Preston Truman Rumors
Michael Jordan’s superstitions have been well documented through the years, but thanks to a former Jazz ball boy even more are coming out. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Preston Truman, a ball boy for the Jazz in the mid-1990s, will be auctioning off the shoes worn by Jordan in the famous Game 5 “Flu Game” between the Bulls and Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals.
Truman, who worked as a ball boy for the Jazz from the 1996-97 season to the 1999-2000 season, says it helped that the two were the same age. Plus, Bryant was often “kind of off by himself” in a Lakers locker room that was ruled by surly veterans Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. “That Lakers team was so dysfunctional,” Truman says. “They didn’t want to give him the time of day. It was kind of like he found refuge in talking to me.”
The former Jazz ball boy’s tale began in November 1996, with Truman standing slack-jawed while Jordan tied his shoes before a regular-season game. “Hey,” Jordan called to Chicago Bulls trainer Chip Schaefer. “Where are my graham crackers and applesauce?” This was, it seems, important. Schaefer stopped taping another player’s ankle and searched his bag: Graham crackers, but no sauce. So Jordan turned to Truman. “There will be no autographs for ball boys after the game if I don’t get my applesauce.”
“I’m 35, and 40’s just right around the corner, and it seems like time goes by faster the older you get,” he says. “Maybe it’s just time to get those things out there.” He reached out to auction houses, which verified that his shoes were the real McCoy by checking that Jordan’s suit in the photos matched what he was seen wearing earlier that night, and that the shoes bore identifiable scuff marks (which luckily they still did, even though Truman at one point narrowly prevented his mom from cleaning them off with a dish rag). Bidding on the most iconic memorabilia from the most iconic athlete in his most iconic game will begin at $5,000 on Nov. 18 at Grey Flannel Auctions. Similar items have gone for tens of thousands of dollars.
When the games were over, Truman says, the players drank a lot of beer. And not only in the locker room: The ball boys were often instructed to wheel out a cooler to the visiting team’s bus. Incidentally, Charles Barkley gave Truman the nickname “Zero” when he, not being a drinker himself, didn’t know to tilt the glass while pouring the Chuckster’s beer. Barkley was left, perhaps appropriately, with a big head.
Reality bites » The most surprising thing about being an NBA ball boy, Truman says, was seeing what these world-class athletes were consuming. Karl Malone would come in at 4 p.m. to watch “SportsCenter” while wolfing down popcorn, barbecue potato chips and Coke. (Truman says he would wait for the anchors to mention him and inevitably be offended at the characterization.) John Stockton usually took better care of himself, but Truman recalls an exhibition game at the Dee Events Center in Ogden where he snatched five snickerdoodle cookies from the press room. His teammates gave him grief, and he said it didn’t matter; he was only playing 10 minutes. Then he told a ball boy to go grab him some more snickerdoodles.