A pair of Nike Air Ships worn by Michael Jordan during his first season in the NBA has set the new record for most expensive pair of sneakers ever sold at auction. The rare sneakers sold for $1.47 million in an auction by Sotheby’s to become the first pair at auction to eclipse the $1 million mark and nearly triple the previous record of $560,000.
The only sneakers to ever sell for more were the Nike Air Yeezys Kanye West debuted at the 2008 Grammys, which fetched $1.8 million earlier this year in a private sale also facilitated by Sotheby’s. Previously, the $560,000 Air Jordan 1s worn and autographed by MJ were the most expensive sneakers sold by any means.
Nicknamed the “Pre-Jordan,” the Air Ship was the sneaker Jordan played in before receiving his own signature shoe. The NBA issued a fine of $5,000 against Jordan every time he wore a black and red pair not in line with league regulations, forming the legend of MJ’s “banned” sneakers.
A former ball boy cashed in — Photo matching confirmed the Air Ships were worn by Jordan during his fifth NBA game away against the Denver Nuggets. Jordan gave the autographed sneakers to a Tommie Tim III Lewis, ball boy for the opposing team who’s held on to them ever since. Included in the auction was Lewis’ staff pass for the 1984-1985 season.
Previous pairs of Air Ships worn by Jordan that made their way onto the market were printed with either “Nike Air” or “Air Jordan,” but the new record holder is the first to surface with only the word “Air.” It’s an obscure detail, but the very kind that sneakerheads go crazy for.
Sotheby’s sold the Air Ships as part of an in-person auction over the weekend in Las Vegas. “To present such a groundbreaking and important pair of sneakers at this special auction in Las Vegas further solidifies the strength and brand reach of the sneaker collecting community,” said Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectables for Sotheby’s. “This record-breaking result for the Jordan Nike Air Ships affirms the place of Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan franchise at the pinnacle of the sneaker market. Since launching sneaker sales at Sotheby’s in 2019, we’ve seen time and again the ceiling for sneakers continue to be pushed, and we are excited about all the potential ahead of us.