With the celebration of Michael Jordan’s 25th anniversary of his Nike Air Jordan sneaker and apparel collection, the 23/25 Jordan Brand campaign has been going back in releasing the classic shoes that helped make His Airness as great as he’s known to be and concocting totally new hybrid creations such as the Jordan 16.5 (16/XVI + 17/XVII), so…what a perfect time for me to go back and review a shoe that I still currently wear and just as recently as last year received retro release treatment in the Air Jordan XVII—the OG version.
One of the things about getting the Air Jordan XVII was that it was the first Air Jordan to get the $200 retail price, largely because it was a comeback shoe of his with the Washington Wizards and the accessories (the aluminum briefcase and CD-ROM) made it a luxury pack of sorts. I had a girlfriend that surprised me by getting these shoes for me in the spring of 2002 as a high school graduation gift, so I was pretty surprised and happy. Upon receiving the black/black-metallic silver version of the shoe, I treated the XVII as a casual boot-shoe hybrid, as me and my best friend Aaron used to say. Basically, we bought shoes that could crossover with “dress-up” attire and more laid-back casual wear (like what Sketchers and Steve Madden are so famous for making), and so for several years, the XVII mainly got spot duty as a premium sneaker in my collection.
Then I got off to college, wore through the shoes that I would buy on clearance from Eastbay and I exhausted all my monetary funds, so I had to wear the Jordans as a backup. Though I wasn’t very happy with having to do that, the fact that they were, in fact, basketball shoes, re-routed my discontent with my circumstances…I just really wanted to play ball—and the AJ XVII has lived up to the standards of Air Jordan basketball performance, but with a few notes of caution.
Unlike the Air Jordan 17 Retro version that was made in premium suede, my original release version was made up primarily in premium leather, along with the weaved textile in the midfoot. The great things about the Air Jordan XVII pretty much standard with most of the Jordan collection.
The Air package is top-notch, with the semi-visible encapsulated Air in the heel and the famous, reliable Zoom Air in the forefoot. The memory foam collar around the ankle is an excellent feature for fit and has kept my ankle abrasion-free for nearly eight years of wearing. The leather is so durable and has held up for so many wears, I’m beginning to think these will last for a few decades; literally the leather on the XVII molds to your foot, as does the last of the shoe, which employs only a partial Phylon midsole inlay in the shoe, as the majority of where a typical foam midsole would be is actually a 5/8ths-length thermoplastic urethane (TPU) cupsole (more of which I’ll get to, soon). The shoe is also very good in breathability and the traction is second-to-none, with high-density “sticky rubber” herringbone areas that work on the outside and indoor court surfaces. In general, the XVII wins in durability and overall support. Unfortunately, the XVII also has some negatives that pull away from the positives, but pay homage to the Jordan that was playing at the time of the shoe’s release.
For all that don’t remember, the MJ of 2001-2002 was a Jordan that had graduated from “Air Jordan” to a “Floor Jordan” or “Ground Jordan”. No longer dunking at will as a result of suffering from foot and knee issues, the XVII is so well-built that it suffers, in my case, from being overbuilt underfoot. As previously mentioned, suffering from various lower-body ailments, this particular shoe made sure to provide His Airness with super stable components to keep him on the floor, but for smaller, lighter players who wore his same model (like me—when I was playing intermural ball at Ohio State, I went about 175 to 185 lbs at 5’10”), the main issue is that the TPU midsole failed to give like other foam midsoles. This quality of the sole made hard landings and full-length games difficult in general, because the give of the cushioning was minimized. Also, the removable gaiter has stayed off of my XVIIs for the sheer fact that the added support has made my feet feel tight and stifled. Add in the ¾-length carbon fiber plate that lies between the TPU and rubber outsole, and the shoe can really fatigue the balls of your feet and plantar fascia.
As a wrap-up, the XVII edition of the Air Jordan is probably one of the most reliable shoes in the signature collection. The combination of materials and high-quality build distinguish it from most other shoes in its release season. While they weren’t the most comfortable shoes to wear past a couple of full-length games, they are highly durable—enough that I wore and continue to wear the sneakers in full-body bodybuilding-style workouts with extremely minimal wear to the actual sleds themselves.
The Air Jordan XVII—the epitome of high-class style, versatility and performance, but best used with brevity.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.