When it comes to basketball shoes, nobody makes more money than Michael Jordan — even now that he’s been retired for over 16 years. In fact, the $130 million Jordan earned in shoe sales in the 2019 fiscal year was more than any other professional athlete made across all of their revenue streams, contracts included. Simply put, the Jordan Brand is a cash cow unlike any ever seen in the world of shoes.
Over the years, the Jordan Brand has released 31 different variations of MJ’s signature shoe, the Air Jordan. While certain shoes are undisputed classics, others fall somewhat flat. Perhaps the most reviled of all Air Jordans were the 2009 signature edition. Let’s break down exactly what made the 2009 Air Jordans a flop with both critics and consumers.
History of the Air Jordan 2009
Up until 2009, the Air Jordan line of shoes had been numbered sequentially. The first model, the Air Jordan 1, debuted in 1985. Each subsequent shoe received the next appropriate numeral, all the way up to the release of the Air Jordan 23 in 2008. No. 23, of course, was Jordan’s number, and arguably the most famous uniform number in all of sports.
Therefore, instead of calling the 2009 release the Jordan 24, the clever folks at Nike decided to rebrand it the Air Jordan 2009. Jordan himself unveiled the shoe at a special event held in New York City. The first iteration of the shoe, released in a batch of 2,009, came in a special black/metallic gold colorway, and retailed for $230. Soon various retail colorways hit stores across the country.
In their official press release, according to Sneaker News, Nike stated that the Air Jordan 2009 was “born from the inspiration of Michael Jordan’s unstoppable will.” The company touted a variety of unique “performance features” meant to give the shoe cutting edge athletic performance. Unfortunately, as feedback started to come filing in, it became clear that the shoe was a failure on both an aesthetic and a performance level.
Failing in aesthetics
On an appearance level, the Air Jordan 2009 is a curious and not very attractive specimen. The heel and sole detailing have a decidedly space-age appearance. Meanwhile, the smooth toe calls to mind the look of formal dance shoes. The sides of the shoe feature pleated satin paneling that more than anything resembles vinyl siding.
The shoe also incorporates metal mesh, which Nike claimed “implies the sport of fencing, known for its exceptional defensive element.” That statement shows just how desperate Nike had become in searching for ways to try and keep the Jordan line fresh.
Failing in performance
Those who could find a way to look past the aesthetic flaws of the Air Jordan 2009 soon found that it was equally ill-equipped as an actual athletic shoe. To begin with, as Sneaker News details, the shoe suffered from terrible ventilation, as you can likely tell just from looking at it. Overheated feet and unpleasant odors were baked into the model from the very beginning.
The heel of the shoe incorporated a new design which Nike somewhat grandiosely referred to as Articulated Propulsion Technology (APT). The idea was that the super-responsive heel would improve explosive movement and allow players to burst forward more quickly. While that sounds all well and good, the fact is that basketball players benefit far more for propelling off of their forefeet, especially when jumping.
Instead of making it easier to maneuver around the court, Nike’s APT heel actually made it harder. The heel gave the shoe a high, springy feel, making it harder to control movement accurately. That performance flaw was the final nail in the coffin for the Air Jordan 2009, which soon took its rightful place as the worst shoe in the otherwise solid Jordan line.