Matt Damon and Viola Davis feature in Ben Affleck’s film Air, which opens today. The original shoes are up for sale. The relentless ascent of the ultimate cult sneaker is examined by Ellie Violet Bramley.
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A pair of used sneakers have to be extremely unique if they are to fetch a price tag of between $2 million and $4 million. A pair of Nike Air Jordan 13s that Michael Jordan wore during the second game of the 1998 NBA Finals—a season dubbed “the last dance”—will go up for auction at Sotheby’s next week. These shoes are the most costly to ever come up for sale.
Brahm Wachter, head of Sotheby’s streetwear and modern collectibles division, tells BBC Culture that “the Bulls were cognizant at the time [of the game] that they were going to be disbanded as a team, and they were aware that this was their last chance at winning an NBA championship together.” “The pair that we have is actually the only MeiGray photo-matched pair (MeiGray is the authenticator for the NBA) from any of the NBA finals that have ever appeared at auction.”
According to Sotheby’s, the record for a pair of sneakers sold at auction is $1.472 million in 2021, likewise for a pair worn Michael Jordan. The fact that the Jordan 13s are predicted to surpass this record number attests to both their exceptional rarity and the amazing, enduring legacy of what is undoubtedly the most famous shoe design in history. According to Wachter, “it’s something that will appeal to sneakerheads, and will also appeal to game-worn collectors,” which refers to the fact that the shoes bear evidence of having been on Jordan’s feet during a game. “They definitely look worn but they are in really good condition considering how old they are.”
What, then, is it about the Air Jordan that is so unique? The storyline alone made the picture Air, which stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Viola Davis, stand out. It was directed by Affleck. In 1984, Jordan was still a rookie at the University of Carolina when Nike made contact with him. Even still, they had to battle to get him to sign with them because Jordan was eager to deal with Adidas and Nike was having trouble at the time. The original Air Jordan was created after shoe designer and Nike icon Peter C. Moore was called in. It is said that Moore drew the design on the back of a napkin. Thirty-five other Air Jordan designs have been launched subsequently, starting with this one.
Jordan’s physical attributes undoubtedly play a significant role in the shoe’s lasting appeal. According to Drew Haines, marketing director of shoes and collectibles at StockX, an online marketplace and resale site for streetwear and sneakers, “Jordan’s cultural cachet continues to increase even beyond his playing years.” “All this time has passed, and really no one has reached the level that he was able to reach in his career.”