Michael Jordan’s ‘Last Dance’ shoes could sell for $4 million


After basketball superstar Michael Jordan sank the final free throw of Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals, he removed his red-and-black Air Jordan 13s in the locker room, signed each one and handed them to a ballboy.

Now, those shoes — which Jordan is said to have worn in the second half of the game — are going up for auction with Sotheby’s, which expects them to fetch as much as $4 million.

That price would make the Jordan sneakers the most expensive pair of shoes ever sold on the open market — more than then $1.4 million paid in October 2021 for a pair of Air Ship Jordans, and more than the estimated $2 million paid for the pair of Air Jordans made of solid, 24-karat gold.

“Overall, it’s not surprising,” said Jared Goldstein an attorney and co-author of “Sneaker Law,” which details the intricacies of today’s sneaker industry.

Sneakers in recent years have become a special asset class, Goldstein said, much like fine art and other sports memorabilia. “Many people look at sneakers as investments,” he said.

Black-and-red “Bred” Air Jordan 13s are already coveted sneakers, Goldstein said. But the fact that Jordan wore this particular pair for his final shots of Game 2 of his last championship series?

“There’s no doubt, with all those elements in mind, that’s going to be the most expensive sneaker ever sold,” Goldstein said.

The sneaker resale market’s estimated value in 2020 was $2 billion and was expected to reach $30 billion by 2030, according to Cowen research. Last February, 200 pairs of limited-edition Louis Vuitton and Nike Air Force 1 sneakers sold for $25.3 million, which Goldstein cited an example of intense demand for special sneakers.

But the resale market is coming down to earth, and industry analyst Matt Powell blamed it on an oversaturation of formerly limited-edition sneakers being reintroduced to the market.

“For the most part, sneaker resale is a struggle right now,” he said.

But sports memorabilia is booming. Research firm Market Decipher estimated the sports memorabilia market, excluding NFT sales, at $12.2 billion in 2021, and predicts it will grow more than 15 percent annually until 2032 — fueled by demand from millennials and the growth of online platforms that offer the products.

In September, the jersey Jordan wore during Game 1 of the 1998 Finals — a series that was the basis for ESPN’s popular documentary “The Last Dance” — sold at auction for $10.1 million, double Sotheby’s initial estimates. It became the most expensive piece of game-worn sports memorabilia ever auctioned, overtaking the $9.3 million paid that May for the jersey worn by Diego Maradona in Mexico City during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, in which he scored a pair of historic goals. In August, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million.

Michael Jordan jersey becomes priciest game-worn memorabilia ever sold

There have, at times, been mishaps. After a San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana’s “first touchdown ball” was put up for auction in August, the player who caught the pass claimed the ball was not authentic — that he, in fact, was in possession of the real ball, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The ball was pulled by the auction house.

But no such disputes have come up with the Jordan shoes soon up for auction, and Sotheby’s says the shoes’ provenance was verified by the MeiGray Group, an authenticator for NBA memorabilia. Amanda Bass, a Sotheby’s spokeswoman, said the auction house contacted the ballboy to verify the shoes’ authenticity. She said the ballboy had previously sold the shoes to the person consigning them for the upcoming auction. She declined to disclose the identity of either person.

How sneaker authenticators gained a foothold in the shoe market

The auction, from April 3 until April 11, will coincide with release of “Air,” a film starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that chronicles sneaker company Nike’s courtship of Jordan in his rookie season.

The 1997-1998 season was Jordan’s last with the Bulls, and the team’s path to its sixth NBA Finals victory in eight years was chronicled in “The Last Dance.” During the sixth and final game of that series, Jordan hit the game-winning jumper with seconds left on the clock. He was wearing a pair of Air Jordan 14s.

If those shoes were to go on sale, they would fetch a record price, Goldstein said.

“I would say those would definitely be worth more because that’s the iconic shot,” Goldstein said.

But for now, he said, the Air Jordan 13s are “the most valuable.”

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