Court Classics | Basketball Sneakers

Court Classics | Basketball Sneakers

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 1.  Michael Jordan 1996 NBA Finals Game Worn and Signed Air Jordan XIs | Game 5.

Michael Jordan 1996 NBA Finals Game Worn and Signed Air Jordan XIs | Game 5

Lot Closed

April 12, 04:01 PM GMT


200,000 - 400,000 USD

Lot Details



Rubber, Leather, Cotton, Synthetic


Michael Jordan’s name has become synonymous with greatness. The NBA legend’s unprecedented success as an athlete is well-documented and may never be replicated – 6 NBA championships, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 league MVPs, and 2 Olympic Gold Medals are just a few of Jordan’s on-court accomplishments. Many consider Jordan to be the greatest athlete who ever lived.

Sotheby’s is proud to present: Michael Jordan’s 1996 NBA Finals Game Worn and Signed Air Jordan XIs from Game 5. The sneakers have been photomatched by MeiGgray to Game 5 of the 1996 NBA Finals, and feature Jordan’s signatures on both midsoles. Jordan registered 43 minutes in this game, recording 26 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal.

The sneakers are presented with provenance from two Seattle SuperSonics’ Ball Boys and feature “Sample FTPS” interior coding. Additionally, the sneakers are accompanied by a letter from James Spence in regard to the signatures. 

1995 - 1996 Season 

After the first three-peat, Michal Jordan retired from basketball to pursue a career in professional baseball. When the MLB players went on strike in 1994, Jordan refused to cross the picket line, ultimately returning to the Bulls in March of 1995. In the 1995-96 season – Jordan’s first full NBA season since 1992-93 – Jordan and the Bulls won a then-NBA record 72 games, cementing their legacy as one of the league’s greatest teams. 

In the postseason, Jordan and the Bulls cruised through the 1996 NBA Playoffs, only losing one game in the first three Playoff rounds. Returning to the NBA Finals for the fourth time in the decade, the Bulls would face off against Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, and the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. 

The Provenance 

Jesse Sluyter was a Seattle Supersonics ballboy from 1994 - 2008 and worked the SuperSonics’ home games (3, 4, and 5) during the 1996 NBA Finals. In a Letter of Provenance written to Sotheby's, Sluyter recalls his encounter with Michael Jordan during the series, and how he and his friend each obtained one shoe from Michael. Sluyter and his friend have combined the shoes for this auction. 

From 1994 to 2008 I worked as a ballboy for the Seattle SuperSonics. My best friend and I were lucky enough to work the NBA Finals game in the 1995-1996 season when the Seattle SuperSonics played against the Chicago Bulls. We worked every practice and Finals games 3,4, and 5. Michael Jordan and I got along really well in the Finals and he was very humble and sincere in all of his interactions. During one of the locker room TV interviews, during Game 4, he turned and asked me how much weight I lost during the offseason. I answered back that I had lost over 50 pounds and my weight gain was due to the kidney transplant I had earlier in the year. All the steroids caused the weight gain. During Game 5 Michael gave me two tickets to one of the NBA Finals games and said bring your mom and dad. Later on after Game 5, the equipment manager of the Chicago Bulls asked Michael Jordan who his shoes were going to, he said “That ballboy” (me) and my best friend. After Jordan took care of the media, talked to the coaches, and cared for a Make-a-Wish Foundation child, I asked him if he would sign the shoes. He did it with a smile and said “Have a good night”. I wished him good luck and finished up my work for the night.

The Bulls would go on to win the series in 6 games, capturing their 4th NBA title and the first of their soon-to-be second “Three-Peat”. Jordan would be named NBA Finals MVP for the fourth time, leading all scorers with 27.3 points per game. He also averaged 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game in the series. 

The Bred

Bred Air Jordans are a shorthand synonym for ‘Black and Red’ Air Jordan sneakers, a style Michael wore – featuring iconic Bulls colors – from the inception of the Jordan Brand (namely the Air Ship and the Air Jordan I) all the way until the Air Jordan XIII and XIV towards the end of his career with the Chicago Bulls. The first pair of Breds Jordan wore in the NBA were banned by the league, which imbued the colorway with a certain mythical nature to sneaker culture. The NBA would fine Michael $5,000 per game because the colors violated the league's strict uniform code. Nike capitalized on the opportunity and branded the Breds as rebellious sneakers, and while banned from the league, a Nike ad would explain “Fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.” The Bred would go on to take center stage in each of Michael’s postseasons, as the team opted to switch to predominantly black sneakers for the Playoffs.