Michael Jordan’s catalog of amazing dunks is jam packed, but unless you really know your MJ history, you may not know that 35 years ago this summer he shattered a backboard with one of them. Now, the shoes he was wearing that day—complete with broken glass still embedded in one of the soles– are about to hit the auction block, where they’re expected to sell for $650,000-$850,000.
Christie’s is offering them as part of its upcoming catalog of 11 pairs of valuable Jordan shoes set to open July 30. After revealing two of the lots earlier this week, the company offered details on the remaining nine pairs, including the “Chicago” branded pair Jordan had on his feet on August 25, 1985 when he was part of a Nike-sponsored exhibition game in Trieste, Italy.
The most memorable play of the game was the breakaway dunk by Jordan, who had finished his rookie season just four months earlier. The game paired Italian Liga A teams Stefanel Trieste and Snaidero Caserta, with special guest Jordan wearing a No. 23 black-and-orange Stefanel Trieste jersey. He actually played for both teams before the night was over.
Broken backboards were not end result Jordan was known for. There is video of the moment, though. It’s grainy and spectacular at the same time.
“Glass was everywhere. The backboard exploded. I’m looking at his eyes, his ears …looking for little bits of glass,” recalled Howard White, Vice President of Jordan Brand. “In the moment, it was wild. It was a little scary, because we didn’t know where the glass was going. They were playing and then there was that moment. I don’t know of any moment where one can detect something otherworldly has happened, but that one has become something grand. For MJ, though, it was just a moment in the game.”
21st century editions of the “Shattered Backboard” shoes are among the most popular Nike designs among sneaker collectors today.
The autographed shoes were sourced from Gianni Bertolitti, the captain of the Stefanel team, who received them from Jordan after the game. The letter of authenticity outlining the full provenance with backstory is included with the shoes along with never before seen scans of original photographs from the game. Both shoes were signed on the inner collar by Jordan, using a black pen. The rookie signatures are authenticated by JSA.