It’s the 30th anniversary of that fateful All-Star Weekend in 1988, when Michael Jordan dropped a then-record-breaking 40 points, hit MVP status and seemed to hang suspended in the air during a jaw-dropping dunk contest.

Jordan made history in the Air Jordan 3s – sneakers that have since become the holy grail for many sneaker collectors. Below, collectors share their archive with us and explain their fascination with the Air Jordan 3.

With thanks to:

Gerard Starkey (Amsterdam)

Michael Fan (China)

Mithu Singh (USA)


What does the Air Jordan 3 mean to sneaker culture?

“The AJ 3s are the start of the “Jumpman” – when the iconic logo was first embroidered on the tongue. This changed everything.

When Michael Jordan was wearing the Jordan 3s he had an amazing season full of accolades including Defensive Player of the Year, MVP and the famous ‘free throw line’ dunk that has been cemented in my mind ever since.

The majority of collectors who collect from a basketball perspective are heavily influenced by the Jordan 3s. The Jumpman logo and the cement print are two of the biggest icons in sneaker culture. You cannot be in the sneaker culture and not be aware of these two icons.”

Is it tough to collect sneakers in China?

“In the early 1990s, there were only a few sneaker shops in China and these were only in the main cities. To buy Air Jordans you’d need to get help from family and friends based in the United States.

From 2000 to the present it has generally been much easier, especially with the rise of the internet. The Chinese market is now at the forefront of sneaker collecting. The Chinese take it to a whole other level; the market moves so fast, it very quickly progresses into mania. Young kids are starting to get involved in sneaker collecting as well, they wear the latest and classic sneakers to school.”


What, to you, is the essential element of the AJ 3?

“For me the most important element has always been the elephant print. Very simple, but way ahead of its time. I love elephant print so much that when I got married my wife put it on my wedding ring. The wallet I use every day is covered in elephant print. For me, it is the elephant print which gives the shoe its identity.”

Tell us about your journey to track down the Black Cement.

“It was 2003, so the black and white 3s had been released two years earlier and I was too young for the ‘94 retro. It seemed like the only way to get a Black Cement was online. What commenced was a two-year saga to find the perfect Black Cement 3.

I started searching online and every time I found a pair, I would get outbid.  I started bidding more and winning.  But when I received the 3s, they would be in a worse condition than described. I would either return the shoes or resell them, sometimes at a loss. This continued for a couple of years.

I knew the perfect pair was out there. I went through four pairs and finally, on the fifth try, I found my 2001 retro Black Cement 3. I know where my 2001 Black Cement 3s are at all times. Since Tinker Hatfield signed my pair I have a silver sharpie waiting in the shoe ready to go.”


What are your top tips for preserving your AJ 3s? 

1.Ensure they are in a temperature controlled and well ventilated environment.

2.The shoes should be stored in such a way to ensure they have some space to breathe.

3.Ideally the shoes should be stored upright (i.e. displayed or stored with the under-soles flat on the surface.


4.Ensure the vintage shoes are out of natural light or not exposed to natural light for extended periods of time.

5. Handle with care! The shoes should be handled very carefully.