Can the Air Jordan VI still make the cut on court? Professor K laces up a pair of these classic kicks and tells it like it is.
[Prof’s Note: So you scored a pair of sweet Retro 6 Infrareds this past Black Friday and you’re tempted to bust them out on court. Good idea or bad? Read on to find out, and note that this review was originally published way back in September of 2000.]
Now before you get all crazy and start calling me foul names because of the poor overall review that I gave this shoe, remember that at Kicksology.net, we don’t take design or sentimental value into account when we do our scoring. Our reviews are based purely on performance on the court and, by that measure, the Air Jordan VI just doesn’t compare to the modern hoops shoes being released today by Nike, adidas, Reebok and others.
There’s no doubt that when the Air Jordan VI was first released for the 1990–91 season, it was the cream of the crop. Not only did it feature a head turning design, it employed the best of Nike’s technologies: Encapsulated Air in the forefoot, visible Air in the heel, a tough Durabuck upper and an early version of what is now the Dynamic Fit inner-sleeve (the inner-sleeve in the Jordan VI is constructed around a neoprene core, while today’s is constructed with a much more breathable textile/Lycra blend).
While the Air Jordan VI Retro has hewn closely to the original, the Retro+ (as pictured here in its exclusive Olympic colorway) departs slightly from the OG in its use of a fully leather upper. This is a minor change and, in my experience, has only a minimal impact on the overall performance of the shoe.
On the topic of performance, what’s with the low overall score of two-and-a-half stars? Well, it all starts from the bottom up. While the VI’s clear rubber outsole certainly adds to the shoe’s aesthetic appeal, it doesn’t do much for its on-court grip. It’s been a long time since I’ve worn a shoe that offered such poor traction on hardwood right out of the box. Let’s hope that Nike comes up with some new compounds for the translucent outsole on the upcoming Jordan XVI, because the rubber on the VI doesn’t make the cut.
Next comes cushioning, which is provided by way of vintage Air-Sole units. I hate to say this, but hooping it up in the VI felt like playing on a pair of two-by-fours. The cushioning is so hard that it really shouldn’t be called cushioning at all. I’m amazed that a guy the size of Vin Baker can ball in these shoes because, after just one game, my knees were begging for something better. Nike has definitely made significant strides in cushioning technologies since 1991, and you can be sure that Baker will switch to more modern kicks once the day-to-day pounding of the NBA season starts to take its toll.
Thankfully, the overall fit of the Air Jordan VI is a bit better than its cushioning, but just a bit. The neoprene sleeve at the forefoot of the shoe boosts comfort and provides a smooth inner surface to reduce the potential for blisters. But the VI’s complicated lacing system makes it tougher than it should be to get a solid, locked-down fit—particularly at the heel. So, while the shoe is comfortable to wear, its sloppy fit leaves a lot to be desired from a performance perspective.
Finally, in the area of ankle support, the Air Jordan VI is good, but not as good as you might expect from a shoe that rides so high up the ankle. Again, the culprit seems to be the lacing system, which gets in the way of the sort of lock-down most ballers crave. The ‘okay’ ankle support combined with the VI’s stable midsole platform should, however, do a reasonably good job of preventing ankle rolls during hard cuts.
To sum up, the Air Jordan VI Retro and Retro+ definitely score big on style, but, unfortunately, style doesn’t count here at Kicksology.net. If you’re looking for a solid performance hoops shoe, definitely look elsewhere (unless you like waking up with sore knees). But I should note that this is by no means an indictment of the VI. Instead, it’s a testament to the progress made in the athletic footwear industry since the VI was first released nearly a decade ago. Technologies like Zoom Air and adiPRENE+ have made shoes better, and sometimes it takes spending time with yesterday’s tech to remind us of that.
Who’s Worn It
Michael Jordan (G- Chicago Bulls); Ray Allen (G- 2000 Olympic Team); Vin Baker (PF/C- 2000 Olympic Team); Derek Jeter (Short Stop, N.Y. Yankees wears a special cleated version of the AJ VI Retro)