S otheby’s is proud to present VICTORIAM, a special two-part curated collection of sports artifacts. Led by Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals Game 2 Air Jordan XIIIs, the auctions feature a variety of athletes who have had deep and lasting impact on their respective sports. From Kobe Bryant to Roger Federer to Tom Brady, the auctions feature a host of items many of which are fresh to market.
While Michael Jordan is always pervasive in sports and pop culture, this year is especially notable as it marks the 21st century’s ‘Jordan Year’ - a reference to Michael Jordan’s jersey number. The sale also comes on the heels of the forthcoming film release of ‘Air’, chronicling Nike’s rise to sneaker dominance through its partnership with Michael Jordan in the mid ‘80s and genesis of the famed Air Jordan sneaker.
AIR | Official Trailer
The 1998 NBA Finals, of Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” season, was the most viewed of all NBA Finals contests. On June 5th 1998, the world tuned-in to Game 2 to watch Michael Jordan battle in a must-win contest, after the Bulls found themselves trailing the series to the Utah Jazz following Game 1. Utah was so hostile that Jordan’s children were forbidden by their mother from attending the game. Marcus Jordan (Michael’s son) explained, “She felt like Utah was a little hostile for us as young kids.” The stakes were high, as less than ten percent of teams that go 0-2 in the NBA Playoffs are able to recover from the deficit.
Michael Jordan, as he did time-and-time again, rose to the occasion registering a game high 37 points over 40 minutes in a Bulls 93-88 victory over the Utah Jazz wearing these remarkable ‘Bred’ Air Jordan XIII sneakers during the second half of the game, on his way to his 6th NBA Championship and 6th Finals MVP award.
Immediately following the game, the ball-boy responsible for the visitors’ locker room received a gift from MJ. The ball-boy had seen Michael during an earlier practice and found his lost jacket. After returning the jacket to Jordan he said, “Can I get your kicks after the game tomorrow?” Michael, having given pairs to the same ball-boy during prior visits, took his sneakers off in the locker room after Game 2, signed each sneaker, and handed them as a thank you for his services.
The sneakers feature large, beautiful, silver signatures on each toe-box, and are in immaculate condition. This is the only complete pair of sneakers worn by Michael in an NBA Finals game, from any of Michael’s 6 NBA Finals series, that have ever been photomatched and authenticated by The MeiGray Group, the official authenticator of the NBA. They are also the only pair worn worn by Michael Jordan from the 1998 NBA postseason that have ever been photomatched by MeiGray.
As Michael left Salt Lake City that night with the series tied 1-1, his next trip back to the Delta Center would be for Game 6, Michael’s final game as a Chicago Bull. The iconic imagery associated with Michael playing at the Delta Center during the 1998 NBA Finals has become a timeless representation of The Last Dance, and arguably the most notable imagery of his career.
Bred Air Jordans are a shorthand synonym for ‘Black and Red’ Air Jordan sneakers, a style Michael wore – featuring iconic Bulls colors – from the inception of the Jordan Brand (namely the Air Ship and the Air Jordan I) all the way until the Air Jordan XIII and XIV towards the end of his career with the Chicago Bulls. The first pair of Breds Jordan wore in the NBA were banned by the league, which imbued the colorway with a certain mythical nature to sneaker culture. The NBA would fine Michael $5,000 per game because the colors violated the league's strict uniform code. Nike capitalized on the opportunity and branded the Breds as rebellious sneakers, and while banned from the league, a Nike ad would explain “fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.”
Michael Jordan Air Jordan 1 commercial
The Bred would go on to take center stage in each of Michael’s postseasons, as the team opted to switch to predominantly black sneakers for the Playoffs.
Released in sneakers stores in May of 1998, in the heart of the Bulls’ postseason run, the nostalgia associated with the Air Jordan XIII Bred is rooted in it being the final public release of an Air Jordan sneaker during Michael’s playing career with the Bulls. Lines formed at sneaker stores, as fans had one last shot to “Be Like Mike.”
This particular pair would be the final pair of Air Jordan XIII Breds that Michael would ever lace up in an NBA game.
“The Last Dance”
“The Last Dance” as it’s called, was Michael’s final season with the Chicago Bulls (1997-1998) and is perhaps the most beloved period in Jordan folklore, as Michael reached the apex of his popularity and powers while simultaneously conquering major internal divisions that were fracturing the team dynamics of the late 90s Chicago Bulls. The season is referred to as The Last Dance due in large part to the smash-hit ESPN documentary by the same name, which chronicled the Bulls efforts in the 1997-1998 season. The players were cognizant that the Bulls franchise would ultimately be disbanded at the end of the season and as such, knew it was their final opportunity to capture a 6th Bulls Championship. The Last Dance was Michael Jordan’s ‘magnum opus’ as an athlete – a testament to him as a competitor, a sportsman, a teammate, and ultimately, a champion.
Diving Deeper – The Dynamics of the 1997-1998 Season
There was no love lost between Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause. Jerry – who had an undeniable talent for picking winning teams and players – did not get along with the key people that made the Chicago Bulls so dangerous: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. This division ultimately hit a breaking point when Krause mandated that Phil Jackson’s last season with the Bulls would be the 1997-1998 season. As Jordan refused to play for anyone but Jackson, Krause’s move ultimately broke apart the dynasty winning Bulls, and imbued the 1997-1998 season with a sense of finality and urgency.
Jackson recalled being told the news: “Jerry called me into his office and said, 'This is going to be your last year, I don't care if you win 82 games in a row, this will be your last year here'.”
"So I said, 'Fine' and walked out of the room, and that was the only words that were exchanged."
Mr. Krause said many things surrounding the 1997-1998 season, among the most disturbing to Jordan specifically was that the team needed to be “rebuilt” and that, “Players don't win championships, organizations do.” A quote Krause later refuted.
In Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech more than 10 years later in 2009, Jordan still seemed irked by Jerry’s words stating, “I don’t know who invited him. I didn’t… he said organizations win championships. I said I didn’t see organizations playing with the Flu in Utah. I didn’t seem them playing – you know – with a bad ankle.”
Ultimately, perhaps the tension within the team and the adversity Jordan faced pushed him even further – as it was known to do for Jordan – to his sixth NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls.Read Less
The Air Jordan XIII
Michael Jordan’s skill and creative playing abilities put his opponents on their backfoots, earning him the nickname the ‘Black Cat’. He could outmaneuver just about anyone who crossed his path. As Jordan Brand states on their website, “inspired by a panther’s predatory nature, Tinker [Hatfield] harnessed its tenacity to create the Air Jordan XIII. The shoe featured an unconventional holographic eye and an outsole resembling a panther paw.” The innovations featured on the model were intended to give players the “agility of a cat.”
Air Jordans 13 He got game
To this day, the Air Jordan XIII is one of the most nostalgic and popular designs ever released by the Jordan Brand. This particular silhouette was additionally made famous by its feature in the Spike Lee directed film, He Got Game. The film featured Denzel Washington, who plays a prison inmate sent on a mission to convince his son to play for the Warden’s alma mater in exchange for a shorter sentence. In the movie, Denzel’s character, Jake, goes shopping for a pair of sneakers and immediately asks for the “new Jordans”, and is presented the Air Jordan XIII. Colloquially, the white Air Jordan XIII model often goes by the nickname ‘He Got Game.’