In May this year, the auction house Sotheby’s sold the world’s most expensive sneakers for $560,000; they were Nike Air Jordan 1s. In the Chicago Bulls’ signature colourway of red, white and black, these sneakers were just one variation of a hugely diverse and complicated sneaker family. Produced exclusively by Nike for Michael Jordan in 1984 (who was drafted third overall to the Chicago Bulls that year), the shoes were released to the public the following year – Nike sold $70 million worth of Air Jordans in the first two months alone. To say that the Nike x Air Jordan collaboration has been a success would be an understatement – the shoe practically created the cult sneaker culture we see today. And to think that the shooting guard initially favoured a deal with Adidas…
NBA, the sport’s official board, banned the black and red Nike Air Ships (the precursor to the Air Jordan) when it first started appearing in Chicago Bull games for breaking the league’s uniform rules, which mandated that players wear shoes that were 51 per cent white and matched the outfits and shoes worn by their teammates. Nike was unfazed, picking up the $5,000 fine every time Jordan walked onto the court and, in the process, developing an entire marketing campaign around the ‘banned’ sneakers. The rebellious attitude clearly worked in Nike’s favour, as the Air Jordan brand now earns upward of $2.3bn in revenue every year. As Jordan said, “It’s like a young kid. When your parents say you can’t do something, you want to do it more.”
From 30 July to 13 August, Christie’s and Stadium Goods have announced a selection of 11 historic lots chronicling Jordan’s career, now available to bid and browse on Christie’s sale page. The Original Air sale unites the greatest collection of rare and historic Michael Jordan footwear to be offered at one time. Spanning Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls from 1984 to 1998, the sale additionally features key highlights from other pivotal moments like Jordan’s tour-de-force performance on the global stage with the 1992 Olympic ‘Dream Team’ and his brief ‘retirement’ switch to baseball for the Chicago White Sox.
The top lot is the Air Jordan 1 High “‘Shattered Backboard’ Origin Story,” game-worn and signed by Jordan. It is estimated to sell for $650,000-$850,000. The one-of-a-kind pair dates to 25 August 1985, when Michael Jordan travelled to Trieste, Italy, to participate in a Nike-sponsored exhibition game. Wearing these Air Jordan 1 High Chicagos, Jordan scored 30 points. During a memorable play of the game, Jordan erupted with a dunk so powerful, it shattered the glass backboard into thousands of pieces – one of those pieces still remaining in the sole of the left shoe. Jordan famously wore a size 13 on his left foot and a 13.5 on his right – not that the future owner of these sneakers will ever dare to wear them.
30 July to 13 August, christies.com