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Game-worn Jordan shoes questioned

An auction house is offering the winning bidder of a pair of shoes, advertised as worn by Michael Jordan during his freshman year at North Carolina, a chance to return them and get his money back.

An official from Grey Flannel Auctions told ESPN.com on Saturday that it had received a letter from Lindsay Reed, who was a student manager on the team in the year before Jordan's freshman year (1980-81) and the team statistician for Jordan's freshman year, that assured them that what they sold days ago for $33,387 could not have been game-worn by Jordan.

"The 1981-1982 UNC basketball team did not wear blue Converse basketball shoes at any point during the ... season," Reed wrote. "I challenge anyone to produce a photograph of a 1981-82 UNC basketball game (home or away) in which any member of the 1981-1982 UNC basketball team is wearing blue Converse shoes. No such photo exists."

After word of the sale started to spread, doubts emerged among those familiar with North Carolina basketball history. Broadcaster Wes Durham, whose father Woody was the "Voice of the Tar Heels" from 1971 to 2011, tweeted: "The shoe was worn prior to his arrival ('79 to '81), but don't recall that model being worn after he arrived."

Although Grey Flannel executives were told by the consigner, who produced documentation of his friendship with Jordan from that era, that the shoes were game-worn, the auction house did not have a picture of Jordan wearing anything other than white Converse shoes from that season. Grey Flannel's Michael Russek said at the time he was comfortable with the consigner's story because so few public pictures existed of Jordan's shoes during his freshman year.

Reed surmised in his letter that Jordan could have received the shoes from one of his teammates who had the shoes from the previous season, and that Jordan could have even worn them -- just not in a game.

Said Russek: "They are still fantastic shoes."

Grey Flannel said at the time of the sale that the collector who bought the shoes wished to remain anonymous.

On Saturday, 24th-ranked North Carolina played No. 12 Ohio State while wearing retro 1980s uniforms with Air Jordan XI shoes. The Tar Heels won82-74.

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Darren Rovell discusses the value of Michael Jordan memorabilia from his playing days at North Carolina and with the Chicago Bulls.

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