The Air Jordan 13 carried Michael Jordan through his famous “The Last Dance” season, ultimately playing an integral role in his sixth and final NBA Championship.
Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan 13 played off the baller’s Black Cat persona, sporting a sole inspired by that of a panther’s paw. Possessing a quilted upper, speed lacing system and hologram branding, there was a clear cut level of luxury and innovation on the futuristic Air Jordan 13 that made it popular upon its arrival in the 1997-98 NBA season.
Worn by Jordan for the duration of his final regular season with the Chicago Bulls, the Air Jordan 13 released in five mid-top takes over the course of that campaign, as well as two low-top takes. On court, Jordan played in four Air Jordan 13s tied to his team tones that took to retail as well, as two Air Jordan 13 Low player-exclusive colorways that did not release that season. Among the originals, “White/Red,” “White/Black,” “Black/White” and “Black/Red” renditions hit stores and were worn by Jordan in mid-top fashion, while a “Navy/Flint Grey” pair also hit stores, though never endorsed on the court by Jordan. Additionally, “Navy/Black” and “Black/Chutney” Air Jordan 13 Lows released in 1998, despite not being worn by Jordan as a Bull.
Famously, MJ played in the Air Jordan 13 in mid- and low-tops through the 1998 NBA Playoffs, only to debut the then-unreleased Air Jordan 14 in the 1998 NBA Finals. Despite the switch, the Air Jordan 13 remained remarkably popular in original form and years later as a retro release. After a short time away from retail, the Air Jordan 13 Retro released at stores in fall 2004, only six years after it had last been launched. As a lifestyle play, the Air Jordan 13 Retro debuted in a new “Wheat” colorway before returning in the original “Black/Red” makeup as a coveted holiday release.
Since returning in 2004, the Air Jordan 13 Retro remained in and out of stores for much of the 2000s and 2010s in mid-top and low-top form. Every original colorway of the Air Jordan 13 — both mid and low — have hit stores as a retro release, while imaginative new makeups have proved popular just the same. In 2005, the Air Jordan 13 Retro took on LS, or lifestyle, allocations by way of the very limited “Altitude” take that ushered in a new era of off-court collectibility for the hardwood classic. Similarly, the Air Jordan 13 Low released in a women’s-exclusive “White/University Blue” makeup in 2005 that extended the audience for the already applauded model.
Because of its creative design and endorsement by MJ in his final Chicago season, the Air Jordan 13 Retro has also remained popular in NBA action by athletes in the 2000s and 2010s. Jordan Brand endorsers such as Ray Allen, Quentin Richardson, Chris Paul, Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin and Dwyane Wade had been given Air Jordan 13 Retro player exclusives. Additionally, the Air Jordan 13 Retro has seen team exclusive takes for the University of North Carolina, the University of Oregon and Marquette University. The Air Jordan 13 Retro has also crossed over to the sports of football, baseball and golf in cleated form, appearing in player-exclusive takes while also seeing some styles released at retail for amateur athletes.
The sustained success of the Air Jordan 13 is ultimately rooted in its ties to MJ’s remarkable play and Hatfield’s creative design. For many, remembering Jordan’s last season in Chicago is enough nostalgia to make the Air Jordan 13 an all-time classic. For others, the shoe’s iconic hologram branding and ability to appear strong in an array of material plays, color stories and adaptations all offer the newness for the 1998 model to sustain time.
Whatever one’s reason is for loving the Air Jordan 13, the shoe has proven popular in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and now the 2020s. By being able to pull out palettes from the Air Jordan 13 Retros long list of player exclusives while also appearing malleable enough to take on topical themes from in and outside of sneaker culture, the Air Jordan 13 Retro will continue to release in an array of styles that will appeal to a wide audience of all ages and eras.