts and transformed them into a shoe. The result was the Nike Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’, arguably the best Jordan 3 of all time.
It was the shoe that saved Nike from losing Michael Jordan and over 30 years later the Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’ is one of the most important sneakers in history. If Air Jordan rankings were in this post, it would be tough not to put these at the top.
The history of the Air Jordan 3 is now folklore in Air Jordan history. The Jordan 3s importance in Michael Jordan’s career is also undeniable. Fans of the shoe know that the Jordan 3 OG colourways have a special place in the heart of MJ. The shoe inspired campaigns that lasted for years, and when new Jordan 3s or Air Jordan 3 retros get announced, there is always a sense of excitement that goes along with the release.
All Jordan models are important, but when it comes to Nike Jordan 3s, there are fewer models that come close. As retro Jordan 3s, they are some of the most sought after shoes of the year, leaving many wanting more. Of course, every Jordan made has a story, but fewer have a greater story than the Jordan 3.
We hope you enjoyed this brief look at some of the top 10 coolest Jordans from the Air Jordan 3 line. Check back to the blog soon to see what the final 10 Jordans we chose were.