Michael Jordan’s Nike Air Ship trainers sell for $1.5m to smash auction record | Michael Jordan

October 26, 2021

Old trainers have apparently become the new Picassos after a pair of basketball shoes worn by Michael Jordan sold for nearly $1.5m (£1.1m).

The white and red leather high-tops featuring Nike’s iconic swoosh set a new record price at auction, confirming secondhand sneakers as rivals to fine art.

The NBA superstar wore the shoes in the fifth game of his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, the same year he and Nike began a long-running collaboration on a range of shoes and clothes. The trainers sold for $1,472,000 at a luxury sale in Las Vegas.

It is the highest sum ever paid for game-worn footwear from any sport and beats a record set last year when another pair of shoes worn by Jordan sold for $615,000 at an auction by Christie’s.

Sotheby’s, the London-based auction house behind the record-breaking sale, confirmed that Jordan’s autographed size 13s were in good condition “with signs of court wear and tear”. The shoes were a gift from the player to Tommie Tim III Lewis, who was a ballboy for the Denver Nuggets during the 1984-85 season. The signed trainers were bought by Nick Fiorella, a well-known collector.

In April, Kanye West’s first pair of Yeezys – a pair of black leather high-tops worn by the rapper to the Grammys in 2008 – sold for $1.8m at a private auction, becoming the most expensive pair of trainers ever sold.

The black high-top Yeezys that sold for $1.8m. Photograph: Sotheby’s/AFP/Getty

Trainers have long ignited hysteria from fans who respond to savvy marketing campaigns and internet hype by queueing up outside stores for new releases and investing large sums in limited-edition styles. But the growing presence of “sneakerheads” who collect limited-edition styles show trainer trading has become big business.

The development of resale and sneaker specialist sites that allow collectors to trade their “player exclusives” and limited-edition kicks has fuelled this global sneaker resale market – valued at $6bn in 2019 and forecast to be worth $30bn by 2030.

StockX, described as “a marketplace for current culture”, is among those leading the charge. The Michigan-based company, recently valued at $3.8bn, offers its customer base the opportunity to buy and sell sneakers along with other collectibles.

On StockX, coveted items such as a pair of Dior Jordan 1 sneakers sell for up to $10,000. For UK-based Depop – a secondhand online marketplace – trainers are also the most lucrative category.

Off-the-shelf trainers are more in demand than ever, too. While sneakers were once considered a dirty word in fashion circles, sports-inspired footwear is now a leading luxury category.

Trainers have transcended the gym and are regularly spotted on catwalks and red carpets. While sports labels once dominated the sneaker market, fashion houses such as Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton now offer their own styles. Balenciaga’s Triple S sneaker became the biggest-selling luxury sneaker on the market in 2017.

Recent highlights have come from Lanvin, which unveiled a Batman-inspired sneaker in its spring/summer 2022 collection, and Miu Miu, which revealed a collaboration with New Balance.

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