A rare pair of signed, game-worn Michael Jordan sneakers have just become the most expensive sneakers ever sold, selling at auction for a whopping $2.2 million USD ($3.3 million AUD).
Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest basketball player of all time, but he’s the biggest name in sneaker culture, too, thanks to his signature line of Nike basketball sneakers: the iconic Air Jordans.
Indeed, streetwear and hype culture owe much to Jordans – they’ve transcended their sporting origins to become a cornerstone of modern fashion; a cultural phenomenon almost as potent as Michael Jordan himself.
Jordans are such a phenomenon that it’s easy to forget that the reason people went mad for his sneakers and continue to go mad for them today is because of Michael Jordan’s insane sporting prowess and the Hollywood-style story of his journey to greatness.
That’s something we were all collectively reminded of overnight after arguably the most significant sneakers the man ever wore sold at auction for a record-breaking price.
The shoes in question were a pair of signed Air Jordan XIII ‘Breds’ worn by MJ during his last championship season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98, which just sold at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.
MJ wore the pair during Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals series, where he scored 37 points to help the Bulls secure a 93-88 victory over the Utah Jazz. The Bulls went on to win the championship, a story that’s been immortalised in the mega-popular 2020 ESPN documentary series The Last Dance.
Why are these sneakers so valuable?
According to Sotheby’s, after that Game 2 victory, Jordan gave the shoes to a ball boy in the locker room as thanks for finding a lost jacket during an earlier practice. They’re the only complete pair of sneakers worn by Jordan in an NBA Finals game to be authenticated, making them especially rare.
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“Today’s record-breaking result further proves that the demand for Michael Jordan sports memorabilia continues to outperform and transcend all expectations,” Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Head of Streetwear and Modern Collectables (what a cool job title) told the press.
The sale smashes the previous record for the most expensive sneakers ever sold, which was held by a prototype pair of Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1s that the controversial rapper wore during his performance at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008 – the first time the public had ever seen a pair of Air Yeezys. Those sneakers, which Sotheby’s also sold, went for $1.8 million USD.
The previous record for Jordan shoes was $1.47m USD for a pair of his Nike Air Ships (the sneakers he wore before Nike developed the Air Jordan Is) that sold at auction in 2021.