Graham crackers and applesauce. That's all Michael Jordan wanted during an early-season game in Utah. The Bulls' trainer had his graham crackers, but applesauce was nowhere to be found.
"There will be no autographs for ball boys after the game if I don't get my applesauce," Jordan announced. That set 18-year-old Jazz ball boy Preston Truman off and running through the bowels and corridors of the Delta Center. He found an industrial-sized can, managed to get it to Jordan in time for tip-off, and was rewarded with an autographed trading card. "Maybe I'll see you in June," Jordan told him.
Truman tells his story to the Salt Lake Tribune, and the peg is purely capitalistic—he's auctioning off the sneakers worn by Jordan during Game 5 of the 1997 finals, the famous flu game in which Jordan sprung for 38 points despite a debilitating stomach bug. (Or maybe a hangover. Or maybe deliberate poisoning.) Bidding starts at $5,000, but they're expected to fetch many times that figure.
But how did Truman end up with a wonderful piece of NBA memorabilia? More applesauce. The Bulls and Jazz met in the finals that season, and as luck would have it, Truman was assigned to the visitor's locker room. Before Game 3 he had his mother buy graham crackers and applesauce cups, and had them waiting in Jordan's locker when he arrived. "You remembered?" Truman remembers Jordan asking. "That's my guy right there. It's Preston, right?"
Truman worked Game 5. He tended to Jordan before the game, running his errands while MJ laid on a trainer's table with an IV hooked up to his arm.
Truman leaned in and whispered—wondering whether this was a remotely sane thing to do—"Are you doing anything with your shoes after the game?"
Jordan looked him in the eye. "Why, you want them?"
"I would be honored," he said.
Truman shows up in videos and photos of the flu game (that's him toweling down Jordan in the picture above), and hovered around him at halftime too, at one point fetching a spoon so MJ could down three cups of applesauce. And then, when it was all over—Truman says he realized right away he had seen something special—he hung around the locker room waiting to see if Jordan would remember.
Jordan showered and dressed, and when the equipment manager reached down to pick the shoes up and pack them away, MJ told him to hold it. "Those are his," he said, pointing to Truman. He later signed both shoes while one of his bodyguards snapped photos. He then rubbed the top of Truman's head and left.
It's those photos which allowed the auction house to verify that the shoes—which have spent the last 15 years in a safe deposit box—were the ones from the flu game. The auction opens next week. They're yours if you want them.
Ex-Jazz ball boy selling Jordan's shoes from legendary 'Flu Game' [Salt Lake Tribune]