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Though the sneaker game has always remained competitive, it seems Michael Jordan’s pair of Nike Air Ships has nabbed the top spot on the market.
Over the weekend, the legendary basketball player’s red-and-white shoes sold at a record-breaking $1.472 million, acquired by collector Nick Fiorella at the Sotheby’s Icons of Excellence & Haute Luxury auction held in Las Vegas.
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The Nike Air Ships is reportedly the earliest known pair of shoes Jordan has worn throughout his career to reach the auction market. He wore them playing in the fifth game, against the Denver Nuggets, of his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, the team he would eventually lead to win six NBA championships.
According to Sotheby’s auction house, it set a new world record for the most expensive sneakers ever sold at an 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,” Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles at Sotheby’s, said in a statement.
Before the auction went live, Sotheby’s estimated the shoes to be sold for anywhere between $1 million to $1.5 million.
Another pair of Jordan’s game-worn shoes, the Nike Air Jordan 1 High from 1985, previously set the record when they were auctioned off by Christie’s in August 2020 for $615,000. However, the most expensive sneakers ever sold in the world goes to none other than Kanye West’s “Grammy Worn” Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes that went for $1.8 million dollars in April. Though, according to Sotheby’s, the pair was sold in a private sale.
Jordan’s Nike Air Ships were designed by Bruce Kilgore and originally released in 1984. After the game, the shoes were gifted to TJ Lewis, a ball boy during the Bulls versus Nuggets game on Nov. 1, 1984. For the auction, the shoes were presented and also offered with Lewis’ 1984-85 Nuggets staff pass.
The Nike Air Ships marked the beginning of Jordan’s Air Jordan brand. When Jordan was a rookie in 1984, Nike gave him his own signature line of shoes, which was a key part of Jordan signing a five-year deal with the company.
While creating the Air Jordan 1 shoe, Nike gave Jordan a limited amount of Nike Air Ships to play in. Some pairs had “Air Jordan” or “Nike Air” embossed on the heels, but the pair that was auctioned off only had “Air.”
Jordan went on to create countless iterations with his Air Jordan brand, which is now worth a few billion dollars. Since signing his deal, Jordan has received an estimated $1.3 billion from Nike.
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