How the Flint XIII Became “The People’s Jordan”
Despite never being worn on-court by MJ, the Air Jordan XIII Flint became a classic and helped light the path for Jordan Brand’s future.
Words: Ian Stonebrook
Collages: Ian Woods
Everyone has a Flint XIII story. Well, everyone except MJ.
By all estimates, the Air Jordan Flint XIIIs were set to be MJ’s shoe of choice for his final NBA All-Star Game representing Chicago, fittingly under the bright lights in New York City. Facing off in the mecca, MJ would lead the league in votes, lead the game in scoring and lead the East to victory. Dropping – you guessed it – 23 points, MJ earned NBA All-Star Game MVP honors for the third and final time, all while proving he was still the best on basketball’s biggest stage.
It was all set to happen in the Flint XIIIs, but it didn’t.
Rather than debut the Flint XIIIs with a city-centric NBA All-Star uniform inspired by Lady Liberty or The Big Apple, MJ and the rest of the league’s elite wore their team jerseys for the mid-season classic.
Because of this, MJ donned his white team jersey, debuting the Playoff Air Jordan XIIIs at NBA All-Star Weekend for a preview of what he had in store for that spring. His blue and grey XIIIs would be shelved, even though the Flints hit stores that following Saturday.
Thus, the Flint XIIIs would never be tied to MJ. Instead, they’d be tied to the people. Championed across the country by collegiate stars in ’98, high school hopefuls in ’05 and sneakerheads of every age and era in 2010, the blue-based basketball shoe broke down barriers without the heavy weight of Chicago achievements, Carolina color stories or big screen appearances. The Flint XIIIs became a blank canvas for those looking to pen their own path to greatness, while still seeking inspiration from the greatest player the game had ever seen.
At that moment, in 1998, MJ was expanding his horizons, too. No longer was he nor the newly founded Jordan Brand defined exclusively by his performance on-court or the red and black #23 jersey. Instead, MJ was preparing himself for life beyond basketball, opening up a lane for other talents while still having a foot in the game.
With new rules yet the same standards, CEO Jordan was ready to not just give the world new shoes. He was ready to walk away from the game and let the world give these new shoes new meaning.
Few shoes represent MJ’s broader vision than that of the Flint XIIIs. To some, the Flint XIIIs foreshadowed the future of Jordan Brand and the future of the game. Built for the court, designed for basketball’s greatest by Tinker Hatfield and embraced by all, those blue Air Jordans would help inform the blueprints for many releases that followed.
“To some, the Flint XIIIs foreshadowed the future of Jordan Brand and the future of the game.”
The Air Jordan XIII, as a model, represented a new chapter, as they were the first Air Jordan signature to release under the Jordan Brand subsidiary, best distinguished by the new, shiny silver box. Of all the OG XIIIs, the Flint XIIIs were the lone, non-Chicago colorway that the people quickly made their own. With new branding, a lush, alive new colorway and new endorsers, this release forecasted Jordan Brand’s new direction and bright future.
Devoid of on-court endorsement from MJ, the impact of the Flints would be felt most in the spring of ’98 during the college game. Collegiate players in the mid- to late- ‘90s shared MJ’s sentiment that individual excellence alone can’t catalyze multiple championships on the stat sheet.
Future Jordan Brand athletes would be known to rock the Flint XIIIs on the hardwood in OG fashion, leading the narrative for the hologram hoop shoes for years to come.
Richard “Rip” Hamilton wearing the AJXIII “Flint” in Indianapolis in 2010
Equally enamored in its retro life, the Flint XIIIs were first and foremost a basketball shoe designed for high-power performance. Like many OG Air Jordans, the Flints would get heavy homage off the court, too. From rap royalty to baseball and basketball all-stars, the Air Jordan XIII Flint proved elite every drop, despite MJ never making memories in them himself.
Introduced at a time of transition for MJ, the Flint XIIIs proved to be “The People’s Jordan” in 1998, and they still are today. They became a classic by committee, as people from all walks of life made them their own. When it comes to this revered OG, no single story defines the Air Jordan XIII Flint – no particular player, no certified celebrity.
Only one Flint XIII story matters.
The Air Jordan XIII Flint is available starting May 30 on SNKRS and from select retailers.
Basketball court photography in collage #2 by Kevin Couliau, Bill Bamberger and Theophilus Mensah