Rare Airs! Pair Of Michael Jordan Rookie Nikes Sells For $1.47 Million

Image Credit: Sotheby's

If there was ever a doubt that Michael Jordan’s brand isn’t still the most valuable in sports athletic brand in sports, the question has been definitively answered.

On Sunday, a pair of Michael Jordan game-worn sneakers from his rookie season sold for $1.472 million to high-end card collector Nick Fiorella.

Sneaker culture has exploded, and the collectors ranks have proved the value of the athletic apparel business.

During Sotheby’s Icons of Excellence & Haute Luxury auction in Las Vegas, the sale shattered the most expensive game-worn footwear record.

Can you say Michael Jordan is in ‘Rare Air’?

The auction was organized in connection with MGM Resorts at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The footwear is Michael Jordan’s earliest known regular-season game-worn Nike sneakers.

Jordan wore the sneakers in his fifth NBA game, where “His Airness” had a seemingly average 17-point, five-rebound, and five-assist game against the Denver Nuggets. However, as the years progressed in his Hall of Fame career, the world would never consider anything Jordan did average again.

Nike History

The shoes are called Nike Air Ships and were designed by sneaker design guru Bruce Kilgore.

Kilgore is the man who also created the Nike Air Force 1s in 1982 and went on to design the Air Jordan IIs. Legendarily, when Nike first made a deal with Jordan in 1984, his first signature shoe (Air Jordan 1s) wasn’t ready.

However, Nike supplied Jordan with the Air Ships. But Jordan’s shoe colors were so unique that the NBA informed him they violated the uniform clause in place at that time.

According to Sotheby’s, Nike responded by creating an ad campaign for Jordan’s ‘banned’ shoes.

This pair, notably, was signed by Jordan and gifted to former Nuggets ball boy TJ Lewis. He also maintained and eventually sold the historic pair of sneakers.

Air Auction

Jordan has been the trendsetter in the sneaker auction game.

Before this record auction sale, the previous record for game-worn sneakers was also set by Jordan. The sneakers Jordan wore during a preseason exhibition in Italy in 1985 set the previous record.

Jordan’s actions in that game were also sensational; he shattered a backboard with a dunk during the game. Jordan wore his signature Air Jordan 1s during that game.

The shoes were so authentic in fact, that they were embedded with a piece of glass from the backboard in the sole of the left shoe.

Talk about history being captured in a sneaker.

Those sneakers sold at a Christie’s auction in August 2020 for $615,000, less than half of the newest sale price.

“To present such a groundbreaking and important pair of sneakers at this special auction in Las Vegas further solidifies the strength and broad reach of the sneaker collecting community,” said Brahm Wachter, Head of Sotheby’s Streetwear and Modern Collectables, said in a statement.

“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.”

Big Sneaker Bag

The Jordan-worn Air Ships have now fetched the second-highest amount in the footwear category to ever be sold at an auction.

Who topped Jordan? It wasn’t even a basketball player but creator and culture influencer Kanye West with the Yeezy 1 prototypes.

West revealed the shoes publicly for the  first time at the 2008 Grammys. The shoes sold, also at Sotheby’s, for a record-breaking $1.8 million this past April.

Nike’s Jordan Brand is one of the most popular athletic apparel brands in the world. The year, the company’s revenue was up 31 percent for the fiscal year that ended on May 31 with $4.7 billion.

According to Forbes, Nike has paid Michael Jordan an estimated $1.3 billion over nearly four decades.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.