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Michael Jordan shoes auctioned for US$104,000, proceeds to pay off tuition

SALT LAKE CITY -- Michael Jordan's shoes from the famous flu game of the 1997 NBA Finals were sold for more than US$100,000 in an online auction on Thursday.

The Nike Air Jordan XII shoes were owned by a Utah Jazz ball boy who befriended Jordan when the Chicago Bulls visited Salt Lake City. Jordan was playing with what he thought was the flu, but still led the Bulls to a key victory in the NBA Finals.

Preston Truman has said he asked for Jordan's shoes after the game. He kept them locked in a safe-deposit box at a Utah bank for 15 years. He turned down an US$11,000 offer for the size-13 shoes from a collector the next season.

Thursday's sale followed several weeks of bidding. The collector wasn't identified.

Online bidding started at US$5,000 before soaring to US$104,765 when bidding was closed, said Michael Russek, operations director for Grey Flannel Auctions in Westhampton, New York.

Truman was “thrilled” and “really happy with the overall number,” Russek said. “He has no crazy plans other than paying off his college tuition.”

Russek called it “the most expensive pair of game-used footwear that anyone has ever sold. It just smashed the record.”

Grey Flannel previously sold a pair of game-used rookie Air Jordans for US$21,780 that also had been used by Jordan. More recently, another auction house sold a pair of shoes Jordan wore in his rookie season for US$31,070, Russek said.

A message relayed by the auction house to Truman wasn't immediately returned.

Truman befriended Jordan by fetching him his favorite pre-game snack, the former ball boy told The Salt Lake Tribune last month.

It started with a challenge from Jordan: “There will be no autographs for ball boys after the game if I don't get my applesauce.”

With 45 minutes until tipoff in an early season 1996 game, Truman dashed through the Salt Lake City arena looking for applesauce. He finally secured an industrial-sized container from a commissary. Jordan was grinning: “You came through,” he told Truman.

When the Chicago Bulls came back for the finals months later, Truman had more applesauce waiting for Jordan along with a bold request: “Are you doing anything with your shoes after the game?”

Jordan looked him in the eye and said, “Why, you want them?” Truman said he would be honored.

After leading the Bulls to a critical victory, scoring 38 points despite having to be helped on and off the court by teammates, Jordan gave the red-and-black shoes to Truman.

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Michael Jordan autographs his shoes from the famous “flu” game of the 1997 NBA Finals, for ball boy Preston Truman, left, after the Chicago Bulls played the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake ...

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