Michael Jordan shoes from broken-foot game going to auction

Shoes are not photo-matched, but Lelands says they have 'rock-solid provenance'

Cover Image for Michael Jordan shoes from broken-foot game going to auction
The shoes are known as the last pair of “original” Air Jordan 1s that Jordan wore before Nike modified the shoe.

Most of the highly coveted pieces of sports memorabilia are mementos of success, physical manifestations of greatness such as a Babe Ruth home run ball or a Tom Brady Super Bowl jersey.

There is likely no other athlete for whom that rule applies more powerfully than Michael Jordan.

Jordan’s 1998 “Last Dance” jersey, which sold for a record $10.1 million, is valuable for the obvious reason it is directly connected to a peak achievement in Jordan’s career. The same goes for the “Dynasty Collection,” a set of six individual sneakers worn in each of Jordan’s six NBA Finals-clinching games which sold for $8 million. Jordan’s personal brand is about winning over everything else, and the market for his memorabilia reflects.

But unlike the rest of Jordan collectibles, a pair of sneakers tied to a near-catastrophic moment that could have altered the entire trajectory of his career is poised to join the ranks of the most coveted Jordan artifacts when it sells this week at Lelands.

As Jordan ran the court in transition midway through the second quarter in an October 1985 game against the Warriors, he turned his ankle, retreating to the bench for the remainder of the game. Soon, tests revealed Jordan had fractured a bone in his left foot.

The Chicago Tribune called the incident “the worst possible scenario for the Chicago Bulls” at the time. Jordan was sidelined for six weeks, which turned into six months, in what could have been another cliché story of a young star having his potential drained due to injury.

Of course, now we know that would not prove to be the case. Jordan went on to win six NBA titles and cement himself as the greatest player in the sport’s history and the most famous athlete in the world. But that moment — a “what if?” — represents a uniquely fragile moment in a career filled with a near-perfect record of success.

The pair of sneakers believed to be worn during that game — known as the last pair of “original” Air Jordan 1s Jordan wore before Nike added modifications to protect him from injury — have hit the auction block, with estimates ranging from $400,000-$500,000. The shoes are being sold by Lelands, the same auction house which last sold the sneakers in 2022 for $422,130.

According to Jordan Gilroy, director of acquisitions at Lelands, the sneakers changed hands privately for an undisclosed price in the time since, from the buyer to the current consignor. Originally, the shoes were sold by a woman who claimed her father received them directly from Jordan.

That first auction, while including a letter of opinion from MEARS, lacked a photo-match. This time around, the consignor uncovered photos from the game. While Lelands did not attempt to find a third-party photo-match, due to the low-resolution of the photos according to Gilroy, the auction house is providing images with in-house matches outlined in the lot description.

Gilroy ranks this pair in the top 1 percent of all Jordan sneakers.

“So, just to have any pair, let alone one that has a story behind it, those are in the top 1%, and those shoes are always going to be iconic, probably the most iconic basketball shoe in the history of the world,” Gilroy said, noting the “rock-solid provenance” of this pair.

As for the estimate, which assumes the shoes have not lost significant value since the last sale in 2022, despite other Jordan sneakers seeing a precipitous drop in value over that time — such as a pair of Air Ships which sold for $1.47 million in 2021 before selling for $624,000 in 2023 — Gilroy believes the newly uncovered images will serve as a value add.

“It pretty much came down to the new photographs that the consignor was able to track down. Because while it isn't a conclusive photo-match, it does give people hope that maybe there is a match out there,” Gilroy said, noting he was not comfortable sending the sneakers in for a photo-match and costing the consignor the steep price necessary for a big-ticket item, given the limited number of photos available and the low quality.

Gilroy admits the market has declined since the last sale, but remains steadfast in the belief the price will be buoyed by the photos — despite the lack of documentation from a third-party.

“I do think they are worth more than what they would be without that photographic evidence. So, if we just sold the same shoes, yeah, I would expect them to go for less, and they still might go for less, but having the photographic evidence, it does help,” Gilroy said. “And I know if I was buying a pair of shoes, having the story plus the photos, that would give me more confidence to spend more.”

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.