It is no secret that Michael Jordan was a game-changer in professional basketball.
And the sneakers he wore in 1985 when he shattered a backboard during an exhibition game in Italy, were a game-changer for Christie’s Auction House.
The London-based auction company ended its “Gamechangers” series Aug. 13 with sales of $1,149,000. Prominent among the auction items were the sneakers Jordan wore Aug. 25, 1985, in Trieste during a Nike-sponsored exhibition game, as the “Chicago” branded footwear sold for $615,000, including buyer’s premium. The price set a new record for the most expensive pair of basketball shoes ever sold, topping a pair of Jordan rookie season sneakers that sold for $560,000 at Sotheby’s just three months ago.
Jordan, four months removed from his rookie season, signed both sneakers after the game in which his breakaway dunk shattered the backboard. Jordan was wearing a No. 23 black-and-orange Stefanel Trieste jersey and the impact of Jordan’s slam sent shards of glass raining onto the court. A couple of tiny pieces of glass are still embedded in the soles.
Christie partnered with Stadium Goods for the auction, which featured 11 different lots of Jordan sneakers.
The shattered backboard sneakers pulled in the most money, but five other pairs of footwear also raked in some sizeable amounts. The total sales from the six winning items totaled $931,875 including the buyer’s premiums.
A pair of Air Jordan 7s worn by Jordan in the 1992 Olympic Basketball Final pulled in $112,500–more than double the pre-sale estimate, while an Air Jordan 1 TYPS, player-exclusive signed sneaker from 1985 had a final gavel price of $62,500 after the buyer’s premium.
“We’re thrilled at the strong results for ‘Original Air’ and to again be part of a new height achieved for sneakers at auction,” John McPheters, co-founder and co-CEO of Stadium Goods, said. The new mark reached with the “Shattered Backboard” Air Jordan 1 is special for Stadium Goods because that model occupies such a singular place in sneaker culture.
“This sale once again confirms that sneakers are cultural artifacts and deserve to be listed alongside other luxury items in the collectibles marketplace,” McPheters added.
The shoes from the shattered backboard game came from Gianni Bertolitti, Stefanel’s captain. He received the shoes from Jordan after the game, and MJ signed the inner collar of the footwear in black ink. The sneakers came with a letter of authenticity, which included the backstory behind the sneakers. The item also included previously unseen scans of original photographs taken during the game.
The rookie signatures have been authenticated by JSA.
In addition, the Air Jordan 11 “Concord” sneaker, game-worn and signed from 1995, drew a winning bid of $56,250. A portion of the proceeds was designated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Christie’s says interest in the auction was global and the majority of bidders were new to its platform.
“We are delighted with the results of Christie’s inaugural sneaker sale and excited to see an unprecedented amount of engagement from around the world with online visitors from over 120 countries,” said Caitlin Donovan, Christie’s vice president of handbags and accessories. “Additionally, the virtual event surrounding the sale was among the highest attended online events Christie’s has hosted since (the coronavirus pandemic) lockdown. As we embark on this new category, we are encouraged with the interest from not only new buyers but also from established Christie’s clients who purchase across other sale categories. We look forward to our future partnered sales with Stadium Goods, which will take place later this year.”
While the Jordan footwear captured the lion’s share of attention during the auction, 21 pictures taken by legendary photographer Walter Iooss Jr. also attracted bidders. Iooss, 76, a member of the International Photography Hall of Fame, has snapped some of the most expressive and iconic photographs in sports history.
A collection of his photographs, “The Athlete: Photographs by Walter Iooss Jr.,” was an online-only auction that ended Aug. 11. Total sales including buyer’s premium brought in $217,125.
The big winner was the January 1982 photograph of “The Catch,” Dwight Clark’s winning touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys that sent the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XVI. The winning bid was $37,500. A shot of Jordan in midair about to slam the basketball home during a 1988 game fetched $35,000.
Other photographs sold included more shots of Jordan, plus portraits and action shots of Kobe Bryant, Julius Erving, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Lou Brock, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.