AIR JORDAN IX
After leading the Chicago Bulls to three straight NBA Championships, Michael Jordan retired from pro basketball to pursue his dream of playing baseball. MJ signed a contract with minor league baseball's Birmingham Barons in February of 1994. He wore number 45 and played outfield for the White Sox affiliate.
Still, the Air Jordan basketball shoe line moved forward. Tinker Hatfield once again designed the AJ IX, with a graphic design assist by Mark Smith. And although MJ never wore the original Air Jordan IX on the basketball court, the shoes could be seen on the Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center in Chicago. (Jordan wore the Air Jordan IX baseball cleats during his brief minor league baseball stint in 1994.)
Although Michael Jordan never wore the original Air Jordan IX in an NBA game, Penny Hardaway, Kendall Gill, BJ Armstrong and Mitch Richmond each wore exclusive versions during the 1993-1994 NBA season. High-schooler LeBron James wore a white/green/gold St. Vincent St. Mary's version of the IX during his 2003 high school senior year.
The upper of the AJ IX was constructed of leather, nubuck and mesh. The nubuck area wrapped around the toe and contained reflective sparkles in three out of the four original color styles. The inner booty sock liner carried over from the previous two Air Jordans. A one-pull lacing system a new innovation at the time was introduced with the AJ IX.
A polyurethane midsole in a tooth-like design sat atop the rubber outsole. A molded plastic globe graphic with a Jumpman logo appeared on the back of the IX. The sole of the shoes featured words in different languages, symbolizing Michael Jordan going global.
MJ retired from baseball on March 10, 1995 and planned a return to the NBA. Air Jordan fans around the world couldn't wait to see the latest Air Jordan design.