Even as a rookie, it was apparent that Michael Jordan was going to be a special basketball player. And with interest in Jordan picking up recently because of ESPN’s documentary, “The Last Dance,” just about any MJ memorabilia has been pure gold on the auction circuit.
A pair of Jordan sneakers sold for $560,000 during a Sotheby’s auction in May, setting an auction record for any pair of athletic shoes. Goldin Auctions is hoping to top that in its inaugural Golden Elite Auction that begins Tuesday and runs through Aug. 22.
The New Jersey-based auction house is offering a pair of 1984-85 Air 1 Jordan game-used sneakers, with a total of four autographs from the Hall of Famer. The sneakers date to January-February 1985. The left shoe has an additional notation, as Jordan wrote “1st pair” on it.
The sneakers came from the personal collection of former Bulls forward Gene Banks, who gave them to Los Angeles broadcaster Rick Lozano. Goldin included a video that showed Jordan autographing the sneakers with a blue marker for the then-KABC sportscaster as they chatted before Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, which was played June 12, 1991, at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Journalists are taught not to seek autographs from players — such a practice was, and still is, frowned upon — but apparently, Lozano could not resist the chance to get Jordan’s signature on the vintage shoes. So, the interview and signing have been recorded for posterity. Regardless of the ethics involved, it was compelling local television for basketball fans.
Jordan would score 30 points in Game 5, wrapping up series MVP honors as the Bulls defeated the Lakers 108-101 to win the series in five games. After opening the Finals with a loss, the Bulls won the next four games to notch the first of their six NBA titles during the 1990s.
The red-and-white pair of Air Jordan 1 sneakers features a black Nike swoosh that is sewn on both sides of the footwear. The “Wings” Air Jordan logo, which would become an iconic symbol of sports footwear, is printed in black on the outside of both ankles.
Red Nike Air tags are sewn on the tongues of both sneakers.
The left shoe is size 13.5, while the right one is size 13. The manufacturer’s code inside each shoe makes the sneakers unique, as the TYPS printing means it is a player’s sample and not available for general release. The “850102” code that precedes the acronym properly dates the sneakers as being issued during the January-February 1985 period.
In addition to the autographs on the sneaker toes. Jordan also autographed the inside of both heels in a fine-tipped black marker. That gives potential auction bidders two autographs on each sneaker.
The back story about Banks gifting Lozano the sneakers comes from their friendship the two men shared in San Antonio — Banks was a member of the NBA’s Spurs, and Lozano a sportscaster for KSAT-TV.
Banks wrote that after he was traded to the Bulls in June 1985, Lozano called him to “wish him well.”
The men discussed the recent controversy surrounding Jordan and his red-and-black sneakers, which were banned by the NBA. Jordan wore the sneakers in an October 1984 preseason game against the New York Knicks, which caught the eye of NBA Commissioner David Stern, according to CNN.
Nike still has a framed letter from the NBA, noting that the league’s rules and procedures” prohibited Jordan’s shoes. Though the letter didn’t state it explicitly, the shoes violated the “51% rule,” which said that the primary color of the players’ footwear should be mostly white to match their team jerseys.
“At the end of the conversation, Rick jokingly asked me to get him a pair of ‘those Michael Jordan shoes,’” Banks wrote in a letter of authenticity.
Banks, who had a pair of Jordan’s sneakers autographed, gave them to Lozano when the Bulls visited San Antonio to play the Spurs on Dec. 5, 1985, at the HemisFair Arena.
Jordan did not play in that game, as he was sidelined with a broken foot that caused him to miss 64 games. Banks, however, scored 12 points in his return as the Bulls won 131-123.
“Michael Jordan gifted me a pair of autographed, game-worn shoes from his rookie season,” Banks wrote in his LOA. “I, in turn, gave those sneakers to Rick Lozano.”
There is also an LOA from MEARS Authentication LLC for the game use of the sneakers, plus individual LOAs from Beckett Authentication Services.
Ken Goldin, founder and CEO of Goldin Auctions, said the Jordan sneakers are unique and will generate plenty of interest.
“The Michael Jordan memorabilia market has exploded recently with the Air Jordan 1 at the forefront of the recent upsurge,” Goldin said. “We believe based on the provenance of the sneakers, coming from a Bulls teammate, with a video of them being shown to Michael himself, him inspecting them on camera and then signing and inscribing them ‘1st pair,’ it makes them the number one pair of Jordan sneakers to ever enter the market.”
Future versions of the Air Jordan would feature the iconic “Jumpman” logo, but during his rookie season, Jordan took to the air with the shoes that are up for bid in the Goldin auction.