If it seems like it's been a while since the last installment in the Air Jordan series, that's because it has. The Air Jordan XX8 debuted in December of 2012, almost a year and a half ago, and things have remained relatively quiet since then concerning when its successor, the XX9, would make its first appearance. That is, until a few weeks ago, when an e-mail popped up in my inbox sporting nothing more than the Jumpman logo and a date: April 17. A follow-up message last week confirmed most people's suspicions that the 17th is in fact the day the XX9 will be unveiled to the public in New York City. As anticipation grows for what Jordan has coming next, we speculate on what you can expect from the XX9.
Another Radical Design
The Air Jordan line has had its fair share of outlandish designs (the XV and XVI immediately come to mind), but the XX8, with its military hi-top boot inspiration, was something else.
"We had to fight tooth and nail to keep [the design]," said Rob Bruce, global innovation design director of footwear for Jordan Brand. "But we ... stuck to our guns."
Although the XX8 SE returned the shoe to normalcy, dropping the outer shroud, look for the original XX9 to shock consumers with another radical design. Bruce wants to create memorable basketball shoes for Jordan again, and outside-the-box designs seem to be his MO for the XX8, XX9 and beyond.
"We're going to follow up with something just as crazy with the XX9," he said.
Improved Flight Plate Technology
Bruce says the XX9 will contain an "evolution of Flight Plate," the universally lauded technology that debuted in the XX8 and led to the shoe being named one of the best performance basketball kicks of 2013. As a refresher, Flight Plate "unlocks" the Nike Zoom by using a plate to disperse the load over the Zoom pack, which then compresses and "pops," creating a deflection of energy and an enhanced and ultra responsive feeling of cushioning against your foot.
Whatever its improvements, the XX9 should be an instant contender for the best basketball shoe of 2014.
"If we make something good, we can make it great," said Brian Facchini, global communications director for Jordan Brand. "The exciting thing for Rob's group [Flight Plate] was a start, not a finish."
No More Shroud
The shroud covering the XX8 upper received its fair share of criticism; and although it was initially worn by Jordan Brand athletes Russell Westbrook, Gerald Wallace and Ray Allen, it lost popularity as the season went on, and you rarely see it on the court anymore. The XX8 SE, without the shroud, has become one of the most popular on-court shoes in the NBA this season, sported by the aforementioned players, as well as guys like Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green. The love given to the shroud-less kicks should pretty much make it official that an upper that can be unzipped won't return on the XX9.
A Similar (Or Higher) Price Than the XX8
Unfortunately, the price of basketball shoes has skyrocketed. The LeBron XI costs $200. The Kobe 9 Elite is $225. And last year's Air Jordan XX8 hit the $250 mark before the XX8 SE dropped to $150. Don't expect that pattern to change with the XX9, especially with Flight Plate improvements. Look for the shoe to retail anywhere from $225 to (gasp) $275.
The XX9 Will Release to the Public This Fall
According to Sole Collector, the Air Jordan XX9 will become available for purchase toward the beginning of the 2014-2015 NBA season, and the first two colorways will be black/white/red and black/orange/grey.