Nearly twenty years after his retirement from the NBA, superstar Michael Jordan still dominates the basketball — and collecting — world.
A pair of Nike Air Ships Jordan wore during his rookie season in 1984 with the Chicago Bulls sold Sunday for nearly $1.5 million at Sotheby's, by far the highest amount ever paid for a pair of game-worn basketball shoes. Last year, a game-worn pair of red Air Jordan 1s worn by Jordan sold for $615,000 at Christie’s.
The most valuable pair of sneakers of any kind? Last April Sotheby's sold Kanye West's "Grammy Worn" Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes from 2008 for $1.8 million in a private sale. The Nike Air Ships carried a pre-auction estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. before the auction.
"This record-breaking result for the Jordan Nike Air Ships affirms the place of Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan franchise at the pinnacle of the sneaker market," said Sotheby's Brahm Wachter after Sunday's auction in Las Vegas. Well-known collector Nick Fiorella bought the record-setting Jordan-signed shoes for $1.47 million.
Jordan wore the Nike Air Ship shoes before Nike gave him his own line of shoes and clothing. It was the first time Nike ever collaborated with a player in such a fashion. Today, the Air Jordan brand is a household name and has made Michael Jordan a billionaire.
Jordan wore the shoes that were auctioned on Sunday during his fifth NBA game on Nov. 1, 1984, when the Chicago Bulls suffered a loss to the Denver Nuggets, 113-129. He gave the size 13 shoes to the Denver Nuggets ball boy after the game, and, according to Sotheby's, they have been kept in "good overall condition" ever since.
All indications are that the market for game-worn basketball shoes will continue to be sky high.
"We’ve seen time and again the ceiling for sneakers continue to be pushed, and we are excited about all the potential ahead of us,” said Wachter, head of Sotheby’s Streetwear and Modern Collectables.
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