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Jordan Retro 11 represents a return to glory

“Design it, and he will come back.”

That may not have been the exact thought process of Tinker Hatfield when he began sketching out the Air Jordan XI, but with Michael Jordan still spending his 1993-95 retirement playing minor league baseball in Birmingham, Ala., a sweet basketball shoe couldn’t hurt.

And that’s exactly what happened. When MJ decided to abandon the diamonds for the hardcourts in March 1995, he returned wearing the previous edition of his signature sneaker, as the 11 hadn’t yet released. But come playoff time, despite Hatfield’s objections due to the shoe not yet being ready for market, MJ would not be denied and wore the 11 in the 1995 playoffs. It hit the market in November of that year. And the shoe was so popular that the Jordan brand re-released it as the Jordan Retro 11 in 2000.

Film study leads to the right stuff

Hatfield had spent time watching video of MJ and noticed his foot would roll off the footbed on hard cuts. That inspired the legendary designer to merge style and substance, so he added patent leather to the foxing, a first for basketball shoes. It was stronger and lighter than other materials of the time, and it fit with MJ’s reported desire to have a shoe he could wear with a suit.

Retro 11s continue to feature Hatfield’s thin, polymer-coated ballistic mesh upper. The high/mid version also features a padded collar and tongue for all-around comfort. A translucent “frosty” outsole encased a carbon fiber shank plate that helped give the Jordan 11 some extra spring. A full-length Air-Sole unit cushioned every step.

The shoe co-starred on Jordan’s feet in the 1996 film “Space Jam,” which led to a special edition colorway release that remains fire among collectors.

Mark your release calendars

The Retro 11, in general, remains a highly anticipated release. New colorways drop almost annually around the holidays, while low-cut versions occasionally become available other times around the calendar.

Compounding the popularity of the Retro 11 is its expansion to include women’s sizes, as well as a wide variety of apparel. It’s easy to imagine hooking up your favorite pair of highs or lows with a Retro 11 T-shirt, shorts, or even a hat, jacket, or backpack. You can even cop some Jordan slides to take a little of that heat to the showers, pools, or beaches without risking your actual grails.

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