- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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The shoes Michael Jordan wore in his famous "Flu Game" sold for $104,765 early Thursday morning, shattering the record price paid for a pair of game-worn shoes in any sport.
The shoes, brought to the market by Grey Flannel Auctions and consigned by former Utah Jazz ball boy Preston Truman, were worn by Jordan during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals in which Jordan scored 38 points for the Chicago Bulls despite laboring up and down the court from feeling sick that day.
The identity of the winning bidder was not immediately made public, but the amount paid blew away the previous record paid for a pair of game-used shoes, which were also worn by Jordan. A collector paid $31,070 just last month for a pair that Jordan wore in his rookie season.
Truman was able to secure the shoes, after developing a relationship with Jordan, which started when he says he one day fetched Jordan's traditional pregame applesauce during the 1996-97 season.
When Jordan came back to Utah for the Finals that year, Truman says he brought Jordan applesauce even though Jordan wasn't in an eating mood. While Jordan was said to be suffering flu-like symptoms, Jordan's trainer Tim Grover said years later that he was sure it was from food poisoning from a pizza Jordan ate the night before.
After the game, which put the Bulls up 3-2 and one game from winning their fifth title, Jordan gave Truman his shoes from the game.
Besides the story, Truman provided the auction with a photo of Jordan signing the shoes for him that night, which matched the suit from pictures of him leaving the Delta Center.
"I think my photo that Jordan's bodyguard took with me standing there drove up the price because buyers didn't have to worry if they were real," Truman told ESPN.com.
Photos from the game and of the broadcast also showed Truman taking care of the Bulls bench.
Even though Truman said he secured many pairs of game-used shoes from players during his seasons as a ball boy, he said he did it for the challenge instead of as a collector. Never getting attached to the shoes themselves made them easier to sell.
"I have looked at the shoes maybe four times since putting them in a safety deposit box 16 years ago," Truman said. "I would go years without even thinking about it. ... I just didn't see the point to something so cool and a part of NBA history sitting at my bank anymore."
The pair of size 13 shoes are also autographed by Jordan.
About five years ago, Truman thought about parting with the shoes, so he provided Christie's auction house with the details. After they came back with an estimate of $5,000, Truman put them back at the bank. This year, a friend convinced him to put them on the market and the estimate was more bullish from Grey Flannel, who sold a pair of game-used rookie Air Jordans for $21,780.
Online bidding for these shoes started at $5,000 last month and, after 15 bids, topped the $100,000 mark.
Truman said the proceeds of the auction won't go to anything "overly exciting," besides the usual college education fund for his children and car payments.
Although he says selling the shoes was never about the money, he has another revenue stream for the future: a pair of game-used shoes Jordan wore in the 1998 Finals.
5dEthan Sherwood Strauss
6dMatt Walks, ESPN.com