S otheby’s is proud to present Gamers Only – a selection of 13 fine examples of game worn sneakers from some of the NBA's greatest athletes.
Some of the highest-quality basketball sneakers in history have come from top players’ signature lines. For the most part, it was Converse’s “Chuck Taylor” that dominated the sneaker game until adidas arrived on the basketball sneaker scene. In 1969, adidas re-developed the 1964-1965 ‘Supergrip’ which included the first iteration of the iconic ‘Shell Toe’. Now known as the ‘Superstar’, adidas hoped to dominate the market with the help of a player-exclusive deal with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was arguably the biggest name in the NBA at the time.
Hidden Wonders | Bucherer x Sotheby's
Known for his iconic ‘Sky Hook’ shot, Abdul-Jabbar put the ‘Superstar’ on the map when he donned the shoe during a high point of his basketball career in the 1970–1971 season. Within the first few years of its introduction, it is reported that the Superstar was worn by over 75% of all NBA players. The pair on offer at Sotheby’s is game worn and dual signed and worn during Abdul-Jabbar’s 1979-1980 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, which ended with the NBA title and Abdul-Jabbar’s sixth MVP win. The Lakers-inspired colorway is evident in the white leather uppers, suede toeboxes, and rubber ‘Shell Toe’ caps with purple and gold accents. This shoe-player relationship was later immortalized in a highly recognizable 1981 ad, in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shouts out his size-16 Superstars for assisting his trademark high-flying shot. adidas’ innovative design with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the face of the shoe made a serious impression among fans, players, and certainly with their competitors.
adidas Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Dual Signed Game Worn Superstar
Estimate 10,000 - 15,000 CHF
By the mid-80s’, the ‘Superstar’ was ingrained in popular culture, propelling adidas’ dominance as the top producer of high performance basketball shoes. The partnership between the company and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the model for younger players coming up in the system.
When Michael Jordan left the University of North Carolina in 1984, it is now no secret MJ wanted to sign a deal with adidas. Jordan believed adidas offered him the best opportunity to make money and maintain control of his brand. Nike was able to win over the young star with the biggest deal ever to be presented to an athlete by a Sportswear company.
Earns a Scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillJordan quickly made a name for himself at UNC averaging 13.4 points per game and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. He would spend three years as a Tar Heel.
Selected by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA DraftTwo players came off the board before Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft, Hakeem Olajuwon to the Houston Rockets and Sam Bowie to the Portland Trail Blazers. While Olajuwon went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bowie is perhaps best remembered for being drafted before Michael Jordan.
The Original Air Jordan Sneakers DebutJordan's impact on the NBA was immediate, quickly landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the heading "A Star Is Born," and making the All-Star team as a starter. He also landed the shoe deal of the century partnering with Nike to create the Air Jordan sneaker, an endorsement deal that impelled his career to new heights.
Rookie of the YearThe accolades continued for Jordan in his first year in the league earning Rookie of the Year honors. That year the promising young rookie who had already grabbed attention as the heir apparent to superstars like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird averaged 28.2 points per game.
Watch Michael Jordan's Rookie of the Year Award Speech
63 Points Against the Celtics in Round One of the PlayoffsIn Jordan's second season he suffered a broken foot that kept him out of regular season play for all but 18 games. But his return came in time for the Bulls' first round playoff appearance against a legendary Boston Celtics team led by Larry Bird. Never one to shy away from history, Jordan put in a staggering 63 points, a playoff record.
Earns Most Valuable Player Award and Defensive Player of the YearJordan's 35 points per game led the league in scoring in the 1987–88 season and his 1.6 blocks and 3.16 steals helped cement his reputation as a formidable defender.
Watch Michael Jordan's MVP Presentation
Jordan's Bulls Win Their First NBA ChampionshipDefeating the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, the Chicago Bulls took the series in five games and gave the world a glimpse of what was to come.
Announces His RetirementThough very much at the top of his game in 1993, Jordan decided to retire.
Takes a Brief Sojourn Into a Career as a Baseball PlayerFollowing Jordan's announcement of an early retirement, he sent shock waves through the sports world by signing a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox.
