NEW YORK, 24 November 2020 – Sotheby’s and Goldin Auctions are pleased to announce the full contents of A Century of Champions, an unparalleled collection of sports memorabilia spanning the past 100 years of global sporting history. The online auction, which is now open for bidding through 7 December via sothebys.com, features more than 100 lots representing an international array of iconic memorabilia, including jerseys, sneakers, trading cards, and other objects from renowned athletes, past and present, spanning baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis, golf, boxing, hockey, and more.
TOUCHSTONES OF MICHAEL JORDAN’S LEGENDARY CAREER
Among the newly announced highlights is an impeccable selection of memorabilia from global sports icon and basketball legend Michael Jordan, including Jordan’s 1991 game-worn Air Jordan high top sneakers from Game 4 of the NBA Finals (estimate $500/750,000), on offer from the collection of Sonny Vaccaro, the former Nike marketing executive who signed Jordan to his first sneaker deal. The 1991 NBA Finals marked a momentous occasion where Jordan "grabbed the torch" from Magic Johnson. Before the 1991 Finals, Michael Jordan was considered a scoring machine incapable of winning a championship without conforming to the team concept illustrated by the likes of Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers. After Game 1 of the Finals, it appeared this trend would continue. However, Michael Jordan had other plans. The Bulls went on to defeat the Lakers 4-1, giving Jordan his first NBA Championship and his first NBA Finals MVP and ushering in the Bulls dynasty that dominated the 1990s. These sneakers represent a pivotal moment in established the unparalleled sports dynasty that produced six titles in eight years, and six NBA Finals MVPs for Jordan.
Sonny Vaccaro, former Nike marketing executive and consignor of the sneakers, commented: “In my six decade career in basketball, I was fortunate to spend seven years working together with Michael Jordan during my time at Nike, and these Air Jordans represent the moment that he became the most iconic athlete on the planet, as well as the culmination of my career and friendship with Jordan. Worn during his very first NBA Championship with the Bulls, and the first for Nike with Jordan, the sneakers were a gift from Jordan to commemorate this amazing achievement. The sneakers have remained in my collection for 30 years, and as Jordan’s legacy has only grown as the undisputed greatest of all time, I feel that now is the time to share them and their story with a new generation. It’s also fitting to have the auction handled by Ken Goldin, who I have known for over 30 years since he first started in the business. I know he’ll find a collector that will appreciate the sneakers as much as I do.”
These historic sneakers were gifted by Jordan to Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro immediately after Jordan won the championship. Sonny had been integral in recruiting Jordan to Nike and was credited as being the man who encouraged Nike to sign Jordan. These black Air Jordan high tops offered here have been photo matched to Game 4 of the 1991 NBA Finals by Sports Investors Authentication where Jordan’s 28 points led all scorers as he helped push the Bulls to within one game of the title. Jordan also added 13 assists and 5 rebounds in Chicago’s 87-82 victory – a precursor to the greatness that Jordan would establish in the Finals for years to come. Vaccaro was gifted these sneakers following Jordan’s first ever NBA title. Vaccaro was with Nike from 1977 through 1991 and was instrumental in pushing Nike to get contracts with NCAA schools, most notably the University of North Carolina – Jordan’s alma mater.
These feature the famed Air Jordan silhouette logo embroidered in red on each tongue. A slash or tan and red add a bit of color to the sides of the soles and a dramatic geometric design is found on the bottoms, complete with a large red Air Jordan silhouette logo. The backs of each sneaker have a raised Nike Air logo. The laces are intact and appear to be original to the sneakers. The sneakers show good game use with some scuffs and abrasions in evidence throughout. The right shoe has a slit on the toe, which was reportedly added after Jordan sprained his big toe. The soles have begun to show some cracking and separation from age and the front toe of the left sneaker has a slit extending from the base of the tongue to the beginning of the sole. Most importantly, His Airness has signed the back outside panel of each gamer in wonderful contrasting silver pen. One of the more striking Air Jordan designed complete with game use and signed by their namesake, Michael Jordan. These sneakers come with a letter of provenance from Sonny Vaccaro, who states in his letter that these sneakers were gifted to him by Jordan following the 1991 NBA Finals, a LOA from Sports Investors Authentication, who have photo matched these sneakers to Game 4 of the 1991 NBA Finals and a LOA from JSA for the signatures.
Also on offer are Jordan’s 1985-86 Game-Used & Signed Air Jordan Dunk Sole Sneakers, the First Pair Ever Offered For Public Sale (estimate $600/800,000). These exceptional sneakers are one of only five pairs known to exist, and the pair offered here is the only one to come up for sale in public auction. The sneakers are a classic pair of red and white Air Jordans worn during Jordan’s second season, which have the black Nike swoosh logo on each side and the original Air Jordan logo on the ankle. Jordan returned from injury during the March 15th, 1986 game against the Milwaukee Bucks after recovering from his broken foot, and he wore variations of the Air Jordan 1s for the remainder of the season.
