Two things made Michael Jordan the global icon and superstar we know today – his skill on the court and his business deals off the court. MJ didn’t just change the game of basketball but defined the business of basketball as well, nowhere more than through his historical deal with Nike and setting up the Air Jordan Brand.
When your first shoe is still the most popular one decades later, you know the stars aligned – from branding to the actual product. To this day, the Jordan 1s are the brand’s best-seller. One of the best indicators of Air Jordan shoes’ cultural impact is the record-breaking prices they reach in auctions. Think about that for a second. Sotheby’s schedule looks something like “we got a Picasso auction, then luxury Swiss watches and closing it off with basketball sneakers.”
In their “Gamers Only” auction of game-worn sneakers from some of the greatest players ever, one of the best auction houses in the world now has dedicated sneaker auctions. The lineup was truly staggering – MJ, Kareem, Shaq, Steph, AI, Moses, Big Pat, KG. But, even in this category, MJ dominated.
His 1985 game-worn Jordan 1s were sold for $152.500. Steph Curry was second-best/most expensive – his Under Armor Curry 2s from the unanimous MVP season (’15/’16) were sold for $20.800. Rounding up the Top 3 is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, more specifically his Adidas Superstars from the ’79/’80 season, which were sold for $18.030.
The gap between MJ and everyone else is so big that the person who purchased the Air 1s could’ve bought all other shoes and still have $80.000 in the bank. That’s the power of the Jordan brand and the sneaker market. The world record for most expensive sneakers ever was set last month when a pair of Nike Air Yeezy 1s worn by Kanye West at the Grammys was sold for $1.8 million.
The impact basketball and the NBA had on culture, in general, is amazing. From tape-delayed Finals between Magic and Bird to astronomical prices of basketball sneakers in only a few decades.