Many shoes carry memories of distinct NBA moments. Whether it’s AI’s stepover in the Reebok Answer 4, Kobe’s 81 point game in his first signature shoe, or Michael Jordan’s last shot in the Air Jordan XIV, there are memories that are unshakable when envisioning a certain shoe. Here we look at the story of the Air Jordan XIII and XIV, two models unmistakable for their key roles in MJ’s 1997-98 season.
Air Jordan XIII
Conceived by legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan XIII was the first Michael Jordan signature shoe to be under the Jordan brand. Tinker drew inspiration from Michael’s on-court agility– resembling that of a nimble and cunning black cat– and pitched the shoe to Jordan in 1996 introducing it as “The Black Cat”. Jordan stopped Tinker during the pitch and inquired, “How do you know what my secret nickname is? It’s only used by my best friends.” After disclosing that the nickname was unbeknownst to Tinker, the shoe was immediately a hit with MJ.
After many design iterations and detail additions, such as the paw inspired sole and a 23 branded hologram bubble resembling a panther eye, the shoe finally made an appearance on the feet of Michael Jordan during the 1997-98 season. This would be especially important as Jordan was gunning for his 6th career NBA championship, his 3rd NBA championship in a row after coming back from retirement in 1995, and looking to complete his second three-peat in a decade. The Air Jordan XIII would undoubtedly be put to the test during this season. And it surely delivered.
Air Jordan XIV
After designing the Air Jordan III through XIII and delivering hit after hit, Tinker made no exception with the XIV. Pulling inspiration from Michael Jordan’s Ferrari F355F1, the shoe was designed to be just as fast and luxurious. It held true to its word by coming in at the lightest Air Jordan model yet. Additional Ferrari inspired detailing such as the shield Jordan logo and air vent inspired side paneling made the shoe a hot commodity for sneaker enthusiasts.
After wearing the Air Jordan XIII for the 1997-1998 season, Michael couldn’t help but lace up the XIV prototype he received from Tinker for the 3rd game against Utah in the NBA finals. This wouldn’t be the last game where the 14s met the hardwood as Jordan laced them up an additional two more times throughout the series. One of which would be his last time in a Bulls jersey.
1998 NBA Championship Finals
During the 1998 NBA Championship Finals Jordan did something that may not warrant a double take today, but surely did in 1998– he switched Air Jordan models during the series. While many NBA athletes in the league today may switch shoes throughout a series, or even during halftime in the case of PJ Tucker, this was very peculiar behavior from MJ. In an effort to try and investigate why Jordan was swapping pairs out during the series, we’ve analyzed his stats from the series for each shoe below.
Upon initial review, there does not appear to be a clearly superior shoe. Both shoes are within a couple points of each other in terms of scoring per game. Jordan had slightly higher FG% in the XIV which is offset by higher FT% and assists in the XIII, and then dead even in rebounds. While Jordan’s games weren’t consistent across the series they appear to be fairly consistent across shoes.
The only explanation we’ve come up with is that perhaps after winning games 3 and 4 in the XIV and missing the game winning shot in game 5 wearing the XIII, MJ then decided to turn back to the XIV. We may never know why it was that Jordan switched shoes, leading to the Jordan XIV now being known as the ‘Last Shot’ instead of the XIII.
The Jordan XIII and XIV are silhouettes frequently left out of the resale limelight, commonly overshadowed by popular preceding models, and rarely receive the collaboration treatment– with the exception of the Supreme XIV in 2019 that was an unequivocal flop.
Looking at April 2020, we see prices for both the XII and XIV increase from around $250 to over $350 in a matter of weeks. This type of increase is certainly not uncommon for Jordan retros but is unheard of for a pair of 2-3 year old Air Jordan XIIs or XIVs. Nonetheless, after doing some investigating we see that the price jump coincidentally lines up with the premier of The Last Dance– an ESPN series that details the Chicago Bulls’ aforementioned 1997-98 championship season. With this newfound knowledge, we can connect some dots and conclude that prices rose due to viewers flocking to the resale markets– fueled with excitement and nostalgia– after seeing Jordan drill a jumper over Bryon Russel to win the 1998 Championship.
Although the Air Jordan XIII and XIV are often neglected when talking about new releases and resale values, they certainly hold a special place in the heart of the sneaker community. Whether you’re a fan of the XIII and XIV from memories of being glued to the screen in 1998 during Jordan’s last series, or dashed to load StockX after seeing the shoes come up in the Last Dance, the models posses an undeniable lure of being able to own a piece of Jordan history.