UNC basketball: Caleb Love will not wear Jordan 11 this season

North Carolina's Caleb Love (2) tries to hit a three-pointer as time runs out in Kansas' 72-69 victory over UNC in the NCAA Men's National Championship at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana , Monday, April 4, 2022 .

North Carolina’s Caleb Love (2) tries to hit a three-pointer as time runs out in Kansas’ 72-69 victory over UNC in the NCAA Men’s National Championship at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana , Monday, April 4, 2022 .

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North Carolina junior guard Caleb Love has played his entire sophomore season in different iterations of the Air Jordan 11 shoes.

He wore the “Concords” when his last three 3-pointers fought Syracuse in the regular season finale at home to the Tar Heels, finishing with 21 points.

He rocked the all-black “Cap and gowns” when he scored 22 points as the Tar Heels spoiled Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Then he switched shoes at halftime after scoring just three points in the first half of Carolina’s NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament against UCLA. Love turned into the all-blue Carolina “Pantones” and burst for 27 points in the second half to lead the Heels to victory.

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North Carolina’s Caleb Love (2) passes the ball during the first half of NC State’s game against UNC at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday February 26, 2022. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

Love’s final portrayal of last season was him stepping into those same Pantones for the potential 3-point shot at the buzzer against Kansas in the national title game. Turns out, that was Love’s last snapshot period in her Beloved 11s.

“MJ said I couldn’t (wear them) anymore,” said Love, who didn’t actually speak directly to Michael Jordan. “So I moved on. They’re all in the crib now. We’ll make it work, though. I have shoes in the closet that I can bring that will represent me.

The iconic Jordan 11 with the shiny patent leather and translucent outsole was first released in 1995. Jordan Brand now prefers its new shoes to be worn on the court.

Love wore all white Jordan XXXVI shoes — last year’s shoe from Jordan’s signature line — in Carolina’s win last Friday over Johnson C. Smith University.

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North Carolina’s Caleb Love (2) throws a three-point attempt past the bench Johnson C. Smith during an exhibition game Friday, October 28, 2022 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC Love leads all scores with 20 points. Robert Willette [email protected]

The 11 are gone, but not forgotten, especially after Love planted his foot and spun to head for the basket early in the first half against the Bulls in last week’s exhibition game. As he exploded forward, his right shoe, ejected like a parachute, flew off his foot.

Love’s mind immediately wandered to two things as he put his foot back in the shoe.

“I just thought of the 11s, I thought of (Eric) Hoots,” Love said. “I’m like, man, this is crazy.”

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Caleb Love (2) of North Carolina loses his shoe as he heads for the basket in the first half against Johnson C. Smith during an exhibition game Friday, October 28, 2022 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill , North Carolina Robert Willett [email protected]

Eric Hoots, director of basketball operations at UNC, was the one who suggested with just a look and a nod that Love change shoes at halftime of the Tar Heels’ Sweet 16 game. Hoots is also in contact with the Jordan Brand representative who works with UNC basketball to ensure the Tar Heels get the team shoes they demand.

Carolina is one of the first teams to get access to Dallas Mavericks goaltender Luka Doncic’s new signature shoe, the Luka 1, made by Jordan Brand. Some of Love’s teammates have already transitioned to wearing them.

The good thing about heels is that love isn’t superstitious. He didn’t wear 11s in first year. And his first game as a junior without all 11, albeit an exhibition, he scored 20 points on 50% shooting from the floor – including four 3-pointers – and led the team with eight assists.

“He’ll have a lot of cool shoes this year, so stay tuned,” forward Armando Bacot said. “He’s got a lot of heat in his locker that people haven’t seen, so be prepared.”

This story was originally published November 2, 2022 5:40 a.m.

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CL Brown covers the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer. Brown brings more than two decades of reporting experience, including stints as a beat writer at Indiana University and the University of Louisville. After a long stint at the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he won an APSE award, he stopped by ESPN.com, The Athletic and even tried his hand at running his own website, clbrownhoops.com.

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