Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers game-worn by basketball hero Michael Jordan in 1985 sold at auction at Sotheby’s for $560,000 – the new world auction record for any pair of sneakers, surpassing the previous record set at Sotheby’s for the Nike 1972 Nike Waffle Racing Flat ‘Moon Shoe’ sold for $437,500 in July 2019.
Following a bidding war which drove the value up by $300,000 within the final twenty minutes of the sale, the pair achieved more than 3.5x their $150,000 high estimate. Bidders ranging from age 19 to 50+ participated across four continents, with 70 percent of bidders new to Sotheby’s.
A Player Sample (PS), the shoes on offer were custom-made for Michael Jordan in sizes 13 and 13.5. Among the most valuable pairs of sneakers in history, these Air Jordan 1s are in remarkable condition, and were exclusively crafted for Michael Jordan – featuring supple leather and a unique cut specific to him.
The vintage originals are in the Chicago Bulls white, black and red – the Air Jordan 1 colourway that Michael Jordan wore the most often on the court. In 1984, Nike gave Jordan a signature line of shoes and clothes – a crucial, unprecedented move to entice Michael Jordan to sign with Nike. Produced between February and April 1985, Jordan wore the present pair of Air Jordan 1s during an early, pivotal point of his career and thus promoted the sneaker’s popularity.
In fact Michael Jordan was almost single-handedly responsible for creating the market in trainers when his black-and-red shoes (Air Ships) became controversial after the NBA sent a letter to Nike in February of 1985 informing the company that Jordan’s colourful shoes were a violation of the league’s uniformity of uniform clause, therefore forbidding Jordan from wearing them. Nike responded by creating an ad campaign around Jordan’s banned shoes, remarking that while “the NBA threw them out of the game, fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.” The Air Jordan 1s were created in the wake of the famous banned Nike ad campaign, and established Michael Jordan as the league’s leader in shoe style.
- Michael Jordan’s shoes are laced up with red laces – unlike the retail Air Jordan 1, which came with black and white laces. He occasionally laced up his Air Jordan 1s with red laces for a little flare (he wore red laces in his 63 point playoff performance at the Boston Garden arena).
- The shoes are mid height. In 1985 Nike released Highs and Lows to the public, but not Mids.
- The left shoe is a size 13 and the right shoe is a size 13.5. Michael Jordan wore mismatched shoe sizes throughout his career.
- The soles exhibit signs of wear and many of the stars on the outsoles have worn off or are worn down, congruent with game wear. Michael Jordan wore Air Jordan 1s in 1984 and 1985, and modified versions in 1986. The first time that he laced up a pair of Air Jordan 1s was 11/17/84 against the Philadelphia 76ers. He wore Air Jordan 1s until October 29, 1985 when he broke his foot, causing him to miss 64 games. On his return he wore modified Air Jordan 1s.
- The right shoe is autographed by Michael Jordan, with the signature appearing in black permanent marker. Many of his game-worn autographed shoes are signed with a ball point pen that wears away over time.
- The tagging reads 850204 TYPS. 850204 refers to the date of production. These shoes were made in 1985 between the months of February (02) and April (04). TYPS stands for Tong Yang Player Sample and refers to the fact that the shoes are Player Samples (PS). The regular Air Jordan 1s that were released to the public do not say TYPS on them (instead they simply abbreviate the factory where they were made).
- Air Jordan 1s feature the first Nike Air Jordan logo, the ‘Air Jordan Wings’ logo, which was designed by Peter Moore. Original Air Jordan 1s also featured Swooshes on the uppers just like other Nikes. The Air Jordan 2 removed the Swooshes and kept the Wings logo, and the Air Jordan 3 replaced the Wings logo with the Jumpman logo, which quickly became the face of the brand. The Jumpman logo appeared on hangtags of retail pairs of Original Air Jordan 1s and Air Jordan apparel from 1985, but it did not appear on Air Jordan shoes until the Air Jordan 3.
Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships and won the Most Valuable Player Award five times. He retired from sport in 2003.