The Jordan III: arguably the greatest sneaker of all time. An iconic silhouette, crafted by a masterful designer for the best basketball player to ever set foot on the hardwood, it boasts a rich history both on and off the court and still speaks to sneakerheads around the world today, 30 years after its initial release in 1988.
Yes, the Jordan III is legendary in more than one way. The first Jordan sneaker to feature the now-ubiquitous Jumpman logo was also the first to use elephant print and offer an exposed heel air bag. Even more importantly than that, the Jordan III was also the shoe that saved Michael Jordan’s relationship with Nike. After the first two models, Jordan was thinking of jumping ship from the Swoosh, but the wizardry of a young Nike designer named Tinker Hatfield reeled him back in. The Jordan III’s unique design and luxurious materials were unlike anything ever seen before in sneakers, and frankly there would be no Jordan Brand as we know it without Tinker’s touch. It’s safe to say: sneakerheads around the world owe him a debt of gratitude.
Tinker may have made the shoes beautiful in their design, but Michael made them iconic in their performance during the 88′-89 NBA season. Leading the league in scoring at 32.5 PPG, while shooting a whopping 53.8% from the field and also averaging 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game, the Jordan III was on MJ’s feet when he won the Slam Dunk Contest, soaring from the free throw line to finish off Dominique Wilkins with a perfect score of 50 on his final dunk. They also were there for “The Shot,” the leaning, twisting double-clutch jumper Jordan calmly sunk over Craig Ehlo to send the Cavaliers home in the first round of the playoffs.
Off the court, the Jordan III was no slouch from a street culture perspective either. Besides being a quintessential pair of kicks for style aficionados from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, the III also gave us one of Nike’s best advertising campaigns ever, featuring a young Spike Lee as excitable Mars Blackmon. Entitled “Mike and Mars,” the campaign, in which Mars firmly reiterates that it’s “impossible” to stop MJ is burned in the memory of many a sneakerhead, both young and old.
And much in the same way that it was impossible to stop Michael in the 88′-89′ season, it’ll be impossible to stop the roll the Jordan III is set to go on in 2018. This February and March feature a slate of five crazy Jordan III releases, made up of everything from an iconic OG pair to a new-wave iteration constructed of Nike’s best new high-performance materials to pairs inspired by Tinker Hatfield’s design sketches and Michael’s accomplishments during his historic 88′-89′ season.
We’ve brought all five pairs that are set to release together, and are sharing the inspiration/backstory behind each so you’ll be prepared for all the madness that’s bound to ensue over these next few months. Be ready: the classic silhouette is back with a vengeance.
Justin Timberlake x Jordan “JTH”- February 4th
Unveiled during Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl 52 halftime show, mistaken by sneakerheads around the world for “White Cement” III’s at first glance, and quietly made available on the SNKRS app immediately after the show’s conclusion, the “JTH” Jordan III’s were the first big surprise release of 2018.
Featuring a tonal white swoosh and embroidered signatures on the inside of the tongues (Tinker Hatfield’s on the left and Timberlake’s on the right), the JTH III’s will also release at an exclusive pop-up in New York on February 9th alongside other items that tie into songs from his newest album, “Man of the Woods.” Say what you will about Timberlake’s fit (we’re right there with you), but you can’t knock the aesthetic offered by these unique beauties.
Air Jordan III “Free Throw Line”-February 14th
One of the most iconic moments in Michael Jordan’s career and the overarching history of the Jordan III was the aforementioned 1988 dunk contest, where Jordan jumped from the free throw line and hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity, tongue out, before ramming the ball through the rim and finishing off the contest with style, grace, elegance, and power like only he could.
Another pair bearing a resemblance to the “White Cement” Jordan III’s, the “Free Throw Line” III’s add a few modern twists to the classic design. The grey outsole is gone, replaced with a translucent icy blue sole that features a red stripe that marks the exact spot Jordan’s feet were when he took off for his iconic dunk. The tongue features an embroidered “147,” a reference to the combined score of all three dunks Jordan threw down in the contest. And finally, if you lift the back heel tab, you’ll be greeted with a “3:51” hit, the exact moment (or eternity) shown on the shot clock when Jordan flew through the air for his final dunk. If you like a sneaker that’s rife with iconography, the “Free Throw Line” III’s are the perfect kicks for you.
Air Jordan III “Black Cement”-February 17th
What really needs to be said about these? A pair that many sneakerheads both young and old would quickly label the best and most influential Air Jordan of all time, the “Black Cement” Jordan III makes its return to market for the first time since 2011 and the 6th time overall. The shoe aims (and succeeds) to be as true to the OG pair as possible, featuring a thick, high-quality tumbled leather upper, the legendary elephant print on the toe and heel, and, for the first time since 2008, Nike Air branding on the back.
It’s a testament to the shoe’s design and aesthetic that 30 years and 6 re-releases later, sneakerheads the world over are still clamoring for a fresh pair. If that doesn’t make for an iconic pair of kicks … then we don’t know what does.
Air Jordan III Flyknit-March 18th
Using a Flyknit upper to modernize an iconic Air Jordan silhouette is nothing new, as Jordan Brand has been doing it with multiple colorways (both new and OG) of the Jordan I since late last year, but this all-black Jordan III is the first of its kind.
With an overall aesthetic reminiscent of the fan-favorite “Black Cats”, the all-black upper features multiple Flyknit textures inspired by the tumbled leather and elephant print present on original Jordan III’s, while leather laces and lining offer the same premium feel that the III has always been known for. Capped off with a futuristic glow-in-the dark outsole, the Flyknit Air Jordan III is a perfect blend of new and old as well as subtle and flashy. Old and new don’t always mix together … but the Flyknit III’s are modern take on a classic done right.
Air Jordan III “Tinker Hatfield”-March 24th
Of all the great pairs of Jordan III’s releasing in 2018, none has caused quite as much of a ruckus as the “Tinker Hatfield” colorway. The heratage of the Jordan III has always been just as much Tinker as it is Michael, and three decades after the shoe’s initial release, Tinker’s original design sketch and concept is being brought to life in physical form. If you’re lucky enough to be in New York for Justin Timberlake’s pop-up you’ll have a shot at these on February 9th. If not? You’re waiting until March.
Arriving in a colorway similar to the “Fire Red” Jordan III’s, the main difference between Tinker’s original sketch and the III’s that were originally put into production in 1988 is the bold Swoosh adoring the lateral side of the shoes and Tinker’s signature on the inside of the tongue (both much like the JTH III’s). A beautiful, thoughtful homage to the designer of one of the best sneakers of all time, the “Tinker” III’s very well may find a spot on many a “Best of 2018” end-of-year sneaker list when everything is all said and done.
What do you think of February & March’s slate of Jordan III releases? Which pair is your favorite? Which do you think will have the most cultural impact in 2018 and beyond? Did you like Justin Timberlake’s Super Bow fit, or did you think it was overdone? Sound off in the comments or hit us up and let us know on Twitter!
Editor’s Note: All images courtesy of SneakerNews