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Air Jordan XII (1997)

The Air Jordan XII flu game.
Air Jordan XII

QUICK FACTS

Player: Michael Jordan

Colorway: black/red

Original Release: 1997

Retro: 2003, 2009, 2016

Designer: Tinker Hatfield

Release Type: General release

Weight: 18.4 ounces

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BACKGROUND

“I ate the pizza. All by myself. Nobody else ate the pizza.”

Anyone who watched “The Last Dance” documentary would have heard this MJ quote. It was Tuesday, June 10, 1997, the night before game 5 of the NBA finals. As the story goes, MJ was in his hotel room with trainer Tim Grover and personal assistant George Koehler when he decided to order pizza. According to MJ, five guys came to deliver the pizza. While Grover and Koehler were immediately suspicious, MJ went ahead and ate the entire pizza. By 2:30 am, he was “throwing up left and right.” 

The Air Jordan XII flu game.
Air Jordan XII

While game 5 is better known as “The Flu Game”, MJ’s comments made it clear that his sickness was a result of food poisoning, not the flu. Both Grover and Koehler corroborate MJ’s story. 

However, not everyone agrees with Jordan’s version of events. Craig Fite, a former Pizza Hut assistant manager who claims to have made the delivery, said he was certain the pizza wasn’t poisoned. He also disputed the claim that five people delivered the pizza, saying that there weren’t even that many people working at the store. Instead, he insisted that only two people made the delivery and that MJ’s illness had nothing to do with the pizza they delivered as he had taken every precaution to assure the pizza was safe.  

The Air Jordan XII flu game, medial view.
Air Jordan XII

While there is ambiguity surrounding the events leading up to game 5, MJ’s play is not up for debate. Despite being nauseous and severely dehydrated, Jordan scored 38 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 5 assists along with 3 steals to lead the Bulls to a 90-88 victory over the Utah Jazz. This pivotal game 5 victory would give the Bulls a 3-2 series lead and put them one win away from winning their fifth title. Accurately or not, game 5 would be dubbed “The Flu Game”. It was perhaps the most famous game of an already successful playoff run that saw MJ average 31.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. 

The Air Jordan XII flu game, rear view.
Air Jordan XII

Another thing we can all agree on is that MJ’s spectacular game 5 performance was done in the black/varsity-red Jordan XII. Like game 5 itself, the black/varsity-red Jordan XII would earn the  “Flu Game” nickname. Also like game 5, that nickname may not be entirely accurate. In fact, MJ wore the black/varsity-red Jordan XII for all road games throughout the 1997 playoffs. Nevertheless, the nickname for both the game and the shoe stuck. 

The Air Jordan XII flu game, front view.
Air Jordan XII

HISTORY OF THE JORDAN XII 

The Jordan XII originally released in November 1996 in the white/black/taxi colorway. Over the next few months, four additional colorways would be released bringing the grand total of OG XII colorways to five. Jordan would wear the XII for the entirety of the ‘96-’97 season and throughout the ‘97 playoffs. 

The black/varsity-red XII released in June 1997. This was a pivotal time in Air Jordan sneaker history as Jordan Brand, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nike, had officially launched earlier that year. The Jordan XII therefore became the first numbered Jordan to release under the Jordan Brand.  

The XII also stood out from its predecessors by being the first Jordan not to feature Nike branding on any part of the shoe. The Jordan I-VI had featured Nike branding externally, while the VII-XI featured Nike branding on the insole. The XII was also the last numbered Jordan to come in a Nike box. Subsequent Jordans would come in their own Jordan box. 

The Air Jordan XII flu game.
Air Jordan XII

INFLUENCE ON SCOTTIE PIPPEN

It is rumored that the Jordan XII also influenced Scottie Pippen’s Nike signature line. Pippen, who at the time was known for playing in “Big Air” models such as the Air Max Uptempo, Air More Uptempo and the Air Max Uptempo 3, had spent a portion of the ‘96-’97 season playing in the Jordan XII. His first signature shoe, the Air Pippen 1, was slated to release in early 1997. Like his previous sneakers, the Pippen 1 featured a full-length Air Max unit. 

Allegedly, Pippen chose to abandon Air Max technology in favor of the lighter, lower-to-the-ground Zoom Air technology after playing in the Jordan XII. He had Nike create a special player exclusive version of the Pippen 1 for him to wear shortly before the playoffs which replaced the total length Air Max unit with encapsulated Zoom Air cushioning. While that custom Zoom version was never released to the public, Pippen would use Zoom Air technology in most of his shoes going forward. He made this change shortly after spending a portion of the season ballin in the Jordan XII. Hard not to credit the XII with this change!

The Air Jordan XII flu game, in box.
Air Jordan XII

DESIGN FEATURES

Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Jordan XII drew inspiration from the Japanese rising sun flag and a 19th century Japanese women’s shoe called a “Nisshoki”. The XII was the first Jordan to feature Zoom Air cushioning, which ran the full length of the shoe, encapsulated in a Phylon midsole. The Jordan XII also featured full grain leather and Durabuck upper, making it one of the most durable members of the Jordan line. Similar to the XI, the XII used the carbon fiber midfoot support shank. The outsoles were equipped with a modified herringbone pattern for better traction. 

From a performance standpoint, the XII did well although the sole, despite being well cushioned, was somewhat heavy and inflexible, making up most of the shoe’s 18.4 ounce weight.  

The Air Jordan XII flu game, bottom view.
Air Jordan XII

PRICE

After originally releasing in 1997, the black/red Jordan XII has retroed three times: in 2003, 2009 and 2016. 

The 1997 Jordan XII “Flu Game” retailed at $135 (about $216 in 2020). The 2003 retros also retailed at $135 (about $188 in 2020). The 2009 retros retailed at $150 (about $179 in 2020) and the 2016 retros retailed at $190 (about $203 in 2020). 

Adjusted for inflation, the original 1997 release was the most expensive, while the 2003 and 2009 retros steadily declined in price before the 2016 retros saw a sharp rise. 

Kicksigma

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