After two weeks of patience and email correspondence, I finally had them in my hands. My double-boxed and meticulously packaged 2001 Jordan XI ‘Breds’ had survived 48 hours of international transit and the reportedly sticky fingers of airport-employed Jordan collectors between Kuala Lumpur and my home in Perth.

By Ben Menzies

I unpacked my prized acquisition with the incisive precision of a doctor delivering a newborn baby. As I liberated them from their cramped cardboard stronghold, a moment was shared and a silent, completely mutual agreement was made between myself and the shoes. I was going to wear the shit out of them, and they were going to enjoy it accordingly. Or so I thought.
If you’ve ever glanced at any of the countless sneaker forums, you’d know history would suggest that these things rarely run their desired course without the odd heart-wrenching catastrophe or two occurring on the way. Having already purchased, played in and ticked off several previously unattainable Jordan instalments after an eight year hiatus from basketball (Last Shots, Space Jams, Flu Games, Concords etc) and gone deli-section H.A.M. on my Paypal account for a year and a half, I vowed the Breds would be my last purchase until I’d run each pair into the hardwood. It had been a great year and a half and I was on a roll, until I made the uneducated decision to actually use the vintage Bred XIs for their intended purpose.
I’ve used glue before and I even found out what it tasted like when I was at that tender age where you can’t help but wonder what glue tastes like.

I’m essentially a glue expert, or glueologist if you want to get technical, however, one thing this glueologist hadn’t researched was the ageing process of glue and its reluctance to bind hosting materials together during the levels of friction they were originally designed to withstand. Especially after 11 years in a cardboard box.

That night I walked into the Loftus Recreation Centre with the same sense of entitlement I always did whenever I was wearing something flashy and expensive. The bright stadium lights twinkled, complementing the patent leather perfectly and the polished hardwood seemed to accentuate the blood-red soles perfectly. Fast forward to game time and the stage was set for one of the greatest upsets in sporting history and a sizeable blemish on my otherwise flawless relationship with the Jordan brand.

Two minutes after tip-off my prized Jordan XIs slowly became less and less comfortable, each step further notifying me that things had gone awry and that my fucking shoes were falling apart. As stated though, it was game-time, not take-my-shoes-off-and-carry-on-about-how-much-money-I’d-wasted time, so I continued to ignore the fact that my Jordan XI Breds now felt like Jordan XI clogs until a certain inevitability sealed my fate.

Somewhere during transition defence, that iconic, semi-transparent blood-red bottom had detached from its wavy white upper. I only became aware of the mutiny as I watched the referee carelessly banish my sole to the sideline like a piece of flotsam washed up on a beach. It hurt to watch but I fought back the tears, played on and adjusted to the sudden loss of traction as best I could. For some reason I began thinking that if I took them to the cobbler around the corner from work tomorrow morning I could potentially have them back by lunchtime and I’d only be without them for half a day tops.
On the next play, as if possessed by some higher spiritual bond to its recently aborted twin, the other sole followed suit, ending up in the bleachers. This meant I was forced to play the rest of the game with nothing but a layer of slippery carbon fibre and some surrounding rubber separating my socks from the court. If you’ve ever played basketball on ice-skates, except the ice-skates are also made of ice, then you have a slight grasp of what I went through. I was Jordan against the Jazz in Game 5, except instead of a debilitating stomach virus I had some slippery shoes that were super annoying and stupid uncomfortable. The other difference between my game and the flu game was that I was actually rendered incapable of leading my team to victory in the face of such adversity.
I’ve since had the soles reattached to the uppers but the shellshock still lays dormant in the back of my mind, occasionally striking me with such impact that I can almost feel that frightening loss of traction from all those weeks ago. I’ve since retired them to a strict once-a-fortnight outing in the name of triumph over tragedy and also just to break a few unsuspecting necks.

As fate would have it, the Breds were re-released late last year, at which point my old pair were swiftly sent to the back of the rotation. I learnt a valuable lesson that night. Don’t expect to play basketball in an 11-year-old pair of basketball shoes, or something like that.