Jordan 101: The Air Jordan XX3 Defines Greatness

When the greatest basketball player ever with the most revered signature shoe line ever wears #23, the number that has become the most iconic number in sports history, his twenty-third signature shoe had better be an epic one. Facing the pressure, Tinker Hatfield was back for his first Air Jordan since the XX to lead the design of the anticipated XX3. Most would agree that all expectations were reached if not surpassed, as he delivered a shoe quite worthy of its numerical order within the Air Jordan lineage. This week’s edition of Jordan 101 takes an in-depth look at the monumental Air Jordan XX3, detailing how and why it’s such an important model with its perfect balance of performance and style.

The Basics

The Air Jordan XX3 debuted at retail on January 25, 2008 with a limited release and followed with an NBA All-Star Weekend on February 16th with more colorways following throughout the year. Retailing for $185 in its standard mid-top build, the XX3 released in nine retail colorways with an additional low-top version in two colorways. The shoe has only retroed one time, with the recent limited edition “Chi-City” colorway in all-red that released only in Chicago.

Aiming for Perfection

Tinker Hatfield was back to lead the Air Jordan design again after a brief two-shoe hiatus since the Air Jordan XX, where he once again teamed up with Mark Smith with input from Michael Jordan to craft the crucial 23rd model. While Air Jordans of the past had been inspired by everything from the panther (AJ13) to jazz (AJ17), the XX3 had no specific design direction other than the shared belief of Tinker and Michael that it had to be the best Air Jordan yet. From the technology and performance to aesthetics, Jordan Brand focused painstakingly on every aspect of the shoe to reach for perfection. Whether their goal for the greatest Air Jordan ever was achieved is up to your own opinion, but it’s hard to deny that the XX3 ranks somewhere near the top of the best designs of the line.

Considered Design

The Air Jordan XX3 was the first basketball shoe crafted under Nike’s then-new Considered Design ethos, which emphasized the practice of developing and designing a shoe with as little toxins, waste, and bi-products as possible, made with environmentally-preferred materials—all without compromising athletic performance and durability. The XX3 achieved the Considered Design by utilizing environmentally friendly materials, recycled Nike Grind rubber, and minimizing the use of toxic solvent-based cements.

Filled With Technology

Even with the Considered Design construction, the Air Jordan XX3 had no shortage of high-performance technology packed into its sleek silhouette. The upper featured large panels of premium leather with intricately embroidered patterns for the shoe’s signature design detail. Dual density foam kept you supported and padded around the heel, while an internal bootie maximized comfort and provided an ideal fit. The midsole, all housed within a unique molded TPU chassis, utilized a full-length Zoom Air unit surrounded by Phylon and supported with a large carbon fiber/acrylic midfoot shank plate. The cushioning also featured an advanced IPS (Independent Podular Suspension) system with a large pillar in the heel and low profile pillars in the forefoot. How that all that tech combined into one sleek and stylish sneaker is just another testament to the genius of Tinker Hatfield and the Nike design team.

Minimal Branding

With the belief that it was a design that nobody would mistake for anything other than an Air Jordan, the design team made minimal branding a point of emphasis for the XX3. The shoe doesn’t say “Jordan” anywhere on it, and only features a small lasered Jumpman logo on one tongue and “23” on the other.

Michael’s Identity Within the Design

Minimal branding, yes, but Michael Jordan’s identity is actually all over the XX3. His Airness’ thumbprint is found on the inside of the tongue, while it also provides the design of the outsole tread pattern. Look closely and you’ll find Michael’’s signature printed tonally on the toebox, and some of the stitched upper designs even feature the “M” and “J” from his signature.


In addition to the retail colorways of the XX3, the model was also produced in a large number of player exclusive colorways for Jordan Brand athletes, beginning with a major showing in the 2008 All-Star Game on the feet of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, and Joe Johnson, and then followed by team colorways for each player and others during the regular season.

The Pinnacle of Air Jordan Design?

Of all Air Jordans from the “modern era” of the line (which we would suggest begins roughly with the XX3 up to the current model), many would agree that it’s still the best overall design based on looks and performance, and the last one that seems to truly be coveted by the majority of collectors. In other words, no shoe since has outdone it. Will we ever see a more popular and loved model come after it? Or is #23 coincidentally the pinnacle of the entire line? We’ll have to keep waiting to see what Jordan Brand comes up with in the future, but for now, the XX3 will be considered by many as “the last great Air Jordan”.

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