A former Utah Jazz ball boy is preparing to auction off the sneakers worn by Michael Jordan during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, when the guard famously battled through flu-like symptoms while leading the Chicago Bulls to a narrow victory.
Preston Truman revealed during a recent interview with the Salt Lake Tribune that Jordan gave him the shoes after the contest, known as “The Flu Game.”
Multiple auction houses have verified the authenticity of the sneakers, which Truman had been storing at a bank for nearly 17 years, according to the Tribune. Bidding will begin at $5,000 next Monday.
Despite suffering a stomach illness that nearly forced him to miss the game, Jordan scored 38 points in the pivotal Game 5, rallying the Bulls for a 90-88 victory and a 3-2 series lead. Although he has treasured the sneakers since receiving them, Truman said he is ready to part ways with the famous memorabilia.
“I’m 35, and 40’s just right around the corner, and it seems like time goes by faster the older you get,” he told the paper. “Maybe it’s just time to get those things out there.”
Truman, who was an 18-year-old ball boy for the Jazz during the 1996-97 season, told the Tribune that he granted a pregame request by Jordan when the Bulls were at the Delta Center for a regular-season game in November 1996.
Jordan was upset that he did not have any applesauce to eat prior to the game, prompting Truman to race through the Delta Center in search of the pregame snack, according to the Tribune.
Truman told the paper that he returned to the Bulls’ locker room with an industrial-sized can of applesauce for Jordan, who said, “You came through,” and later rewarded the ball boy with a postgame autograph.
The Bulls squared off with the Jazz again seven months later in the NBA Finals, with Games 3, 4 and 5 played in Utah. Truman told the Tribune that he brought another large quantity of applesauce to Jordan, who evidently appreciated the gesture.
Truman told the Tribune that he approached the physically ill Jordan prior to Game 5 and asked if the Hall of Famer would give him his shoes after the game.
When an equipment manager attempted to pack away the sneakers after the game, Jordan made sure that they instead went to Truman, autographing the shoes while a bodyguard took photos.
The Bulls went on to clinch their second straight NBA title in Game 6.