In the last year alone, the sneaker auction market has absolutely exploded. It was just last May when a pair of game-worn and autographed Air Jordan 1 Mids set a new record for the most expensive sneakers sold, and that record has already more than tripled with the sale of the first Nike Air Yeezy ever seen in public.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the world’s top two auction houses, are realizing rare sneakers are every bit as covetable as art. Both have rapidly increased the number of shoes listed for auction and combined have sold four pairs for more than $100,000 each. We’ve put together those along with a few other eye-popping sales to show you the eight most expensive sneakers ever sold at auction.
Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals created one of the most legendary moments of Michael Jordan’s career. Jordan visibly struggled just to move up and down the court as he dealt with an illness and yet still managed to drop 38 points and help secure the win. It was only last year in The Last Dance when he revealed he likely suffered food poisoning from a pizza delivered to his hotel.
After the game, Jordan autographed the Air Jordan 12s he wore and gave them to a ball boy for the Utah Jazz. Preston Truman had gained favor with Jordan by bringing him his customary pre-game apple sauce, which paid off when Truman eventually sold the shoes for $104,000 in 2013 through an auction by Grey Flannel.
Half of the sneakers you’ll see here were worn by Jordan at some point in his career, which goes to show how pivotal he’s been to sneaker culture. Christie’s sold last year the Air Jordan 7 “Olympic” sneaker Michael wore while playing on the fabled “Dream Team” in 1992. The pair, which was given to a receptionist at the hotel Jordan stayed at in Barcelona, was photo-matched to what he wore in the Gold Medal Game.
Michael Jordan’s first Olympic gold medal actually came in 1984, when he was still in college and NBA players weren’t yet allowed to play in the competition. At that point, Jordan opted for Converse on the court before signing with Nike. When the pair of Fastbreaks he wore during the Olympics went on sale in 2017, the price went so high even Converse opted out of adding it to its archives.
Sneakerheads waited quite literally decades for Nike to release the self-lacing sneakers seen in 1989’s Back to the Future II. A non-self-lacing version of the Mag released in 2011, and five years later Nike finally added the auto-lacing that would eventually feature in more practical sneakers. Each pair was only made available through a raffle, with the exception of one final pair that auctioned for $200,000. All proceeds from both sales went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
When it sold in 2019 for $437,500, this pair of Waffle Racers handmade by one of Nike’s first employees, Geoff Hollister, and designed by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman became the most-expensive sneakers ever sold at the time. Of the 12 sneakers known in existence, this is the only pair that was never worn.
One of the most coveted Air Jordan 1 color schemes is the “Shattered Backboard” which takes its orange from the uniforms of an Italian team played against during an exhibition game. But when Jordan shattered the backboard during a dunk, he was actually wearing the Air Jordan 1 in its original “Chicago” makeup. A piece of glass remained embedded in the sole of the sneaker, which Jordan also autographed before giving it to one of the players on the opposing team.
This pair of game-worn and autographed Air Jordan 1s was “only” expected to sell for $150,000, but the end of the auction coincided with the finale of The Last Dance, which helped push the final price to a then-record $560,000. What makes this pair particularly rare is that it’s a mid-cut, as opposed to high or low, that was only made for Jordan to play in and not released to the public. The left shoe is 13, while the right is slightly bigger at 13.5 — a mismatch Jordan often wore throughout his career.
Before Kanye West wore this pair to the Grammys in 2008, rumors had already been circulating about a collaborative shoe with Nike. The early sample was the first pair seen by the rest of the world, and Nike was so intent on secrecy that it ordered the sneakers returned immediately after the award show. Their sale this week for $1.8 million absolutely obliterated the previous record, but the Nike Air Yeezy is probably the next closest shoe in influence to the Air Jordan line, if not its equal.