Written by By Frédéric Lehmann, CNN
The official first pair of sneakers gifted to Michael Jordan by Nike fetched $1.5 million at auction on Thursday.
The pair of Everlast high-top shoes, which MJ wore for a four-game court battle against “Jellybean” Benitez in 1991, were sold in partnership with the MJX Charity Auction, which benefited Jordan’s charity, the Magic Johnson Foundation .
More than 2,100 buyers worldwide entered bids for the shoes at the auction, which took place at Sotheby’s in New York City.
Daniel Nolan, Deputy Chairman of Global Auctions for Sotheby’s and head of its American Americas Sports Sales, told CNN at the auction that “Jordan prints” were in high demand.
Michael Jordan’s celebrated sneakers sold for $1.5 million at auction. Credit: Darren McCollester/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The sneakers were originally introduced in 1992, but only made the rounds in public in January 1991, when a lawsuit was filed against the NBA player by Benitez, who claimed a pair of Nike high-tops that Jordan was wearing during the 1991 finals bettered his shoes.
The jury subsequently ruled in favor of Nike, after Benitez’s outfit was deemed too similar to Nike’s basketball model.
The shoes were sold, among other items of memorabilia, at MJX Charity Auction, whose sponsor is the Michael Jordan Foundation. Credit: Amy Sussman/Invision/AP
“What we’re seeing is more and more high quality prints,” said Nolan, “the more damaged it is the more we get interest.”
“In this instance, they’re not perfect prints, but they’re exceptional prints,” he said, adding that buyers were interested in style.
“The essence of shoes doesn’t change, we want to see a sneaker that every time you go out, that you’re going to be able to say I’ve got Jordan in my closet or on my feet.”
The auction also included an Art of Jordan screening, featuring exclusive short films showing how the model/retailer’s history is reflected in the objects sold.
The Michael Jordan and Adidas Corporation Worldwide Headquarters is pictured in Beaverton, Oregon, in 2008. Credit: Tracy Yoon/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Unsurprisingly, the majority of buyers in New York were individuals, with only a handful of people buying the shoes as “collectors” with fewer options for framing, said Nolan.
“People are collectors, they love collecting, a lot of them own tens or hundreds of pairs, they want to have their James at home to commemorate all the basketball seasons and championships that Jordan has won,” said Nolan.
In addition to the Jordan shoe, the charity auction sold several titles from the past quarter century:
A game-worn Knicks jersey worn by Jordan in February, 1998 went for $182,000
A Jordan 7 Air Jordan – first seen in the 1991 All-Star Game – sold for $138,000
An original Nike basketball jersey worn by Jordan in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game went for $100,000
An original Jordan XXI game-worn shoe sold for $44,000
Sotheby’s also sold items that were on display at the auction, including a signed Nike ID Snoop Dogg, valued at $17,500-$22,000, which went for $12,000. The auction also included an autographed 1999 team jersey and a professional NBA short, also signed by Jordan, valued at $7,000-$9,000.