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COMPARED: The Original Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning VS. 2024 Retro

Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning Compared 2002 vs 2024
Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning Compared 2002 vs 2024

During Michael Jordan's first year with the Washington Wizards, Jordan Brand began a new approach to the Air Jordan signature footwear line. For the first time, the game shoe was clad in blue-themed colorways instead of the iconic red hits associated with the Chicago Bulls. The first model to feature this drastic color change was the Air Jordan 17. Debuting in February 2002, the Air Jordan 17 was the most expensive Air Jordan sneaker. It initially retailed for $200 and came packaged in a suitcase, furthering the elegance of the Air Jordan.

Appearing in his twelfth All-Star Game, His Airness laced up the Air Jordan 17 Low, debuting it on-court at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The pair, in particular, nicknamed the Lightning edition, marked the first time we saw yellow grace an Air Jordan model in a prominent way. Initially thought to have been a player exclusive for MJ, fans of the colorway were pleased when it was announced this pair would be released a few months later, in June 2002. While they dropped alongside the Air Jordan 17 Low University Blue, the Lightning iteration saw a much more limited release than its counterpart. While the UNC-themed pair was available worldwide, in stores at various retailers, the AJ 17 Low Lightning was a nike.com exclusive, only available online. With the internet still new to most of the world and message boards being the primary source of information on sneaker releases, the general public didn't even know the Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning was releasing.

The limited release of the Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning sold out online and ended up in the hands of collectors, sneakerheads, and people "in the know" rather than your typical Air Jordan wearer on the streets. As years passed, the Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning became more and more sought after, even though it is not a part of the original Air Jordan 1-14 series. A new generation had arisen when the AJ 17 was released in 2002, those who experienced seeing MJ during the tail-end of his career with Washington rather than those who watched during his illustrious glory days in Chicago.

In February 2018, Miami-based retailer SoleFly collaborated with Jordan Brand on the Air Jordan 17 Low. Inspired by the original Lightning colorway, they flipped the script, birthing the Reverse Lightning edition, featuring a yellow-based upper rather than white. Well received by fans, this limited edition pair sold out instantly and garnered a decent price on the resale market. Fast-forward to the present. As part of Jordan Brand's Summer 2024 Lineup, the Air Jordan 17 Retro Low Lightning is set for a debut. While it will not be an online exclusive like its predecessor, the 2024 AJ 17 Retro Low Lightning is a NBHD exclusive. This means the pair will not be released online via nike.com or the SNKRS app and will only be available at select NBHD retailers worldwide.

To celebrate the release of the Air Jordan 17 Retro Low LightningSole Retriever has dug into its archives to pull out the original 2002 release and the upcoming retro and break them down. Enjoy the side-by-side comparison of one of the most coveted Air Jordan sneakers below. To stay up to date on other Jordan's releasing in 2024, check out our Jordan Release Calendar and keep it locked to the Sole Retriever mobile app.

Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning History

The Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning was originally released in June 2002. Retailing for $150, this limited nike.com online exclusive was available exclusively in men's sizing. While the Air Jordan 17 came with a suitcase, the Air Jordan 17 Low came in the standard Jordan Face box of the time, with each pair housed in separate black cloth bags. In May 2024, the Air Jordan 17 Retro Low Lighting was released. Retailing for $300, this limited NBHD exclusive was available in men's sizing. Unlike the original AJ 17 Low, the retro edition comes housed in a suitcase, much like the high-top AJ 17 did when it was initially released.

Up Close Of The Jordan 17 Low Lightning (2024)
Up Close Of The Jordan 17 Low Lightning (2024)

Image via Kicks Lounge

Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning Differences & Comparisons

Whenever a sneaker is re-released, it is never identical to its predecessor. This is true for 98% of all sneakers that have been retroed or reissued. The differences are sometimes minor, but to the eyes of purists and keen collectors, that tiny change can make or break a release for them. So, for the Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning, neither version is 100% identical to the other. Both AJ 17 Low releases show how close an original and a retro release can be.

Jordan Brand has worked tirelessly over the past few years to ensure that all Air Jordan Retros remain as close and accurate as possible to their original counterparts. While this work-in-progress approach continues, you must give JB their flowers here. The shape of each version is very close, with only small and minor differences if you dive deep. The leather is just as good on the retro as it is on the OG, something you don't hear every day. The shade of yellow is spot on as well. While it might be a slight shade different, it's not that far off. This is very common when you compare color shades on various retros, as these hues tend to get a bit lighter or darker as time progresses.

For both releases, Jordan Brand uses the same materials: a white-based leather upper with black nubuck and a nylon inner bootie. Chrome accents are present via the eyelets and wrapping around the heel. Each pair even has "Peel Off" stickers covering the chrome strips on the midsole to protect it from scuffs and scratches. A translucent lightning-yellow TPU heel stabilizer houses visible Zoom Air cushioning and a full-length carbon fiber shank plate. A solid black rubber outsole with grey and yellow pods on the bottom for traction finishes the pairs off.

Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning The Packaging

Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning Comparison BoxesAir Jordan 17 Low Lightning Comparison Boxes OpenAir Jordan 17 Low Lightning Comparison Boxes OpenAir Jordan 17 Low Lightning Comparison SuitcasesAir Jordan 17 Low Lightning Comparison SuitcasesAir Jordan 17 Low Lightning Comparison Suitcases Open

The packaging for the Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning is entirely different. The initial release from 2002 came in the standard Jordan Face box of the era, while the 2024 retro came in a plain brown box that houses a silver metal suitcase. The addition of the suitcase was a nod to the original Air Jordan 17 release, as all three high-top iterations came in custom cases, while their low-top counterparts did not. This move on the 2024 release helps justify Jordan Brand charging $300 for this specific release.

When comparing the 2024 packaging to the high and low-top versions of the 2002 Air Jordan 17, the similarities are few and far between. For example, as mentioned above, the OG Lows did not come in suitcases. However, the 2024 retro of the AJ 17 Low does. So, the high-top AJ 17 OG packaging is more comparable to the 2024 AJ 17 Retro Low. Comparing these two, both feature plain brown boxes and open up to reveal suit metal suitcases. For the 2024 release, the suitcase comes bubble-wrapped for extra protection.

The size of the suitcases is also drastically different. The OGs are much smaller and slimmer, while the Retro case is deeper. The original case also came with a foam backing on the upper portion and a CD-ROM that broke down the design inspiration for the AJ 17. No CD-ROM is included in the 2024 release, and Jordan Brand beefed up the foam padding on the top of the suitcase and bottom, providing elegant flooring for the sneakers to rest on.

Air Jordan 17 Low Lightning (2002 & 2024)

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