June 14th, 1998 - Game 6, NBA Finals.
In front of a raucous crowd at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz were fired up. Sparked by an inspiring road win two nights earlier in Chicago, Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Jazz were on a mission to tie the Finals series against the Chicago Bulls at 3 games apiece. Scottie Pippen’s back was hurting. Dennis Rodman was being his typical theatrical self. The Jazz were on their home court. They could force a Game 7, stun the great Michael Jordan, and disrupt his perfect finals record. But the GOAT had other ideas.
Michael Jordan dominated Game 6 that night. In front of the highest-rated NBA Finals in history, Number 23 put up 45 points, including an incredible layup, then a strip of Karl Malone, and then, of course, “The Last Shot,” all with just seconds remaining in the game to put the Bulls up by one point. At the time, it seemed a bit too dramatic as MJ pushed Bryon Russell aside, stepped back, and nailed that final jumper. He stood there, arm raised, soaking in the moment in front of the entire basketball universe. This would be his last shot as a Bull, and it would earn him his sixth title. He would also walk away with Finals MVP honors.
What was particularly interesting in that game for sneakerheads was the footwear Jordan chose to wear for this monumental occasion. Michael Jordan was rocking the Air Jordan XIII all year long. Then, in Game 5 of the Finals in Chicago, he brought out something new. It was tough to tell on those fuzzy TV screens, especially if you didn’t have cable. The sneakers vaguely looked like a XIII, but different. Were they a variation of the XIII, like when he wore a low-cut version of the Air Jordan XI two years earlier? MJ would wear these mysterious sneakers again in the deciding Game 6 in Utah. So what were they? There was no social media, so we didn’t have instant images of the shoe on Instagram and Twitter like we do today. There were only a few sneaker message boards, and good old-fashioned marketing that dictated when we’d actually see what MJ was wearing.
A few months later, we were introduced to the Air Jordan XIV – the model Jordan decided to break out a little early during those Finals in June. Jordan was known to wear a shoe before he was actually supposed to, like when he broke out the Air Jordan XI against the Magic because he liked them so much in 1995. The new black/varsity red Air Jordan XIV was promoted with a simple print ad campaign featuring a zoomed-in shot of the medial side of the shoe. There was also a tiny little message in the bottom right corner of the ad that read, “We apologize for the flashbacks this may trigger among Utah fans.”
Inspired by Jordan’s love of fast cars, and in particular the Ferrari, the Air Jordan XIV certainly resembled one. This model featured a modified Jumpman logo, red side vents, and aggressive leather design. The Air Jordan XIV also featured articulated heel and forefoot Zoom Air units. There was an actual mesh hole which acted as a ventilation system on the interior of the outsole.
After the ’99 release, the black/red XIV would return rather quickly, with the first retro coming out in 2005 (though the suede on the toecap was replaced with nubuck). It would retro again in 2011, with the OG suede toecap returning. 2018 marks the fourth official release of this colorway.
This past May, Nike held a special event in New York City commemorating sixteen sneakers worn by sixteen players in sixteen memorable championship series over the years. It takes sixteen playoff victories to capture a title, so these sixteen moments are being marketed as the “Art of a Champion” line. Of the sixteen players, Michael Jordan was obviously one of them, and the moment Jordan Brand is honoring for him was that “Last Shot” when he wore the XIVs.
On June 14th, 2018, the OG Air Jordan XIV black/red returns to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Last Shot.” In terms of design and materials, this latest rendition almost perfectly matches the original. Though the Air Jordan XIV in general is not one of the most popular Air Jordan models ever, it’s technology, comfort and durability have never been questioned. The XIV is one of the best models to play actual basketball in, and the sneaker holds up well over time. The only issue is forefoot creasing if the shoes are not taken care of properly.
The Air Jordan XIV has always been known as a bit of a transitional shoe in the Jordan lineage. Yes, he wore them in the NBA, and yes it was a rather large stage, but he’d only wear that all-black colorway with the Bulls. Most OG Jordan heads value the XIV rather highly because of this, but it is not ranked as high as models like the AJ I, III, or XI. Regardless, the XIV is a must-have for any serious sneakerhead because of the frozen moment of MJ taking that last shot with the Bulls and capturing his 6th NBA title.
June 14th, 1998 - Game 6, NBA Finals.