A pair of basketball legend Michael Jordan’s famous Air Jordans from his rookie season sold at auction for $152,500 on Wednesday, the star item in Sotheby’s first international dedicated sneaker sale.
Seen as a niche interest 10 years ago, sneakers are now one of the fastest-growing markets at auctions, attracting attention from the general public as well as leading collectors.
The “Gamers Only” auction, conducted entirely online, featured 13 pairs of match-worn basketball shoes from some of the NBA’s greatest athletes, including Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O’Neal.
They went on show beforehand in Geneva and took their place alongside standout jewels, watches and handbags from Sotheby’s Luxury Week of sales in the lakeside Swiss city.
Nike Air Jordan 1s “not only changed basketball footwear forever but are also considered foundational to the development of sneaker culture”, Sotheby’s said.
The pair sold — in the Chicago Bulls’ red, white and black — were worn by Jordan during his stellar 1984-1985 debut season.
Jordan, now 58, went on to become a six-time NBA champion and is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time.
“The Air Jordan 1s are one of the grails,” Josh Pullan, managing director of Sotheby’s global luxury division, told AFP.
“There’s a bit of wear on the toe and around the heels, and that gives us a feeling for what happened in the game when they were worn,” he added.
“This pair is from someone who knew Michael Jordan personally, so they really come with that impeccable provenance.”
– MVP pairs –
The second-most expensive pair in the sale was Stephen Curry’s Under Armour shoes, both signed, from 2015-16 when the Golden State Warriors point guard was named the most valuable player (MVP), for the second straight season.
The yellow and cobalt blue sneakers, worn in four matches, fetched $20,800.
The other shoes that went for five figures were a pair of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Adidas Superstars worn during his 1979-1980 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, which ended with the NBA title and the center’s sixth MVP win.
The signed white sneakers went for $18,030.
Sotheby’s says the sneaker market has brought a new, younger audience into the world of auctions.
Last month, Sotheby’s sold a pair of Nike Air Yeezy 1s worn by rapper Kanye West for $1.8 million (1.5 million euros) — triple the previous record for sneakers.
The shoes, worn during the 2008 Grammy Awards, shattered the previous sneakers auction record of $615,000 set in August last year.
That sum, achieved by auctioneers Christie’s, was for the very pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s worn by Jordan when he famously shattered the backboard in a 1985 match.
Wednesday’s sale also included sneakers worn by NBA greats Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, Allen Iverson, Moses Malone and Isiah Thomas.