Take that, Crying Jordan.
On June 11, 1997, Michael Jordan woke up feeling like death on a day when he had to be a superhero. Commentators that day described Jordan’s condition as him having “flu-like symptoms,” but many would later speculate that he was actually just suffering from food poisoning. Either way, his illness stood in the way of Jordan and his fifth NBA title. Of course, it didn’t, as Jordan turned in a heroic 38 point performance that night while putting his Chicago Bulls up three games to two over the Utah Jazz. The black and red Air Jordan XII sneakers he wore on the fateful night also became cemented in history, known from that point on as the “Flu Games.”
This past Saturday, Jordan re-issued the sneakers for the first time since 2003, and they sold out instantly (as retro Js tend to do). If you still need a pair, they’re going on eBay for not-totally-insane price of around $300 (retail was $190). And design-wise, the shoes stand up to the test of time. Their “Rising Sun”-inspired design, of course, looks less space age than it did in ’97, while the tumbled leather upper and classic Bulls colorway make these one of the most street-ready Air Jordans of all-time. (They’ve also still got plenty of tech, like a reinforced carbon fiber arch, should you actually want to wear them on the hardwood.
The pair we received came with a limited-edition leather medicine bag and T-shirt inside, a package that is limited to just 20 around the world. That’s cool and all, but what makes the “Flu Games” truly special is that they represent what made Jordan great in his heyday. No other athlete has ever so perfectly encapsulated what winning looks like. Part of winning is overcoming adversity, whether it’s flu-like symptoms or one’s less-than-ideal upbringing. And, at least to us at GQ, part of being a winner is also looking great. So even though we’re sure lots of kids who picked these up over the weekend weren’t even alive during the “Flu Game,” their back story is strong enough to re-unite M.J. the athlete with the Jordan brand. Take that, Crying Jordan Meme.