Michael Jordan's Rookie Sneakers Expected to Sell for Record Price at Auction
Sotheby's is selling the six-time NBA champion's earliest worn pair of Nike Air Ships.
The sneakers, included in Sotheby's "Icons of Excellence & Haute Luxury" collection, are expected to be the most valuable ever offered at auction. Sotheby's estimates the pair will sell for $1 million to $1.5 million; the current record stands at $615,000 for a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1 High game-worn sneakers from 1985, sold by Christies in August 2020.
The Air Ships, designed by Bruce Kilgore, come from a former Denver Nuggets ball boy, whom Jordan gifted the sneakers to after the game.
“Michael Jordan’s items are perhaps the most coveted," Brahm Wachter, head of Sotheby’s streetwear and modern collectibles, told CNBC in an interview this week. "We put up a lot of other valuable memorabilia items, but I would say on a kind of ongoing and continuous basis Michael Jordan’s market is really strong."
The most expensive sneaker ever sold by an auction house was Kanye West's "Grammy Worn" Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes, which garnered $1.8 million. But that was a private sale.
In 1984, Jordan partnered with Nike for the sneaker collaboration that would be the first of its kind. The signature line of shoes set the stage for the many player-brand collaborations that continue to this day.
But the NBA wasn't a fan of the Air Ship collection. In 1985, the organization sent a letter to Nike, saying the colorful sneakers were a violation of the league's uniformity of uniform clause and Jordan would be fined $5,000 every time he donned them on the court.
Nike capitalized on the NBA's displeasure with an enormously successful ad campaign, saying that even though “the NBA threw [the shoes] out of the game, fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.” Today, the Air Jordan brand is worth billions.