Nike made three variations of shoes: one with a black strap, and this pair was one with a Dunk Sole insert (which was another highly popular Jordan sneaker at the time). The Jordan Dunk Soles are taller than Original Jordan 1 sneaker with the insoles from the Dunk Soles being much wider and softer. There are two Jordan Wings Logos on the interior and exterior as opposed to just on the exterior. A red and white stitched Nike Air label is sewn to the top of each tongue along with the manufacturer’s trademark information. The red soles have a Nike logo at its center and a geometric spike and spiral design.
The sneakers show great game use, with many scuffs and abrasions as one would want on a pair of ’86 Jordan gamers. The black padding on the back ankle of each has cracked and chipped with age and there are some loose threads throughout. A Nike code (13 860304STPS) is present inside which is partially illegible from use and age. The STPS code with the last two letter of “PS” referencing “Player Sample” were shoes not meant for general release. The game changer that puts this classic pair of Air Jordans over the top is the presence of Michael Jordan’s signature on the white leather of the right pair’s ankle. These sneakers come with a LOA from JSA for the signature.
Rounding out a series of exceptional pieces from Michael Jordan’s legendary career is a 1984-85 Jordan Game-Used Chicago Bulls Home Uniform, The Only Mears A10 Full Uniform From Jordan's Rookie Season (estimate $200/300,000). Michael Jordan burst into the NBA at the exact time the game needed him. The explosive guard had been an undisputed star at North Carolina, but two teams passed over him before the Chicago Bulls selected him in the 1984 draft. Jordan’s presence was immediately felt as he breathed new life into the Bulls franchise, leading the team to their first playoff appearance in a decade. The rookie averaged 28.2 points per game and as early as November The New York Times was calling him, “the phenomenal rookie of the Bulls" and he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the next month with the headline “A Star is Born.” And most importantly, Michael Jordan didn’t just play the game well, he re-invented the way it was played.
His seemingly gravity-defying style of play earned him the nickname “His Airness.” Soon the Bulls were attracting huge crowds on the road as fans flocked to see the game’s newest phenom. Suddenly it seemed as if every NBA highlight reel was transformed into the Michael Jordan show and young players discarded all they knew about the game and began modeling their play after Chicago’s brilliant star. By the time his first season was over, the Bulls had made the playoffs and Jordan was the league’s Rookie of the Year. This home white mesh jersey has the correct 1985-86 style “BULLS” logo across the chest above Jordan’s soon to be famous number “23” in red and black appliqué. A Rawlings size 44 label is sewn in the right front tail and a second Rawlings size 44 label is sewn in the collar. The arm and neck openings are trimmed in red, white and black ribbing. The back features “JORDAN” and his number “23” in red and black appliqué. The jersey shows good game use with toning throughout. There is one noteworthy stain found approximately 4 inches to the right of the “3” on the back of the jersey. The appliqué graphics have slightly faded and show some moderate wear from age and repeated laundering.
The matching white shorts have a Chicago Bulls mascot appliqué patch on both thighs along with red, white and black ribbing trim around the leg openings and waist. A Rawlings size 36 label is sewn in the waistband along with Jordan’s number “23” stitched in white on a red strip tag. The shorts show wear comparable to that found on the jersey, with some fading to the appliqué graphics and overall toning from age, plus some bleeding of the red onto the white. This uniform set comes with a LOA from MEARS (307251) for the game use and has been given the highest possible grade of A10.
NEWLY ANNOUNCED HIGHLIGHTS
The sale is further rounded out by magnificent examples of the finest sports memorabilia, including:
· 1953 Jackie Robinson game used Hillerich & Bradsby Professional Model O16 Bat, from the pioneering baseball great (estimate $200/250,000)
· 2018 New England Patriots Super Bowl LIII Championship Players Ring presented to rookie corner back J.C. Jackson with original Jostens presentation box (estimate $125/150,000)
· The Official American League Gene A. Budig baseball from game 2,632 of Cal Ripken Jr.'s unbeatable consecutive game record, the final game of the streak. The game used ball comes the personal collection of Cal Ripken, Jr. with a signed LOA from Cal that will accompany this milestone baseball (estimate $20/30,000)
· 2014-15 LeBron James game used Cleveland Cavaliers road jersey photomatched to 11/14/14 41-point victory against Boston Celtics (estimate $75/100,000)
· 2002 Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys game used football used to break all time carries record of 3838 carries (estimate $30/50,000)
· 1998 Chuck Knoblauch New York Yankees World Series Championship 14k ring (estimate $60/80,000)
· 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup Gold Medal presented to every member of the winning French national team (estimate $4/6,000)
· Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dual signed limited edition (#119/135) "...And Everyone Else" serigraph - Formula 1 teammates with an invitation to a Senna Foundation event (estimate $10/20,000)