Unlocking a Great Jayhawk Mystery

An investigation

These are Jayhawk Jordan 13s. They were probably made in 2004 or 2005. They’re basically impossible to find in the wild, and the ones that were briefly available sold for thousands. (StockX has a listing whose metadata shows that they were once listed for $10,000, but my guess is that’s pulling info from somewhere else). Also, they’re Jordan 13s—the good Jordans are 11s, 12s and 13s, don’t even dream of @-ing me—with Jayhawk colors and a custom logo on the tongue. This is a “grail” if there ever was one.

So, what’s the deal with these guys?

Here’s what I know, based on both the literature available as well as some Getty surfing: Indeed, the Jayhawks wore Jordans. Nike’s contract with Kansas expired before the ‘05-'06 regular season, making the 2004-05 season—Self’s first—Kansas’s last with Nike, possibly forever. While this PE (that’s Player Exclusive, for those who have not yet broken their own brains sneaker shopping) didn’t arise until the second half of that campaign, as far as I can tell, Jordans were staples on that team—here’s a shot of Wayne Simien wearing 6s while doing some very high school senior photo-style portrait work before his final season as a Jayhawk began.

Keith Langford, who is one of the best personalities that has ever been a Jayhawk, spoke to Nice Kicks at length about his college rotation, which included a ton of shoes that are still highly coveted today. Here’s what he said, emphasis mine:

Because Roy Williams had the relationship with Michael Jordan as an assistant coach at North Carolina to Dean Smith, we were able to get exclusive gear. I still have those PEs on ice. They might resurface one day for an alumni game at Kansas. Those are special. I’m not a big fan of the 13s to play in, but for the exclusiveness those are great. I played in the Flints and I love those, but for some reason the shoe strings on the 13s were always difficult to keep tied tight. Still, the Flints are undeniable and probably my favorite 13s.

When I was a young guy, I remember the varsity team at Dunbar High School in Fort Worth came out and all had them on and everybody in the crowd went crazy. I envisioned myself wearing them one day on a big stage and luckily I was able to get some. In college, we were able to meet different Nike contacts and Jordan people from our time at school and then I would get invited to work Nike Camps as a counselor during the summer. You’d work with the kids during the day then in the evenings you’d have private workouts in front of NBA people. When you met these people and got invited to the camp and you’d get gear. Like I worked the Michael Jordan Camp in Santa Barbara and you get gear that way during the summer and make the contacts. They’d send shoes and ask for feedback and it worked out well.

So, the piece of the puzzle relating to the “how” of it all certainly seems to point back to Langford: he worked the Jordan camps, is a cool guy that Jordan brand wanted to flood with gear, and he plugged up everyone else. Here’s A Miles taking on JamesOn Curry in the Jayhawk 13s. I remember Michael Lee wearing them as well, but that could totally be my imagination—while dead links on long-archived websites suggest Lee had a pair, I’m yet to find concrete visual evidence.

The big piece of the mystery—for me at least—is how to get a pair and how many were made. Many of the sizes I’ve seen listed for (possibly fake) auctions is 12.5, or 13—it’s pretty possible I’ve been following the same two or three pairs all these years as they switch hands. That number suggests that either the shoe being sold was a sample or it was actually issued to a player—one shoe I tracked was sized in the high teens, if memory serves, I wanna say size 17. If any of these samples still exist (on ice, or not) I would love to know where they’re at, and how they got there.

The Jordans might end up having a mixed legacy with superstitious Jayhawk fans—see here. (That shot is… something). But 13s were clean as hell and probably the last time KU had a custom pe that really popped. It won’t happen this way again—any kind of classic Jordan reissue is calibrated to either connect with a wide audience (i.e. not one specific college hoops team) or a coveted demographic (tastemakers, sneaker re-sellers). adidas has gotten better over time but you can pretty much torch any of the sneakers they wore from ‘05-’08 and never have to think about them again.

Point being: KU had a Jordan moment, and it was a really tight one. Talk to you guys soon.