Sotheby’s on Friday will open bidding for a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers worn in a game by Michael Jordan in 1985.
The vintage sneakers were an exclusive for Jordan, with a mid-height, red laces and longer Nike swoosh logos. They also bear the first Air Jordan insignia, the Nike Air logo on the tongue and Jordan’s real signature in permanent marker on the right sneaker. The pair is estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000, but could go for more given the ESPN and Netflix documentary “The Last Dance” that has ruled Sunday nights since its premiere in mid-April. The bidding on the sneaker will end on May 17.
The first of 34 Jordan sneakers, the Nike Air Jordan 1 was designed by Peter Moore and made its debut in 1984. The game-worn sneakers on auction were later dubbed the “Chicago” colorway to differentiate them from the black and red, or “Bred,” colorway and a white, black and red variation that was later nicknamed “Old Love.”
“These are the most iconic and coveted sneakers of all time,” said Jordan Geller, sneaker collector and consignor and founder of sneaker museum Shoezeum. “Owning this pair has been a real pleasure, and with all the excitement surrounding Michael Jordan and ‘The Last Dance’, my wife and I decided that it’s time to let the shoes find a new home.”
According to Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s director of e-commerce development, this auction came together in 10 days. “Jordan [Geller] called me and said that given the reception of ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance,’ he thought it would be the right moment to offer this pair,” Wachter said.
He added that the sneakers bear the code “850204 TYPS,” which refers to the date of production and that they are player samples made in the Tony Yang factory. “850204 refers to the date of production, made in 1985 between the months of February (02) and April (04),” Wachter explained. “With that manufacture date, and the date that Michael injured his foot (October 29, 1985) we know the shoes were worn sometime between February of 1985 and October 29th 1985.”
Jordan would compete in modified pairs of Air Jordan 1 sneakers upon his return from injury, and he would lace up a pair again for his last regular season game in Madison Square Garden for the Chicago Bulls in 1998. The pair he wore at MSG against the New York Knicks in 1998 was a smaller size, which caused his feet to bleed during regulation. He also scored 42 points to win that game.
Nike advertised in the Eighties that the “Bred” colorway of the Air Jordan 1 sneakers was banned from the NBA for violating the league’s uniform rules, though the Nike Air Ship was the true banned sneaker.
Jordan said in the fifth episode of the documentary that he first met with Converse, and they said “we cannot envision you being put ahead of” players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bernard King or Julius Erving, who were all signed with the company. He initially wanted to sign with Adidas, but took a meeting with Nike after being ordered to do so by his mom, Deloris. Nike executive Howard White said in the documentary, “Michael didn’t want to be at Nike.”
Jordan signed with Nike, and his signature sneaker took on the name Air Jordan thanks to his agent David Falk, who put his client’s name with the company’s Air technology. The company expected to sell $3 million worth of Jordan sneakers in four years, and instead sold $126 million in its first year.
Though Jordan competed in Air Jordan 1 mid sneakers in the 1984-85 NBA season, Nike released only high and low lengths to the public in 1985. In addition, it released 20 colorways of the signature sneaker, which was far from the norm at the time.
Wachter said Sotheby’s has more sneaker auctions planned for 2020 and 2021.