Returns to Basketball from RetirementAfter a brief hiatus, Jordan returned to the Bulls
Bulls Win 72 GamesIn a year that saw Jordan win his eighth scoring title, the Bulls added Dennis Rodman to an already potent lineup, rendering them virtually impossible to beat. Rodman threw in his fifth straight rebounding title and Phil Jackson won Coach of the Year.
Bulls Win 6th NBA ChampionshipThe Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz in Jordan's final championship with the team. He also secured his sixth Finals MVP award, a record.
The Washington WizardsIn September of 2001, Jordan came back from his second retirement and announced that he would return to NBA to play with the Washington Wizards. During his time with the Wizards, Jordan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history. On December 29, 2001, Jordan scored 51 points against the Charlotte Hornets to become the oldest player in NBA history to reach the 50-point threshold in a game.
A New “Era” of BasketballMichael Jordan's arrival in the NBA ushered in a new era of basketball. By 1992 when he led the U.S. Olympic Dream Team to a gold medal, he sat atop not just the National Basketball Association, but the entire sports world. By the time he finally retired from the game he had six championships, along with a seemingly endless stream of awards and records.
The original Air Jordan sneakers were produced exclusively for Michael Jordan in late 1984. Designed by Peter Moore, the name “Air Jordan” was coined by Jordan’s agent David Falk, since the Nike shoes had air in the soles, and Michael Jordan played basketball in the air. In his first season with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan emerged as the most exciting player in the NBA. Jordan was putting up points against some of the greatest players of all time, including Larry Bird. By the end of his first season, Jordan averaged 28.2 points per game on 51.5% shooting and helped make a team that had won 35% of their games in the previous three seasons playoff contenders. Jordan’s achievements on the court undoubtedly provided the foundation for Nike’s success with the Air Jordan 1.
When the shoes finally released to the public in 1985, they flew off the shelves. Like Mike himself, the Air Jordan 1 was an instant hit among the public. In the first year of release, it is reported that Nike sold between three and four million pairs of the shoe. From the inception, Air Jordans have always been the pinnacle of sneakers, unmatched in their quality, craftsmanship, innovation, performance, and style. The sneakers not only changed basketball footwear forever but are also considered foundational to the development of sneaker culture.
Produced between January to February 1985, the pair on offer in this auction features the classic ‘Chicago’ colorway with red leather uppers, white leather quarters, black accents throughout including the signature black leather Swoosh and classic wing logo at the collar. The shoe is completed with a white rubber midsole and red rubber outsole. Michael Jordan wore Air Jordan 1s in 1984 and 1985, as well as modified versions in 1986 (after a broken foot Michael endured).
Jordan’s landmark deal with Nike paved the way for other star players like Golden State Warrior, Stephen Curry, who now command multimillion-dollar deals with various sportswear companies.
Under Armour Stephen Curry Game Worn Dual Signed Curry 2
Estimate 15,000 - 20,000 CHF
Curry’s first ever signature shoe bearing his name released in Summer 2015, quickly followed by the Autumn 2015 release of the Curry 2. Sotheby’s is proud to offer Curry’s custom-made Under Armour Stephen Curry Game Worn Dual Signed ‘Curry 2’s done in the Golden State warrior colors with bright yellow uppers, bright cobalt blue tongues, logos, and panels with lightning graphics. Curry’s autograph features twice at the toebox, initialed ‘WSC’ at the outside toe of the right shoe and inscribed at both sides of the left shoe with two of Curry’s favorite biblical references.
Curry used this pair during his championship 2015-16 season when he claimed the Unanimous MVP win. In total Curry scored 119 points, racked up 39 assists, 24 rebounds, 8 steals and 2 blocks in these sneakers. The Warriors won a record-setting 73 games, the best regular-season record in the history of the NBA.
These specific game worn shoes have been photomatched by Resolution Photomatching, who completed side-by-side comparisons of the present lot with photos of Steph Curry wearing the sneakers during four 2016 games: January 5 at Lakers, January 8 at Blazers, January 9 at Kings, and January 13 at Nuggets.
Discover the rest of our selection of game worn sneakers, featured exclusively at Sotheby’s.
Page authored by Deanna White, Luxury Accessories and Collectibles