Michael Jordan Gave His Flu Game Shoes to a Utah Jazz Ballboy

by November 12, 2013

The Salt Lake Tribune has published a fantastic story about Preston Truman, a former Utah Jazz ballboy who copped Michael Jordan’s precious Flu Game kicks, and is now auctioning them off (you should also read the same guy’s fascinating connection to Kobe Bryant):

“The former Jazz ball boy’s tale began in November 1996, with Truman standing slack-jawed while Jordan tied his shoes before a regular-season game. ‘Hey,’ Jordan called to Chicago Bulls trainer Chip Schaefer. ‘Where are my graham crackers and applesauce?’ This was, it seems, important. Schaefer stopped taping another player’s ankle and searched his bag: Graham crackers, but no sauce. So Jordan turned to Truman. ‘There will be no autographs for ball boys after the game if I don’t get my applesauce.’ Thus, with 45 minutes until the tip, Truman set off on a reckless dash through the Delta Center. Shouting ‘I’m looking for applesauce for Michael Jordan,’ he came up empty on floors one and two, but on the third floor a woman in a food-storage room gave him an industrial-size can. He procured a spoon and a can opener and sprinted back to present it all to a grinning Jordan. ‘You came through,’ he said, and asked the ball boy’s name. The Bulls lost that night, and MJ was slightly sour when, on the way out, he passed a table of items that people were hoping he’d sign. But he saw Truman and stopped to autograph a trading card the 18-year-old had in his pocket. ‘Maybe I’ll see you in June,’ he told him.

Well, what do you know? Truman was assigned to the visitor’s locker room for Games 3, 4 and 5, and he hatched a plan. He wanted shoes — not just Jordans, for which people in the ’90s would camp outside Foot Locker, but Jordan’s. He asked his mom to buy some graham crackers and Seneca Apple Sauce cups, and he had them waiting in MJ’s locker when he walked in. ‘You remembered?’ Jordan asked. ‘That’s my guy right there. It’s Preston, right?’ He managed not to squeal. ‘Yes, sir, I’m here to take care of you.’ Jordan said he appreciated that. […] The Jazz won twice to even the series 2-2, and Jordan’s food poisoning was evident as doctors and trainers checked his vitals before Game 5. He lay down in a back room with an IV and asked them to turn the lights off as they left. Truman walked in. He almost turned back when he saw Jordan’s eyes were closed, but His Airness had sensed him and asked that he run some tickets to will call. First, though, Truman leaned in and whispered — wondering whether this was a remotely sane thing to do — ‘Are you doing anything with your shoes after the game?’ Jordan looked him in the eye. ‘Why, you want them?’ ‘I would be honored,’ he said.

After the game, the shoes were underneath Jordan’s dressing table while Truman went about his work. The ball boy panicked when Charles Barkley stopped by to visit — Bryon Russell had asked for MJ’s shoes earlier in the season, and Gary Payton drew flak in the 1996 Finals for doing the same. But Chuck left without them. Jordan showered and dressed, and when the equipment manager reached down to pick the shoes up and pack them away, MJ told him to hold it. ‘Those are his,’ he said, pointing to Truman. He later signed both shoes while one of his bodyguards snapped photos. He then rubbed the top of Truman’s head and left.'”