The History of the Air Jordan Concord XIs

The ‘holy grail’ of all kicks is returning in 2018—here’s a history lesson of the most iconic sneaker ever!

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Omari is rocking the exclusive Concord Air Jordan 11 sneakers / Michael Saintil/ONE37pm

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Michael Saintil

May 7th, 1995. Fans were glued to the TV screen as the Chicago Bulls went up against the Orlando Magic during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Michael Jordan was in the middle of an unexpected midseason return to basketball after he took time out from the sport to play baseball, a game he and his father bonded relationship over. Wearing No. 45, his baseball number, Jordan stepped onto the court sporting the Bulls away uniform. But it was what was on his feet that would forever change the landscape of sneaker culture.

Jordan wore a pair of unreleased Nikes that consisted of a high-cut patent leather overlay along with a white upper mesh with smooth leather detailing and dark concord accents. It was the sneaker that cultivated the must-buy experience; it was so exclusive that Nike was shocked he debuted them to the masses. The NBA caught wind of this and banned the shoe due to its failure to match the dress code. But what MJ did on May 7 not only changed the way sports fans viewed him as an immortal athlete—but it revealed himself to the sneakerheads as a footwear god for a new generation of rule breakers.

Five months later, the world was able to get their hands on the Concord Air Jordan 11s. They quickly sold out of stores worldwide. People camped out and lined up in front of their local Niketown stores to be among the first to shell out the full $125 retail price. The hype of the classic shoe was real, made more so because Jordan was racking up fines of $5,000 per game each time the shoe made an on-court appearance. As MJ and the Bulls were in the run-up to their record-setting 72-10 winning season (Yes, we know Steph Curry and the Warriors shattered it in 2016), the aesthetics of MJ being fined every time he promoted this eye-catching shoe made fans idolize the sneaker, even more, thanks to his Airness dominating in it one game at a time while making it look soooo sexy.

Ever since it was retroed in October 2000 and then being included in a 2-for-1 package deal with a limited edition pair of his Air Jordan 6 sneakers in the "Defining Moments" package in 2006, the Concords are considered to be a beacon in sneaker culture. Often imitated, never duplicated, the shoe "eurostepped" its way into mainstream America by appearing in R&B group 112’s "It's Over Now," which landed them atop the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

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Doug Pensinger/Allsport

A young, promising guard by the name of Allen Iverson wore the sneakers heavily while playing for the Georgetown Hoyas, a major reason why they are now considered the "holy grail" of sneakers. He first debuted them against the Villanova Wildcats in a Big East conference matchup, which also featured a matchup between him and former Nets great Kerry Kittles.

Living hip-hop legend Busta Rhymes went colorful with it in the video for his now-classic track, "Woo Hah, Got You All In Check." He became one of the leaders of the new school (no pun intended) in revolutionizing the collaboration of clean kicks with vibrant visual aesthetics.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Orlando, Florida will forever be etched in history as the place to be to have witnessed a culture shift. Although there were major prices to be paid (Chicago Bulls were fined $25,000 for the jersey number change as well as Jordan's $5,000 fine), the Concord Air Jordan XI's became not simply a sneaker, but a mandatory item to boast about your swagger. With another release debut this Saturday, Dec. 8, Nike and Jordan are carrying on the tradition of taking sneakerheads to class with the shoe that started it all.

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Michael Saintil

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