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Record Set For Michael Jordan's 1985 Game-Worn Nikes

Basketball legend and billionaire, Michael Jordan’s game-worn Nike Air Jordan 1s from 1985 broke records in an online auction.

The record-breaking shoes (c) Sotheby's

Selling for US$560,000, the shoes broke the world auction record for any pair of sneakers, surpassing the previous record set for the Nike 1972 Nike Waffle Racing Flat ‘Moon Shoe’ sold for US$437,500 last July.

Following a competition between ten bidders over a 10 day online bidding period, the value was driven up by US$300,000 within the final twenty minutes of the sale. Ultimately the pair achieved more than 3.5x their US$150,000 high estimate at the Sotheby's auction. Bidders ranging from age 19 to over 50, participating across 4 continents, with 70 percent of bidders new to Sotheby’s.

The pair was sold coinciding with the final episode of the popular ESPN documentary ‘The Last Dance’, spotlighting the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan’s legendary career.

Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Director of eCommerce Development, commented: “We saw tremendous bidding up until the moment the sale closed, with the value more than doubling in the final hour alone. It shows not only the incredible appeal of Michael Jordan as one of the most recognizable and legendary athletes of all time, but also that sneaker collecting is truly a global and growing market.” 

The Vintage Originals from 1985 are in the Chicago Bulls white, black and red - the Air Jordan 1 colorway that Michael Jordan wore the most often on the court. In 1984, Nike gave Jordan a signature line of shoes and clothes – a crucial, unprecedented move to entice Michael Jordan to sign with Nike. Produced between February to April 1985, Jordan wore the pair of Air Jordan 1s during an early, pivotal point of his career and thus catapulted the sneaker’s popularity.


The record-breaking shoes (c) Sotheby's 

The Jordan exclusive features unique variations from the public release of the sneaker: MJ’s are Mids, whereas Nike released only Highs and Lows to the public in 1985; the iconic Swooshes are longer, leaner, and more aggressive; and the pair is made from a different material and features red laces, varying from the public offering with only black and white laces. Designed by Peter Moore, the name 'Air Jordan' was coined by Michael Jordan's agent David Falk.

The right shoe features Michael Jordan’s signature in black permanent marker, unlike many of Jordan’s Game Worn Autographed shoes which are signed with a ball point pen that wears away over time. On offer in remarkable condition, the pair shows frequent wear in comparison to most of Michael Jordan’s other Game Worn Shoes, as he wore a new pair of shoes in every game later in his career.

Beautifully creased, black and red and white slashes and markings on the uppers are presumably from the shoes knocking into each other or into the shoes of opponents while Jordan wore them to battle. Wearing mismatched shoes most of his career, the pair is in a size 13 (left shoe) and a 13.5 (right shoe).

As the first signature bespoke-made sneaker, it paved the way for other star players like Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Penny Hardaway to have their own signature shoes. 

The shoes were sold from the collection of Jordan Geller, noted sneaker collector and founder of the ShoeZeum, the world's first shoe museum.

Geller said: "These are the most iconic and coveted sneakers of all time. Sneaker fanatics and collectors from all over the world came to the ShoeZeum to admire them and they were the crown jewel of the museum."

The record-breaking shoes (c) Sotheby's

In 1984, Michael Jordan’s black and red shoes (Air Ships) became controversial after the NBA sent a letter to Nike in February of 1985 informing the company that Jordan’s colorful shoes were a violation of the league’s uniformity of uniform clause, and forbid Jordan from wearing them. Nike responded by creating an ad campaign around Jordan’s banned shoes, remarking that while “the NBA threw them out of the game, fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.”

The Air Jordan 1s were created in the wake of the famous banned Nike ad campaign, and established MJ as the league's leader in shoe style. The unparalleled sneaker became so popular that Nike continued to make new signature Air Jordans each season.