Michael Jordan’s sneaker line has produced some of the most iconic basketball shoes of all-time. There are none more revered than the Concord 11s, which re-released on Saturday with the 45 on the heel for the first time since the original release in 1995.
However, the Concord 11s, not unlike the original Air Jordan 1, did not meet the NBA’s uniform requirements (which are happily gone for good this season) and earned Jordan a fine every game he wore them when he debuted the white and black colorway in the 1995 playoffs against the Orlando Magic.
The stars for the Magic in that series were Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, who was also a Nike athlete and had previously been given Jordan’s blessing to wear his Jordan 9 sneaker as a rookie. For Game 3 of the series, in an effort to avoid another fine, Jordan did something he had never done before and never did again: wore someone else’s sneaker.
With the re-release of the Concords on Saturday, Penny Hardaway spoke with Aaron Dodson of The Undefeated about that night and how Jordan came to wear his sneakers. As Penny remembers, he was stunned when he heard Mike wanted to wear a black pair of his Air Flight Ones and Nike quickly hustled him a few pairs.
“He’s Michael Jordan. He was the man. He didn’t ask me for them. He just told Nike to give them to him,” Hardaway said. “He said, ‘Hey, man, give me some of the kid’s shoes.’ I thought, Of course … how many pairs do you need? Do you need mine? It was like, ‘That’s Michael Jordan … wearing MY shoes.’”
It was a big moment for Hardaway, getting that kind of co-sign from the GOAT as a young player by doing something he never had before.
“We all know that Michael Jordan is one of the fiercest competitors ever. He’s not gonna wear just anybody’s shoe … he wouldn’t do that for a lot of people,” Hardaway said. “For him to do that for me, it was the ultimate level of respect.”
Hardaway and the Magic would go on to beat the Bulls in the series, 4-2, earning their first and only trip to the NBA Finals during that run before the team would split up with the departure of Shaq to the Lakers a few years later. Still, for a young Penny that was a major moment in his career and a special moment in sneaker history with Jordan wearing someone else’s shoe.