The story behind the private sale of the rarest Air Jordan collection ever — Andscape
This week, Sotheby’s, the broker of fine art, jewelry and collectibles, announced it is selling the rarest collection of Air Jordans ever.
It consists of six individual shoes — not complete pairs — all worn and autographed by Michael Jordan on the night he and the Chicago Bulls clinched each of the franchise’s six championships.
Photos from the locker room celebrations of those 1990s titles tell the story of the game-worn sneakers that make up the “Dynasty Collection.” In those pictures, Jordan is always depicted the same way: drenched in champagne, with a championship cap over his bald head, a cigar in hand — and, notably, only one Air Jordan on his feet.
Throughout the Bulls’ reign, photographers captured multiple images of a celebratory Jordan missing a shoe, documenting a tradition established between His Airness and the team’s longtime director of communications, Tim Hallam. In 1996, Bulls beat writer Terry Armour noted the sneaker exchanges in the Chicago Tribune:
“When Michael Jordan left the United Center after Sunday’s game, he was only wearing one shoe,” wrote the Armour, who died in 2007 at 46. “Jordan has given a shoe to Tim Hallam after each of the team’s championships.”
Those six shoes — an “Infrared” Air Jordan 6 (1991), a “Charcoal” Air Jordan 7 (1992), a “Playoffs” Air Jordan 8 (1993), a “Bred” Air Jordan 11 (1996), a “Playoffs” Air Jordan 12 (1997) and a “Last Shot” Air Jordan 14 (1998) — resurfaced for the first time in July 2022 as an exhibit at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Last summer, the championship-game-worn models were dubbed “contemporary Ruby red slippers, only rarer,” by Mark Salzberg, chairman of the Certified Collectibles Group.
On Tuesday, Sotheby’s launched a traveling exhibition of the collection in Dubai, with additional stops in Hong Kong, Singapore and New York, as the broker shops the exclusive sneaker collection around the globe.
“This is the Mona Lisa of the sneaker collecting and sports memorabilia communities,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectibles.
Sotheby’s is offering the collection via a private sale, not at auction. That means the six sneakers, which will be sold as a set, could be purchased at any time upon the agreement between the seller and buyer. That number — projected to reach between eight and nine figures — will only be disclosed with the seller and buyer’s approval, Sotheby’s told Andscape.
Though all the sneakers were initially given to Hallam by Jordan, Sotheby’s confirmed that the team official no longer owns the shoes. And, at this time, the current seller has asked to remain anonymous, according to Sotheby’s.
“I really don’t have much to say other than I’m happy that the shoes are being seen by so many people,” Hallam told the Wall Street Journal this week. Still a member of the Bulls’ staff, Hallam did not respond to requests for comment from Andscape. However, Hallam once revealed how the tradition began in a news story published after the Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals.
“I wanted something that was an actual part of the game, so I asked Michael for one of his shoes,” Hallam told The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Illinois. “Now it’s kind of become a standing joke between us. Every year after we’ve won the title, Michael will take his shoe off in the interview area, sign it and give it to me. It’s kind of funny to see Michael walk around with one shoe on and one shoe off.”
Five of the six models in the collection are the right shoe. The lone exception is the Air Jordan 6, which is the left shoe of the pair M.J. wore when he and the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991 to win the franchise’s first championship. Some shoes are addressed “To Tim,” in Jordan’s handwriting, including the Air Jordan 8, which features the inscription, “One last f—ing game,” perhaps as a tease of Jordan’s first retirement from basketball in October 1993.
“For what it’s worth, 30 years ago, a game-used pair of MJ’s Air Jordans would’ve only run you about $1,500,” said Caleb Cattivera, curator of the @NiceKicksVault sneaker page on Instagram, citing articles he’s found from the early 1990s.
Fast-forward to 2021, when a game-worn 1984 pair of Jordan’s Nike Air Ships, the silhouette he wore before his signature Air Jordan 1, sold for $1.472 million. High-end trading card collector Nick Fiorella won the Air Ships at auction from Sotheby’s in a record-breaking sale that more than doubled the previous mark, set by the original pair of “Shattered Backboard” Air Jordan 1s from 1985, which sold for $615,000 via Christie’s auction house in 2020.
What separates the Dynasty Collection is that while the set features six different models, there’s only one shoe from each pair. Marvin Barias, a longtime Air Jordan collector in Stockton, California, owns two separate sets of the models featured in the Dynasty Collection. One set features all six original pairs released in the 1990s, which Barias purchased for $1,289.57. And another set of six retro pairs released from 2000 to 2018, which he bought for $1,069.78. That’s 12 different complete pairs at approximately $2,400 combined.
Jordan Geller, who was certified by Guinness World Records as owner of the largest sneaker collection in the world, told the Wall Street Journal that he anticipates the incomplete game-worn Dynasty Collection to sell for, “at least $20 million … maybe $100 million.”
The question is, does MJ still own the other shoes from his championship-winning pairs? And if given a blank check, how much would a longtime collector like Barias drop on the six-shoe Dynasty Collection?
“It’s gotta be millions,” Barias said. “These shoes are literally trophy pieces that I hope go to a collector and not someone who just has a ton of money. But that’s probably what is gonna happen.”