-- TURIN, Italy -- Nike's Jordan Brand unveiled the latest model of the Air Jordan sneaker, the Air Jordan XXXII, at a special event in Italy, harkening back to the company's deep roots in the industry. The sneaker will be released on Sept. 23 and retail for $185, the same price as last year's edition.
The newest addition to the Jordan line takes heavy inspiration from the original Air Jordan II of 31 years ago, which was manufactured in Italy for its initial 1986 release. After the breakout success of the inaugural Air Jordan sneaker upon Michael Jordan's entrance into the NBA, his second signature shoe pushed the envelope for a basketball sneaker at the time. Crafted in Italy with rich leathers and unique faux iguana-textured paneling, the Air Jordan II originally retailed for $105, a steep increase over the Asia-made Air Jordan I's price tag of $65.
With Jordan long retired from the game, the shoe will be headlined on the court this season by Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, the NBA's reigning MVP. Other All-Stars, such as? Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony, are also expected to wear it in their own exclusive uniform-specific versions.
Since the iconic series turned 30 during the 2015-16 NBA season, the subsequent Air Jordan designs have drafted off of the model three decades before it, beginning with the Air Jordan XXXI last season. Designed by Tate Kuerbis, the new Air Jordan XXXII features a knitted fabric upper, swooping collar wings inspired by the II for added support, and the brand's "Flight Speed" cushioning system of both heel and forefoot Zoom Air units.
Both Flyknit and Zoom Air have been incorporated into countless sneakers from the brand, but the newest Air Jordan looks to amplify the experience that both provide. The knitted upper aims to make the XXXII the most flexible Air Jordan yet, while the ribbed detailing gives it a unique look unlike past woven and knit models.
"I wanted to make the laces just disappear into the knit structure," said Kuerbis, who also designed Air Jordan XVIII, XIX and XXXI.
While the XXXII isn't being manufactured in Italy, the launch colorway will still take direct inspiration from the country's noted history of performance sports cars. The vibrant "Rosso Corsa" version -- Italian for "racing red" -- represents Italy's historic national automotive color hue first used in the 1920s by Italian racing teams in international competitions.
Even though Jordan's final season in a Chicago Bulls uniform was 20 years ago, his Jordan Brand still leans heavily on colors within the franchise's palette for its new releases. Two black and red editions will follow the Rosso Corsa, in mid- and low-top cuts with a similar II-inspired faux iguana collar panel, slated to release on Oct. 18. That date is of particular importance for the brand, as it was the preseason game of Jordan's rookie season in which his black and red Air Jordan I model was originally "banned" by the league.
Each black and red Jordan XXXII features "10.18" stamped onto the bottom.
While other brands have continually looked to push forward and define a futuristic look for their products without any prior context, Jordan is expected to continue down a heritage-driven lens for each Air Jordan model ahead. For the XXXII, the team set out to look into each and every nuance of the Air Jordan II's original construction and design, from the rounded toe shape, the ribbed rubberized heel counter, the bold "Wings" logo atop the tongue and the luxury textures throughout.
"Thirty years ago, they obsessed [over] those same details when designing the AJ II, which led to the premium materials and the innovative style of Italy," said David Creech, Jordan Brand's vice president of design. "Our goal with the AJ XXXII was to combine the essence of the AJ II with today's best innovation to create a distinct design language both on and off the court."
Nick DePaula is the creative director for Nice Kicks and former editor-in-chief of Sole Collector Magazine.