Update to the update: Three months after the Sotheby’s sale, Christie’s sold a different pair of Michael Jordan game-worn Air Jordan 1 sneakers. Dubbed the “Shattered Backboard” sneakers, the sole of the left shoe contains a glass shard from a forceful Jordan dunk that did just that–shattered the backboard. Worn by Jordan in 1985 during an exhibition game in Trieste, Italy, the sneakers sold for $615,000 and yet another record.
Update: A pair of game-worn Michael Jordan sample Air Jordan 1 sneakers from 1985 sold at Sotheby’s in an online auction that ended on May 17, 2020. They commanded $560,000 against an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, setting a new record for a pair of game-worn sneakers and a record for any pair of sneakers.
What you see: A pair of size 13 Converse sneakers that Michael Jordan wore during the 1984 Olympics, when the U.S.A. basketball team won the gold medal. SCP Auctions sold them for $190,372 in June 2017–a record for a game-worn pair of basketball sneakers.
The expert: David Kohler, president of SCP Auctions.
Where do game-worn sneakers rank among game-worn basketball items? Are they second to game-worn jerseys? As far as game-worn items go, yes, they’re second to jerseys. When game-worn shoes have great provenance and are documented, there’s great demand. We didn’t expect them to go to $190,000, but you can see how that can happen.
Does Michael Jordan dominate the game-worn basketball sneaker market? I’d say Jordan is number one for a few reasons. He was prone to giving out shoes and signing them, and Jordan had his own brand issues. The rest love Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, no one was saving shoes. They threw them away. By the mid-80s or so, you had players signing shoe deals and getting paid to wear shoes. There’s a whole huge industry that didn’t exist for the players from earlier years. Heck, today, some players wear their shoes for one game. A lot of them have their own orthotics that they slip into their shoes. Some wear a different color of shoes depending on their uniform.
Where was Jordan in his basketball career in 1984? He was pretty big-time. He didn’t have a shoe line yet. He was very much on the map and was wearing Converse.
Does the fact that the sneakers are Converse brand hurt their value? No. It’s not a negative at all. There was a lot of demand for these shoes, which were one of the last two pairs that he wore as an amateur. The next year, he was a pro. The provenance was exceptional. Former Laker Gail Goodrich was in charge of the basketball event, and his son was a ball boy. Jordan signed both shoes. The story is he gave the shoes to the ball boy, and the boy was literally almost out of the arena when Jordan saw him running back, and said, ‘I knew you were going to come back. I didn’t sign these.’
How unusual is it to have such a strong provenance for a pair of game-worn basketball sneakers? It’s very rare, and that’s what we love about the piece. We knew that it would bring big demand at auction. Michael Jordan, the star of the U.S. Olympic team, the shoes he wore, signed, from the ball boy–you can’t really write the story better than that.
How do these Michael Jordan 1984 Olympic sneakers compare to his game-worn sneakers from the 1992 Dream Team Olympics? We have had a pair of Dream Team sneakers. It brought around $20,000. If we knew the sneakers were from the final Dream Team game, they would have brought big money, like these. The 1984 pair were from a time when Jordan wore only two pairs [for the entire Olympic run]. Eight years later, players were wearing one pair per game. It was a different time and era.
Game-worn items can be tricky in that you want them to show some wear, but not too much. What condition are these Michael Jordan sneakers in? These had all the appropriate wear you want–the vintage look of it, but not starting to be damaged, or in the sun. The colors have started toning, which is natural for them being 34 years old. They’ve been in a closet in a box for years.
I understand there’s a letter of authenticity for each Michael Jordan sneaker. Is that typical for game-used basketball sneakers? There’s a letter from the consigner about the provenance, and then the third party grader did a letter for each shoe to address each autograph.
Has the other pair of Michael Jordan 1984 Olympic sneakers gone to auction? They came up in 2015. We did not handle them then, and they didn’t meet the reserve. Since that sale, they were consigned to us, and they brought almost $90,000. They brought less because they were not from the gold medal-winning game, but they were very similar.
What was the previous record for a pair of game-worn basketball sneakers? A pair of Michael Jordan-worn shoes from the flu game. [In 1997, Jordan played in Game 5 of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz, scoring 38 points and helping his team win despite suffering from either the flu or food poisoning.] That pair sold for around $100,000.
How long do you think this record will stand? Interesting question. Certainly if you had the shoes that Wilt Chamberlain wore in the 100-point game, and the provenance was airtight, but I doubt those exist. They’d have to be over the top in basketball history.
Why will these Michael Jordan sneakers stick in your memory? It’s Michael Jordan, it’s the Olympics, it’s the gold medal. Jordan telling the ball boy, ‘Hey, I’ve got something for you after the the game.’ Just the story behind it.
Image is courtesy of SCP Auctions.
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