Michael Jordan won six NBA championships during his career, but did you know the Chicago Bulls got help from Ray Allen, Denzel Washington and Spike Lee during their 1997-98 title? Well, they did—tangentially, of course.
You see, 1997 was the year the Jordan Brand released the Air Jordan 13 sneakers. It was also the year Lee, who has a longstanding relationship with MJ and his brand, was working on He Got Game, the 1998 film starring Allen and Washington.
In turn, the home sneakers Jordan wore during the 1997-98 season were nicknamed the “He Got Game” kicks. And with the film’s 15th year anniversary in the offing, the Jordan brand has decided to re-release the Air Jordan 13 “He Got Game” shoes on March 16.
For any good Jordan brand collector or fan of Lee’s movies, this release will undoubtedly come with a massive wave of excitement. Though it was not a box office success, making only $21.58 million in ticket sales, He Got Game was lauded by critics and has become a favorite to basketball fans over time.
We already know the shoes will likely do gangbusters at the box office. Jordan only re-releases kicks the brand knows will sell swimmingly, and the adoration for He Got Game has only grown in the last decade-and-a-half.
The question that remains is whether the shoes can match up to the movie’s critical acclaim. With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of the Air Jordan 13 “He Got Game” shoes.
Wow Factor: 8/10
Always a controversial model of the trademarked Jordan Brand, the 13s almost always stand out in the crowd due to the prominent dimples on the upper. It’s a distinct look, no doubt. For half of the “sneakerhead” community, the dimples were a massive mistake that produced cringe-worthy results while others adore the look more than any other release.
No matter what, each Air Jordan 13 release comes with some form of reaction. And while segregating a population of perspective buyers isn’t exactly ideal in widespread release, it’s perfect for the re-release format. Collectors who adore the shoe already have their place in line ready—and they will be coming in droves.
As for the “He Got Game” kicks themselves, they follow the model previously released almost perfectly. Equipped with a classic white, black and red colorway, they weren’t meant to stand out in the crowd. They were meant to be on the feet of Michael Jordan as he went gliding past a defender for a ferocious dunk or shook a defender for a wide-open jumper. (Our eyes are looking right at you...entire Eastern Conference.)
In turn, though, they’re not going to stick out in the same way a more eye-catching colorway would. The “He Got Game” kicks are classic, a representation of both Jordan’s career and one of the best basketball films in history.
They suffer a bit from the “wow” perspective because of the understated look. That said, don’t confuse that downgrade as a negative in the overall sense.
We’ve already gone over why the 13s are polarizing, so I won’t belabor the point. From a critical standpoint, though, the colorway is what has always been most important when judging a pair of 13s.
And as you may expect considering the “He Got Game” kicks’ classic Bulls colorway, these are nothing short of a home run. Red, white and black in any matching combination has been a winning formula since the brand’s inception and will be going forward. There’s nothing to say here other than “kudos,” so let’s move on.
What’s more impressive design-wise is how the designers kept the shoe almost completely the same as the 1997 release. The manufacturing and material are obviously a bit different, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any noticeable differences between the 2013 and 1997 versions. Quality is key on re-releases, and overall, the quality of materials and design make these kicks worth every penny.
It’s also impossible to discuss a pair of 13s without swooning over the hologram. The 13s were designed with the Black Panther as an inspiration, and the hologram is at the crux of that design concept. It’s a quintessential part of any Jordan 13 design and an opportunity for every “sneakerhead” to do their best Joker impersonation.
Overall, the design of the “He Got Game” kicks is darned near flawless. A great design, colorway and concept—oh, and I’ve mentioned the hologram, right? Or should I write another glowing paragraph about it just to make sure it sinks in? No? OK, let’s move on then.
Just about every good collector is already falling over him/herself prior to Saturday’s release. So if you’re are planning on scrounging up $170 to get a pair—and every collector should—get your tickets fast because supply will be limited and demand high. No one wants to be paying double price for kicks on eBay a week from the release date.
On the court, 13s are a well-designed shoe that gives the support you would expect from the Jordan brand. It’s a bit of a heavier sneaker—one won’t confuse it for a pair of Nike Hyperdunks, that’s for sure—but unless you’re a high-flying dunk machine on the hardwood (which I totally am...not), you shouldn’t notice.
Of course, the key component is how the “He Got Game” kicks hold up for casual buyers. Though Jordan is a basketball shoe brand, plenty more folks wear the shoe off-the-court than on. And with a solid, easily matched colorway, these kicks pass with flying colors.
The initial release was widely lauded, and the “He Got Game” sneakers should once again do some flying off the shelves. Jesus Shuttlesworth would be proud.