May 17th, 2015 by Yale Schalk / 0
Should there be an introduction to this shoe? Your first glance overrides the need, instantly connecting you to the final seconds of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Air Jordan XIV was not due to be revealed until the end of 1998 and into 1999 but Michael Jordan, with a sense of his career genuflecting, essentially decided to lace them up early – a la XI Concords in spring ’95 – and put the XIIIs away.
Replays of Jordan’s final heroics in that Game 6 always seem to amaze like they’re happening for the first time. Jazz up 86-83, 41.9 left, Bulls need a quick bucket. So MJ gives them a quick bucket off the inbound, a driving layup in only 4.8 seconds. With the Bulls back on defense, the Jazz wait for Karl Malone to position himself on the right block and his teammates clear out of his space, leaving his defender Dennis Rodman to jostle one on one. And, of course, leaving Jordan to sneak a double team and slap the ball away.
Jordan gains possession and calmly trots the ball down-court, watching the clock and surveying how he’s going to set up his game-winning shot. Because he’s not about to pass the ball, a decision he confirmed many times over in subsequent years. His team, his championship, his career. The drive to the right, a steady non-pushoff hand on Bryon Russell, the set, the lift, the shot. Swish. Bulls 87, Jazz 86. Once John Stockton’s three ricocheted off the rim, MJ had six fingers in the air, showing the Jazz crowd what all of that meant. You could’ve bronzed MJ’s Air Jordan XIVs on the spot and handed them off to a waiting FedEx agent, destination Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
After the ’99 original XIVs, the Last Shots came back with retro releases in 2005 and in 2011. There was great wailing and gnashing of teeth about the spotty build quality of the ’05 drop, until the ’11s came out. And then there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth about the spotty shape of those.
Still, despite any of these imperfections, this is a shoe that not only stands as the last great playing Jordan muse shoe for designer Tinker Hatfield, it also helps mark one of the greatest moments in sports history, something no other Air Jordan shoe can lay claim to.
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