Air Jordan has released a shoe every year like clockwork, starting with the first pair of sneakers. Some surpassed their predecessors in design, cultural impact and performance, while others fell by the wayside. There's also plenty of creative quirkiness, and far from being timeless, each shoe serves as a sort of visual time capsule of the era in which it was designed.

There's no shortage of great Air Jordan shoes, but we've narrowed it down to 3 that we consider to be the brand's most important and iconic designs. Here's a look at the best Air Jordan shoes of all time, in no particular order.

Air Jordan 1 

The shoes that started it all. Michael Jordan's first signature shoe with Nike is shrouded in sports mythology. Jordan is said to have been banned from wearing the shoes on the court because their black uppers violated NBA standards. The basketball governing body told Mike Jordan he would be fined $5,000 per game if he kept wearing the shoes, but instead of taking them off, he kept wearing them, and Nike paid for them.

Sneaker experts believe the shoe is actually the Nike Airship, the predecessor to the Air Jordan 1, but the Swoosh is sticking with its version. Either way, the AJ 1 is at the heart of a sports icon and sneaker culture. Reimagined countless times by some of the biggest names in fashion and streetwear, it was the beginning of what is undeniably one of the greatest sneakers of all time.

Air Jordan 3

The Air Jordan I may have been the first shoe in the Air Jordan lineup, but it was after these two shoes that the brand really found its own visual identity. It was the first of 13 Air Jordans designed by legendary Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, who is often credited as the architect of the modern sneaker. Hatfield ditched the Swoosh, added some elephant print accents, put an Air bumper on the sole, and adorned the shoe with the now-iconic Jumpman logo depicting Mike Jordan in mid-air.

This is the best bit. Not only did Hatfield create the blueprint for what the Air Jordan shoe would look like, but according to Nike founder Phil Knight, his Air Jordan III design actually prevented Mike Jordan from leaving Nike for its rival Adidas. The Nike poster boy is ready to jump ship after a poor second pair of pro shoes and a foot injury kept him out of the game. However, when he saw the Air Jordan 3 at a conference in 1987, he decided to stay forever.This is a pair of sneakers that will keep Jordan forever and be remembered forever.

Air Jordan 11

In 1995, Jordan was about to have his most impressive year yet, and Tinker Hatfield wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. He took inspiration from the Air Jordan XI from a roadster and finished the shoe in shiny patent leather.

The Air Jordan 11 uses a mix of materials to differentiate it from any other material created at the time. It was very different, but fans of the brand loved it, and it quickly became (and remains to this day) one of the most sought-after Air Jordan styles. It is said that it is also Michael Jordan's personal favorite Jordan shoes.