December 29th, 2011 by Aaron Kr.
#2 – AIR JORDAN XI ‘CONCORD’
While an Air Jordan XI release at the end of the December is hardly ‘news’ at this point, it still manages to be the most exciting, talked-about, and definitive release of the year. It’s the metaphorical ‘cherry on top’ of a year’s worth of sneaker releases and is now going four years strong with these timely, end-of-December drops, it has become an unofficial tradition for Jordan Brand – some are already taking guesses for 2012 and beyond, because the wait is just too unbearable. This ‘tradition’ of sorts began four years ago in 2008, when the ‘Bred’ XI returned after a seven-year gap, arriving in tandem with another shoe (the Air Jordan XII). The Space Jams followed in 2009, which caused near-riots, torn-down storefronts, and lengthy campouts in frigid weather. Sneakerheads smartened up with their release day tactics for 2010′s Cool Grey XI, which was calmer, yet equally as significant as its ’09 predecessor. But with Sneaker News readers appointing the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ as the greatest OG Air Jordan colorway of all-time during our March Madness Tournament earlier in the year, there was no way to predict what would go down during the official release date.
Sixteen years ago, Michael Jordan was a retired NBA player at the age of 32. Three championships and trophy-cases filled with every conceivable award had already been compiled in his career up until that point, but for Michael, it wasn’t about the achievements, but feeding his love of the game. He returned to basketball in April of 1995, but the game was a different horizon than the one he left; four Eastern Conference teams had catapulted the Bulls in the ranks during Michael’s absence, and when the Playoffs rolled around, the Bulls were no longer a lock for the NBA Finals. After sweeping the Charlotte Hornets in three games, Michael and the Chicago Bulls faced the Orlando Magic, which featured a young and exciting roster and arguably two of the best players in the game in Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. Some shaky late-game play by Michael in Game 1 led to a loss for the Bulls, so for the rest of the playoff series, Michael decided to controversially tweak his look by switching back to his ’23′ jersey number and wearing his brand-new Air Jordan shoe – the Air Jordan XI in the White/Black colorway. The design and
patent leather materials stunned the crowd, leaving sideline reporter Ahmad Rashad amazed at how a simple sneaker could be such a visual spectacle. The legend had been born.
The buzz around the new Air Jordan shoe was already beginning to mount, and even while Michael was fighting to keep the Chicago Bulls alive in the Playoffs, the Air Jordan XI still rose as a topic of conversation. The sneaker was in fact designed by Tinker Hatfield, who had a unique ability of finding inspiration from the most unlikely of sources; as luxurious and aesthetically advanced as the Air Jordan XI was, it was designed after a garden tool – a bumbling lawnmower of all things. Above the performance aspects of the shoe, the patent leather gave the Air Jordan XI a strikingly handsome appearance and Air Jordan fanatics made the XI the must-have sneaker of that time, coming out in droves when it offically released in 1996 and eventually becoming a go-to tuxedo complement for weddings and proms, fulfilling a prediction made by Michael back when the shoe was first being developed. Even after a re-release of the Concords in 2001, as well as a similar Defining Moments Package edition in 2006, the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ of 2011 still evoked the excitement from its original release, easily becoming one of the hottest topics of the year on sneaker blogs and forums.
From the moment the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ was first confirmed on Sneaker News, to the final moments before the December 23rd release, the online sneakerhead community had openly discussed the various features of the release, like the high-end packaging that first started with the Air Jordan XI ‘Space Jam’ and the polarizing blue tint on the outsole. The box itself was identical to the ones includes with the ‘Space Jam’ and ‘Cool Grey’, but the White/Black contrast used to decorate the box accentuated the inspired design. Jordan Brand certainly followed the ‘best for last’ idiom once again, solidifying the notion that the Air Jordan XI is considered by many to be the premier Air Jordan shoe of the entire legacy. For its abundance of history and prestige, the agonizing wait and the looming impact it had on the entire year since the Cool Greys vanished from stores, the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ made a strong case for sneaker release of the year before our number 1 selection abruptly showed up from the future/past to push it to runner up.