NEW YORK, 8 May 2020 – Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that we will auction The One | MJ’s Air Jordan 1s – a special single-lot, online auction for Michael Jordan’s Game Worn Autographed Nike Air Jordan 1s from 1985. Made by Nike exclusively for the iconic Chicago Bulls shooting guard, the pair represents the first ever signature sneaker, paving the way for other star players like Scottie Pippen, Penny Hardaway, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James to have their own signature shoes. Estimated to sell for $100/150,000, the Vintage Originals are among the most valuable pairs of sneakers ever, following last year’s record-setting sale at Sotheby’s of the Nike “Moon Shoe,” which achieved $437,500.
The dedicated, online auction is open for bidding today through 17 May, coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Air Jordan, and the final episode of popular ESPN documentary ‘The Last Dance’, which focuses on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan’s renowned career.
The shoes are on offer from the collection of Jordan Geller, noted sneaker collector and founder of the Shoezeum, the world's first sneaker museum.
Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Director of eCommerce Development, commented: “We are excited to offer this incredible, legendary piece of footwear and sports history. Michael Jordan is perhaps one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the face of the earth, and it is an honor for Sotheby’s to offer this historic pair of sneakers. Air Jordan has an illustrious history within Nike’s portfolio, and are pleased to honor Jordan’s important contribution to Nike coinciding with ‘The Last Dance’ documentary airing right now on ESPN. The sneakers have beautiful details, including red laces, markings from wear, and the iconic coding ‘850204 TYPS’ being a reference to the year and month they were made, as well as ‘player sample’, indicating their manufacture for Jordan.”
Jordan Geller, Collector and Consignor, commented: “These are the most iconic and coveted sneakers of all time, Sneaker fanatics and collectors from all over the world came to the ShoeZeum to admire them, and they were the crown jewel of the museum. Owning this pair has been a real pleasure, and with all the excitement surrounding Michael Jordan and 'The Last Dance', my wife and I decided that it's time to let the shoes find a new home. We are thrilled to be offering the Air Jordan 1s at Sotheby's, which since last year's landmark sale of the Nike Waffle Shoes, is leading the field in presenting sneakers as a serious collecting category.”
The Vintage Originals from 1985 are in the Chicago Bulls white, black and red - the Air Jordan 1 colorway 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 to April 1985, Jordan wore the present pair of Air Jordan 1s during an early, pivotal point of his career and thus catapulted the sneaker’s popularity. MJ wore Air Jordan 1s until October 29, 1985, when he broke his foot and subsequently took off 64 games during his second season while healing. He wore modified versions of the Air Jordan 1 upon his return to the game.
The Jordan exclusive features unique variations from the public release of the sneaker: MJ’s are Mids, whereas Nike released only Highs and Lows to the public in 1985; the iconic Swooshes are longer, leaner, and more aggressive; and the pair is made from a different material and features red laces, varying from the public offering with only black and white laces.
The right shoe features Michael Jordan’s signature in black permanent marker, unlike many of Jordan’s Game Worn Autographed shoes which are signed with a ball point pen that wears away over time. On offer in remarkable condition, the pair shows frequent wear in comparison to most of Michael Jordan’s other Game Worn Shoes, as he wore a new pair of shoes in every game later in his career. Beautifully creased, black and red and white slashes and markings on the uppers are presumably from the shoes knocking into each other or into the shoes of opponents while Jordan wore them to battle. Wearing mismatched shoes most of his career, the pair is in a size 13 (left shoe) and a 13.5 (right shoe).
Designed by Peter Moore, the name “Air Jordan” was coined by Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk, since the Nike shoes had air in the soles, and Michael Jordan played basketball in the air. Broadening the color spectrum of basketball shoes, Nike released at least 20 different colorways of the Original Air Jordans – unheard of at the time, with most basketball shoes plain and simple, offered in white and black, white and grey, white and navy, and occasionally white and red.
In 1984, Michael Jordan’s 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 colorful shoes were a violation of the league’s uniformity of uniform clause, and forbid 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 MJ as the league's leader in shoe style.
The unparalleled sneaker became so popular and successful that Nike continued to make new signature Air Jordans each season. From the inception, Air Jordans have always been the pinnacle of sneakers, unmatched in their quality, craftsmanship, innovation, performance, and style.
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