With Air Jordan 11 72-10 hysteria (or not, who knows what sneaker internet likes to pretend they care about or not these days) coming a week early, this edition of Sneaker Grails takes a look at a true rarity in the Jordan realm, Air Jordan 11 player exclusives with the four five.
My nostalgia for Michael Jordan wearing the number 45 runs deep. It’s my favorite MJ era because it humanized the GOAT and gave him a purpose instead of just being in “super basketball robot that sold shoes with a marketable smile” mode all the time. The number is the easiest touchstone to that era so I gravitate to stuff that features Jordan in it. I own the jersey, cherish the basketball cards and at some point, I would like to also own all the kicks. Not just the Double Nickel Air Jordan 10, but the Air Jordan 11s as well. Yes, “11s” are plural.
During the second round of the 1995 NBA Playoffs, Jordan debuted the Air Jordan 11 against the Orlando Magic (note: as maybe the world’s biggest Alonzo Mourning fan, I’m still kind of perturbed that MJ chose to unveil the 11s against the Magic and not the Hornets) in what we would later call the Concord and Space Jam colorways. At the time, I wanted to see Jordan do well, but I remember rooting for the Magic because they were the younger team and I thought I was getting a chance to watch an era of greatness from the start. So yes, I cheered when Nick Anderson – wearing Air Jordan 10s no less – stole the ball from Jordan in Game 1.
I had a chance to own the Air Jordan 11 Concord for free when it first dropped in 1995, but I chose the Nike Air Max Penny 1 instead. That might tick off a few Jordan stans reading this (and if it does, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), but again, Penny was my generation. It wasn’t until I got a pair of the Concords years later that I started to look into the history of the 11 and find out that there was actually a version of the shoe that has “45” on the heel tabs. Suddenly my Concords felt less cool because of that tiny factoid. I want my four five.
Several pairs of the Air Jordan 11 with the “45” have popped up through the years. There have been OG exclusives that were game-worn by MJ, samples for the 2000 release of the Space Jam colorway, highly questionable leaks where the “4” and the “5” are a little too far apart for my tastes and everything in between. The legitimate pairs out in the wild now are nice and valuable keepsakes to stock and display for sure, but I want an honest to goodness general (or limited, I don’t care) release by Jordan Brand so I can wear them on my feet. And maybe somebody who owns a Nick Anderson jersey to recreate that scene again just for funsies.