The Evolution of The Game Shoe
Drew Hammell remembers Air Jordans throughout the years.
Words: Drew Hammell (@NikeStories)
It’s hard to predict the future when you’re creating a whole new game. That’s what Michael Jordan did when he entered the League in 1984 — he changed everything. His talent inspired Nike to create a lasting lineage of performance basketball shoes, beginning with the Air Jordan I, using the highest quality technology and materials available. And each game shoe has, in one way or another, been ahead of its time.
As a kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I was heavily influenced by MJ, from his swagger on the court to his competitive nature and game-changing footwear. I never had the opportunity to see him play in person, but that didn’t keep me from watching every game possible, reading every article written about him or collecting as many Jordan-related materials as possible. I knew I was experiencing history in real-time, and I wanted to remember as much as I could about the GOAT.
Over time, it’s become clear that every new Air Jordan — including the new Air Jordan XXXIII — has been thoughtfully and strategically built on the soul and DNA of its predecessor. Some models have very distinct resemblances, like the Air Jordan III and IV or the Air Jordan XXIII and Air Jordan 2009. Other successors look radically different from one another, like the Air Jordan I and II, the Air Jordan XXVIII and XXIX or now, the Air Jordan XXXII and XXXIII.
These similarities and surprises have kept things interesting over the years. The same could be said for the Nike Air cushioning technology that’s incorporated into each Air Jordan, whether visible or hidden. During the final years of MJ’s career, we watched Nike Air rapidly evolve to match the intensity of his game, starting with the light, responsive Zoom Air in the Air Jordan XII, all the way to the double-stacked units of the Air Jordan XVIII. It makes sense that Zoom Air remains central to the design of the Air Jordan XXXIII, as well.
When I first laid eyes on the Air Jordan XXXIII, I was intrigued. Like most Air Jordan models, I could tell that this one would create some healthy discussion. First, where did the laces go? The variety of colorways also caught my eye, by showcasing more than the classic red, white and black. The XXXIII could be one of the most versatile Jordan models ever, since they’re easy to slip on and off and come in plenty of color combinations.
The debut of the XXXIII is also a reminder of the importance of Air Jordan carbon fiber plates. Beyond helping with the responsiveness of Air sole units (in the Air Jordan XI and successive models), these plates have helped Air Jordans get lighter over time. As an example, the introduction of the revolutionary Flight Plate in the Air Jordan XXVIII makes it one of the lightest Air Jordans ever made. The XXXIII builds on that with Flight Speed technology.
Furthermore, Air Jordan lacing systems have been revolutionary. I immediately think of the lace lock on the Air Jordan V, the crossover straps of the Air Jordan VIII, the speed lacing systems of the Air Jordan IX and X or the shroud covers of the Air Jordan XVI and XXVIII. When the XVI released in 2001, people who came to the sneaker store I worked at didn’t know what to make of its radical design, removable cover (including magnets), visible, full-length Zoom Air and Cherrywood and Ginger colorways.
Every year, the new game shoe sets the tone for the future of Jordan Brand. The more I’ve learned, the more I realize how much work went into making the XXXIII distinct from yet authentic to all Jordan models before it. Its futuristic design acknowledges the fact that present-day athletes crave not only comfort and responsiveness but also style and innovation.
With every new Air Jordan, one thing holds true — behind every shoe are stories about the greatest player in the history of basketball and the legacy he’s created. Each one is built and constructed with that greatness in mind. Each represents the future of the game.
Release dates for the Air Jordan XXXIII are here.
Explore the evolution of the game shoe on Jordan Collection.