words // Brandon Richard
What makes the IX one of the more collectible Air Jordans in the series is the ability to change its identity by simply switching up the number embroidery on the heel. Throughout the years, we've seen Penny Hardaway's "1," Mike Bibby's "10," Randy Moss' "84," Derek Jeter's "2" and Michael Jordan's "45," but did you miss out on Shaquille O'Neal's "34?"
As the story goes, the Jordan Brand flirted with the idea of adding Shaq to their athlete roster after he won his first championship in 2000. The idea resulted in the creation of 'Home' and 'Away' Air Jordan IX Player Exclusives for Shaq in Laker colorways. Obviously the union never became a reality and the size 23 customs never hit the Staples Center floor.
Despite that, a few pairs have managed to land in the hands of collectors over the years and the Jordan Brand's XX8 Days of Flight gives us a great reason to take a look at both colorways.
First, there's the Lakers-themed 'Home' colorway owned by long-time collector Dependable Jay. Like the Kobe IX, the Shaq PE features a white leather upper with a purple patent mudguard and midsole. What makes the shoe different is the gold-lined interior, pull-tab and black rubber outsole.
Then, there's the black-based, gold-accented 'Away' shoe that was listed by isoldit on eBay a few years back. The auction was for a left shoe only and fetched several thousand dollars. We also shot a complete pair when Gentry Humphrey gave us a look at his closet for Issue 22 back in 2008.
How would Shaquille's sneaker legacy have changed had he joined the Jordan Brand in his prime as opposed to finishing up in Dunk.Net, his own Dunkman brand and Li-Ning?