The Air Jordan XIV broke necks for many different reasons. They were famously inspired by the Ferrari F355F1, the first of its kind to host a F1 paddle shift semi-automatic transmission. They featured an awesome Jumpman logo, the shield paying homage to Ferrari’s jousting black-and-yellow horse. They were also the lightest Air Jordans of their time, at a time when most on-court sneakers were built like tanks. They had metal-tipped laces, and started that trend of having numbers add up to the number of the shoe. In this case, it was seven Jumpman logos on each sneaker.
But no, perhaps the coolest thing about the XIV was how it debuted: way, way too early. Michael Jordan first broke these out during the 1998 NBA Finals, which was long before they’d actually release to the public. After playing in the XIII during the first two games in Utah, Jordan broke out his upcoming XIV signature during Games 3, 4, and 6. (In Game 5, he’d switch back to the XIII for reasons I’m still trying to figure out. Believe me, I’ve spent way too long trying to understand what was going on with his feet in that series.)
Had the Bulls closed out Utah during Game 5 in the Windy City — a game they really should’ve won considering they got 30 points (!) from Toni Kukoc — then so much changes. It was poetic justice; they should’ve closed it out at home, finishing off four straight games against the shell-shocked Jazz. Had they won this one, then you may never hear the words “Last Shot.” The XIV, considering Jordan retired during the extended lockout that followed in the offseason, probably never gets its moment in the sun. And you know what else? If Jordan makes his desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation of Game 5, instead of the shot coming up just inches short, then these shoes suddenly vault into undeniable classics and become one of the greatest basketball sneakers ever.
History is such a funny thing, isn’t it?
Partly because of its role in the most famous shot in NBA history, the XIV is now one of the more revered shoes from the Jordan line. It’s been retroed countless times since, and tomorrow it returns in a “Sport Blue” and grey colorway at Champs Sports. This grey-based version is actually pretty tame when you consider what this particular shoe is known for. The “Last Shots” and White/Red XIVs are classics, essentials for any collection. But over the years, the shoe has released in some of the wildest original colors you’ll ever see from JB. There was the 205 Light Graphite release that featured neon green accents, an all-suede upper, and fuzzy interior lining, which was about as far away as you could ever get from the ribbed leather and durabuck upper of the originals. Other releases included mixed premium materials among the toe box and a consistent penchant for white outsoles that somehow always seemed to contrast the sneaker’s dark tones perfectly.
Then you had the low-top versions, which literally looked just like a sports car with the top down. JB took advantage, giving the shoe multiple makeovers to shock us with colors like the Ceramic and Pacific Blue found on a 2008 release or the unbelievable Ginger release. No matter what, though, the XIV always looks good. From the “Last Shots” to the Forest Green edition to the “Black Toes” the XIV is one of the coolest and most comfortable shoes Jordan has ever had. NBA players still love to play in them.
As always, tomorrow’s Champs Sports release will include the details that make this Tinker Hatfield design so amazing. There’s the Zoom Air units, the medial air vents, phylon midsole, and carbon fibre sheath, as well as the herringbone outsole pattern. And if you’re like me, no matter what colorway they are releasing in, I won’t be able to stop hearing Bob Costas.
“Jordan…open…Chicago with the lead!”
Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney