The seed was planted in the 1995 NBA Playoffs when Michael Jordan, fresh from retirement, unofficially debuted the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Michael made the decision to wear the test sample simply because he could not resist the unparalleled beauty of the shoe. The cat was let out of the proverbial bag when sideline reporter Ahmad Rashad held up Jordan’s shoe to the camera before a game and introduced it as the next Air Jordan shoe, much to the chagrin of Nike’s mad scientist Tinker Hatfield who had urged Michael to not wear the shoe as it was not in production and was still a sample. As they say, there really is no bad publicity, because the Air Jordan XI quickly enamored Jordan fans across the globe and created an astounding ‘hype’ for a shoe that resulted in immense lines and near riots upon its release. Although the Bulls lost that Playoff series to the Orlando Magic, Michael was already seething for a full-season comeback later that year.
On paper, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls weren’t much different from the season before; even with Michael Jordan, the Bulls were unable to defeat the younger Orlando squad. The only major change to the Bulls line-up was the acquisition of Dennis Rodman, a rebounding extraordinaire who’s penchant for loose balls was exceeded only by has flamboyant off-the-court lifestyle. Not only did Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls bounce back, they finished the 1995-96 season with the most regular season wins in NBA history, winning 72 of 82 regular season games and 87 of 100 games counting the Playoffs. The league was at the mercy of Michael Jordan, to which he never let down his firm grip; a much-anticipated rematch against the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals was wildly anticlimactic as the Bulls swept their Eastern Conference foes in four games and dismantled the Seattle Sonics in six. Michael Jordan, who was retired spectator just fourteen months ago, defined his greatness by bringing an NBA Championship back to the Chicago Bulls.
The most recognizable and arguably the most memorable pair of the Air Jordan XI is the classic Black/Red colorway; it featured a tonal black upper, combining patent leather and Cordura nylon, with a white midsole and a translucent red outsole and Jumpman logo. The quintessential Chicago Bulls combination of Black/Red is often the representative of each Air Jordan model and while each and every Air Jordan XI colorway was immensely popular, it is the Black/Red Bulls colorway that will be the figurehead of the eleventh Air Jordan installment. After a sell-out original release in 1995, the Black/Red Air Jordan XI released once again in 2001 and in 2008 (as part of the Air Jordan XI/XII Collezione Package). Michael Jordan also wore the White/Columbia Blue-Black colorway during the 1996 NBA All-Star Game; that too re-released in 2001, and there are currently rumors of a release for 2011 or 2012. A low-top version of the Air Jordan XI called Jordan XI IE Low was also released – one that Michael wore for a few games as well. Continue reading for a full visual recap of Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan XI below and stick with Sneaker News for Part 3 of Michael Jordan Through The Years: Air Jordan XI.