The booming secondary market for sneakers has jumped to new heights after a pair worn by the megawatt basketball star Michael Jordan sold in an online sale yesterday at Sotheby's for $2.2m (with fees), making the world record for sneakers at auction.
The Air Jordan 13s, estimated between $2m to $4m, were worn by Jordan in the second game of the 1998 finals with the Chicago Bulls, his last year with the team, known among fans as "The Last Dance". The black-and-red shoes are the only complete pair of sneakers worn by Jordan in an NBA Finals game to be authenticated, Sotheby's says.
Yesterday's feat comes hot-on-the-heels of another record-breaking sale for the jersey worn by Jordan during the same 1998 match, which made $10.1m at Sotheby's in September 2022, the highest publicly recorded price for sports memorabilia.
The former record for a pair of sneakers at auction was $1.4m made by Sotheby's in 2021 for ones worn by Jordan in 1983, the same year Nike and Jordan created his signature line of shoes and clothes (a deal that is the subject of the recently released Hollywood film Air). The Nike Air Ships were bought by the high-end cards collector Nick Fiorella and were the first pair of sneakers to sell for more than $1m at auction.
Since Sotheby’s inaugural dedicated sneaker sale in 2019, in which a pair of Nike Waffle shoes sold for $437,500 establishing a new auction record at the time, the auction house has rapidly expanded into the streetwear and modern collectables market.
Sneaker resales have gone from a niche market in the early 2010s to one of the most steadily rising auction categories in recent years. However, some financial authorities have warned that the rapacious reselling of sneakers could lead to a bubble. In 2019, China's central bank reportedly expressed concern over the speculative prices that were emerging from the trade of sneakers over smartphone apps.