Air Jordan XX3 (23)
Michael Jordan is forever linked to the number 23 so it is no surprise that the 23rd iteration of the Air Jordan was more than just another sneaker. Jordan brand elevated its shoe design and manufacturing game with this one to make the XX3 a triple threat of performance, style and sustainability.
Why is “23” special?
Michael Jordan started wearing 23 on his jersey in high school when he was teammates with his older brother Larry. Larry had already claimed the number 45, which was Michael’s favorite, so MJ divided his preferred number in half and rounded up to 23. Since then, he wore 23 in virtually every game of his career – from high school at Emsley A. Laney HS in Wilmington, NC through his days as a Tar Heel at University of North Carolina to his time with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. When he abruptly left basketball in 1993, the Bulls retired his iconic number. When he returned, Jordan briefly donned 45, which he also wore when he played on the White Sox, before returning to 23.
The Air Jordan 23 Design
The OG Air Jordan XX3 released in early 2008 and the retro in late 2015. The XX3s are sometimes called the AJ XX3, XXIII or the 23. Jordan Brand once again entrusted Tinker Hatfield to develop the concept, lead the design team and bring the XX3 to life. The directive was clear: create the most innovative basketball shoe ever designed using environmentally preferred materials and manufacturing processes. The XX3 was the first shoe developed under the Nike Considered design ethos, which formalized the company’s effort to adopt sustainable, responsible manufacturing and business practices. As such, the XX3’s design reduced waste in production, minimized the use of chemicals and glues with adverse environmental impact and incorporated responsibly sourced materials such as recycled Nike Grind rubber. Inside the box of every pair of XX3s was a DVD containing interviews with MJ, Hatfield and designer Mark Smith as they discuss the process and strategy behind the shoe.
According to Michael Jordan, “The AIR JORDAN XX3 is deeply meaningful to me, as a celebration of both my life and career. The number 23 is obviously of great significance to me and the release of the XX3 is a pinnacle moment in the Brand’s history.” 23 appears on the left shoe’s tongue exterior and the Jumpman logo is on the right. Jordan’s signature is all over the design, literally. His thumbprint appears on the back of the tongue, his fingerprint serves as the mold for the pattern on the outsole and MJ’s written signature is inscribed on the toe cap. The upper features an intricate MJ stitching pattern created with a Nike-exclusive 3-D stitching machine that was revolutionary when the shoe was first made in 2008.
Nike always used Jordans as the platform for new tech but no other shoe includes as many innovations as the XX3. It is the result of the combination of inspiration from MJ’s legacy of extraordinary achievement and the Nike Considered ethos. Available in high- and low-top versions, the Air Jordan XX3 delivers unrivaled comfort and performance. The foundation is a TPU outsole with carbon fiber shank visible at the mid-foot. The XX3 has a full-length low-profile Zoom Air-Sole unit which is combined with an extremely low-profile Phylon midsole to improve feel for the court while still providing exceptional comfort and cushion. The leather upper is intricately stitched with double and triple stitches in key places and the entire shoe is built on a two-piece frame that is glued only at the toe and heel for superior stability. The heel features a leather fin that functions as a pull tab but also adds a high-end aesthetic. The finish work is highlighted by an automotive-quality robotic painting process on the back of the TPU frame. The XX3’s interior has a full-length bootie designed for comfort and a memory-foam like dual density material surrounds the heel for a secure, customized fit. The quilted sock liner provides great arch support and the breathable tongue keeps the foot cool.
The OG AJ XX3 released with 11 colorways. Only 1,058 pairs of the White/Titanium – University Blue colorway were released, making it among the rarest of the OG versions along with the Finale Black/Varsity Red, which had only 520 total pairs and sold out immediately when it released in December 2008. The All Star White/Black – Varsity Red was released during All Star weekend in 2008 and features the MJ stitching pattern on the upper. Other colorways include:
Chicago Bulls Black/Varsity Red-White
UNC Black/University Blue-White
Motorsports Wizards Black/Varsity Royal-White
Jordan Brand released only one retro Jordan XX3 – the Chicago. A vibrant all red design, features an embroidered Chicago skyline on both outside heels with “Chi “on the left and “City” on the right. Chicago area codes 312 and 773 appear on the inside of the tongue. With the high-quality materials and combination of textures and colors on the XX3, it is important to take extra care in keeping the shoes clean. Always wipe off any loose dirt with a soft cloth. Treat scuffs and scratches with a non-abrasive wipe and consider using a Magic Eraser to keep the rubberized areas looking fresh.
The Air Jordan XX3’s intricate design is a counterfeiter’s worst nightmare. The TPU/carbon fiber frame and unique stitching pattern are nearly impossible to accurately fake and it would be a monumental challenge to replicate the countless interior and exterior design features in a believable package. Nonetheless, pay attention to the stitching detail on the upper and confirm that the Jumpman logo is properly proportioned. The carbon fiber shank, fingerprint outsole and thumbprint on the inside of the tongue should also be clean, detailed and free of any unusual lines or manufacturing flaws. Finally, since the Air Jordan XX3 were released in a limited number of colorways, it is easy to spot strange colors and combinations that were not included in the 2008 or 2015 releases.