Auction houses are much more than their representation on daytime television. Historic auctioneers such as Sotheby’s are renowned for their high-value, one-of-a-kind auctions that attract lots of attention (remember Banksy’s shredded artwork?). They even operate globally, and it was at a Las Vegas casino and auction house that a big sale was made at the beginning of the week.
The house auctioned off a pair of 1984, Michael Jordan-worn Nike Air Ships, from the fifth game of his rookie season, which sold for US $1.472 million at the Sotheby’s live auction titled ‘Icons of Excellence and Haute Luxury’. This made them the highest selling pair of Air Ships ever put to auction, fetching the higher end of Sotheby’s US $1million – $1.5 million estimate.
First revealed in 1984, Michael Jordan was gifted multiple pairs of the Nike Air Ships that displayed naming variations like “Nike Air,” “Air Jordan,” and “Air,” as seen on the auctioned pair of sneakers and in images from the game. Therefore, these Air Ships are arguably a prototype for the now famous Nike Air Jordan 1 model produced in the following year.
They became iconic after being banned by the NBA, as they tested the boards’ uniform policy. Nike, however, ran with this – adopting the ‘banned’ tagline in order to drive exclusivity, hype and sales around the sneakers.
Despite the eye-watering price tag, this isn’t the most a pair of sneakers has fetched at auction: Ye’s 2008 Yeezy prototypes sold for US $1.8 million via a private sale in April 2021.