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The history of the Air Jordan Xlll

From Denzel Washington in "He Got Game" to the Finals 1998

The history of the Air Jordan Xlll From Denzel Washington in He Got Game to the Finals 1998

In one of the last scenes of He Got Game, Jesus Shuttlesworth/Ray Allen finds himself in his room of the fictitious college of Big State to read the last letter that his father had sent him from the prison in which he had been locked up for the umpteenth time : ''Your grandfather always said: you have to keep trying shoes until, sooner or later, you find the right pair for you''. At his feet are the Air Jordan XIII, the same ones that Jake Shuttlesworth / Denzel Washington had purchased at the beginning of the film in anticipation of one of the most famous one-on-one in the history of cinema: '' It was a product placement done at the highest possible level. After the release of the film it was all a: have you seen? Jesus wears the new Jordan", will remember the formidable shooter from UConn years later.

Ray Allen didn't actually have to wear those shoes - ''Nobody on the set had them, except Denzel and Spike. At some point I had come to wonder why they did and I didn't'' - not least because not even MJ had tried them yet: the ones that Washington receives from the hands of Avery Glymp with the same feverish excitement as any sneakerhead is, in fact , the first pair of Jordan XIII shown to the public. When the film was released on May 1, 1998, those shoes are already an integral part of the Jordanian iconography; while filming the year before, however, they were still yet another visionary product of Tinker Hatfield's genius.

Nike's creative had moved well in advance: as early as 1995 he had begun to draw the first sketches of a shoe that would reflect in all respects the athlete who wore it, bringing the signature shoes market to a new dimension. The idea would come to him by vivisecting the Jordan games: a player different from the others, who went at a different speed from the others and with elegant, powerful, instinctive movements, like those of a big cat. A panther, a 1.98 black cat that had to be equipped with adequate support: this is how Hatfield presented the idea to the person concerned in Los Angeles, during a pause in the filming of Frozen Moment, the commercial launching the Air Jordan XII. On the 23rd, a difficult one to be amazed at the first attempt, approves the project with satisfaction but hisses: "Ok I like the designs but I want to see a shoe: I can't judge until I can touch or try it".

Hatfield gets back to work: his basic idea - a sneaker with a sinuous line and with the shape of the sole that recalls that of the paw of a big cat - must be reconciled with the needs and physical characteristics of Jordan called to the ''repeat of Three-Peat''. 127 sketches are needed, an almost infinite series of revisions and a further modification desired by MJ - which asks and obtains to remove the buckle in the middle of the lacing - for the Air Jordan XIII to see the light.

It is a revolutionary shoe, the first ever designed entirely on the computer (a Macintosh) using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, ''the lightest Air Jordan ever produced'' according to Nike's indications. The ideal to accompany a historical moment. The Jordan Brand was officially born on September 9, 1997, according to Chicago Tribune estimates, to generate revenues of nearly 230 million dollars a year. The AJ XIII becomes, therefore, the signature shoe for the launch of the new brand: ''This product is a small example of what our creative approach with Michael has always been: an approach that takes into account its needs in the field as well as the his personality'' Hatfield says in the press conference that consecrates the man from Wilmington as the first athlete to become a global brand.

Less than two months after the Jordan XIII debut at the feet of MJ in the season opener at the home of the Boston Celtics: 30 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the 95-82 defeat. He will wear them throughout the season, in all color variations combined with the Bulls uniforms, up to race-3 of the Finals against the Utah Jazz, faced with the brand new Jordan XIV, the same worn in race-6 to mark the shot that he would deliver him to immortality.

Yet despite not having an iconic moment to bond with - with the exception of the game winner against Atlanta in February in the ''Black Toe'' version - the Jordan XIII become the model that changes the concept of sneakers forever. In 2017, in anticipation of the re-issue of the model that would take place in August 2018 on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the release of He Got Game, Tinker Hatfield tells The Undefeated that "after this shoe nothing has been more than before. When a new model comes out many times it is a simple evolution of the previous one. This no. At the beginning our marketing managers were nervous, Michael was not: he knew that others would like this design exactly as he liked it''.

And, in fact, we are talking about the first Jordan that is remembered and appreciated for its aesthetics rather than for a single signature moment. Over the years, numerous players have reinterpreted in their own way the spirit of a unique shoe: when he was a Kings in Sacramento, Mike Bibby wore a very rare white and purple "low" version; Jason Kidd has inflamed New Jersey with the red and white "Gray Toe"; in the 2010/2011 season Gerald Wallace wore the "Playoff Retro" version often and also Kobe Bryant used to arrive at the Staples Center wearing a pair of white and blue "Flints"; today it is the usual PJ Tucker to show off at least two variants per season, as Quentin Richardson used to do, who changed five teams in 13 career seasons probably almost only to show the variety of Jordan XIII available.

What about Ray Allen? During the Boston years, the Jordan XIII were the most suitable ones in the splendid Celtic white / black green, with a name on the tongue: a privilege due for those who, in the middle of his rookie season, decided to leave a rich contract on the table with FILA to become the first official ambassador of the world's most famous future brand. And to think that they didn't want to give them those shoes either.