How the Air Jordan XIII Flint Exploded in College Basketball

By Ian Stonebrook

During his reign in Chicago, the gap between MJ lacing up his sneakers on the NBA hardwood and fans lacing up those same shoes in the driveway was wide.

By the Spring of 1998, things were beginning to change. Preparing for retirement and launching the Jordan Brand, MJ’s shoes were suddenly subject to endorsement by his NBA peers and collegiate kids soon followed.

Once MJ left the game, wearing his shoes and wearing his number became commonplace across the country and on big stages. While MJ was still active, however, doing so was almost a brag that few could back.

At the collegiate level, the Air Jordan 13 “Flint” changed all of that. Released while MJ was a Bull but never worn by #23 in a game, the blue palette played well to the bluebloods of NCAA basketball.

Tied to the GOAT but not defined by his active accomplishments, the non-Chicago colorway of the “Flint” 13s allowed the next generation of ballers to be like Mike but write their own story. From the Pac-10 to the Big-10, All-American talent made the “Flint” 13s their shoe of choice in a manner that previous models couldn’t compare to.

“I got the 13s myself,” former Arizona standout and eventual Jordan Brand signee Mike Bibby recalled in 2017 of his time in college. “I wore the White/Red 13s at home and Flints with our away uniforms. I always wanted to be with Jordan and I loved Jordans.”

Even though Arizona was a premier Nike school with early access to Uptempos, Foamposites and more, Bibby and his backcourt partner Miles Simon sought after the Flint 13s when defending their title in the 1997-98 season.

“The 13s are ultimately a great look for a shoe,” Simon said on the Flints back in 2017. “My favorite color is blue, so I liked these because they went well with our uniform and school colors.”

The 1998 launch of the Flint 13s was a major moment for members of the Wildcats and hoopers across the country. Michigan’s Robert “Tractor” Traylor rocked the Flint 13s in a junior season campaign that saw him average a double-double in Ann Arbor and become a lottery pick in the NBA Draft that summer.

Out East in Storrs, Khalid El-Amin set the pace at PG for UCONN in the Flint 13s before ‘shocking the world’ and becoming a National Champion.

By the time the Air Jordan 13 returned in 2004 for the first time ever, hoopers were already clamoring for a second shot at the Flints. Fittingly, the Flints returned in March of 2005 just in time for the Big Dance.

The shoes played a role in Jordan Brand courting a familiar friend and rekindling memories.

“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,” Kansas guard Keith Langford recalled.

Back in 2005, Langford was a star guard at Kansas and Jordan Brand was looking to add the Jayhawks to the family.

“I played in the Flints and I love those,” Langford noted. “The Flints are undeniable and probably my favorite 13s.”

MJ liked Coach Williams enough to lace Kansas with Air Jordan 13 retros to include the Flints and also a team exclusive PE. While the ‘05 Flints almost made Kansas a Jordan school, it proved a kick of conversion for MJ’s famous foe that played down the road in front of the Cameron Crazies.

“The team shoes weren’t getting the job done for us,” Duke guard Daniel Ewing remembered looking back at the early ‘00s in Durham. “So we’d go get the Js that fit our colors and rock them.”

For Ewing, a pair of Js that fit Duke’s colors was the Flint 13s. Ewing would rock the retro Flint 13s in the NCAA Tournament for his last game as a Blue Devil, capping off an incredible collegiate career with a diverse rotation of kicks.

Even in 2005, retro Jordans were coveted by all. All included the starting point guard for the biggest program in college hoops.

“Back then, all the shoes appointed to us by Nike Basketball weren’t really cool kicks,” Ewing noted on the odd era that was somewhat defined by team shoes. “So, I would buy all of my shoes out of Footlocker and most of those shoes were Jordans.”

Ewing and Langford were among a slew of stars that made the Flint 13s their own in college on the shoe’s second run in 2005.

Fans would have to wait five more years for the Flint 13s to return. Thankfully, college hoopers could have them at the start of the season.

Launching on Black Friday of 2010, the Flint 13s would hit stores just days after the preliminary exhibition tournaments kicked off. Players at UNC, Pitt, Florida, Villanova, Memphis, Arizona and more would all lace the Flint 13 retros that season.

For the Arizona stars that rocked the OG Flints back in ‘98, the shoes still last the test of time.

“One of my rules about shoes is regardless of how great they look they still have to play very well,” Simon said back in 2017 reflecting on the OGs from ‘98. “These shoes had a great look — I liked the colors and the dimples on the shoe added some spice — and I liked the comfort and flexibility of this shoe, I was able to move around very well.”

For his teammate Bibby, the shoes were one piece of the puzzle when it came to becoming the first pure point guard on Team Jordan.

“MJ and I had the same agent when I was coming out of college,” noted Bibby on signing with David Falk once he went pro. “So when he asked me if I wanted to wear Jordans I told him, ‘Hell yeah!’”

To Bibby the choice was easy.

“There was just no other option that I would rather do,” recalls Bibby. “No matter how you bring Jordans out, they’re always going to be hot and there will always be people running around looking for them. To be a member of Brand Jordan and get stuff for free is one of the biggest things you can do as a basketball player or a sneakerhead.”

Jordan Brand talent would connect the Flint 13s to the college game for years to come. When Drake appeared at Kentucky’s Midnight Madness in 2014, the Flint 13s were on his feet in layup lines.

With the 2020 retro releasing this month, all OG attributes are intact from the reflective 3M panelling to the can’t miss hologram.

Impacting the game at each release, Kansas alum Keith Langford recalls the importance of the retro release in 2005 when he was playing college hoops, but it all came back to when the OGs dropped in his childhood.

“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,” Langford said. “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.”

This May, plenty of hoopers old and young will have that same chance to relive old memories and dream of new ones.

College basketball may be on hiatus for right now, but expect the Flint 13s to matter to hoopers across the country this summer and for pairs to resurface in the Big Dance next spring.

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