Christie’s Makes a Bid for the Sneaker Market With a New Michael Jordan-Themed Auction

Christie's is collaborating with sneaker purveyor Stadium Goods for a rare sale of Michael Jordan's game-worn shoes and other memorabilia.

Air Jordans part of Christie's "Original Air" auction. Courtesy of Christie's.

Basketball season may still be a ways away (not that you could go to a game anyway). But there’s another competition that’s worth tuning in for: the battle of the auction houses over the red-hot sneaker market.

Christie’s is entering the game with an upcoming sale called “Original Air” featuring Michael Jordan game-worn kicks and other rare finds. The sale, which runs from July 30 to August 13, is a collaboration between the auction house and Stadium Goods, deemed “Tiffany’s for sneakerheads.” A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

As auction houses work to bring their business models online, they are zeroing in on items like sneakers—as well as jewelry, watches, and other collectibles—that appeal to a plugged-in audience and may not require in-person viewing.  To date, Sotheby’s has cornered the sneaker-high-end-auction-house overlap, holding a sale of Jordan’s shoes earlier this summer after its successful debut sale in July 2019 of the rare Nike “Moon Shoes,” which Stadium Goods helped source.

A lot on view, part of Christie’s “Original Air” auction. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Now, Christie’s is getting in on the action. “Original Air” features 11 lots including the Nike Air Ship, MJ Player Exclusive (1984) game-worn high-tops that carry an estimate of $350,000 to $550,000. As Jordan preferred, the left shoe is a size 13.5, and the right shoe is a size 13, worn for a brief time during his rookie season. For $6,000 to $8,000, Bulls fans can nab the Air Jordan 14 “Chicago” (1998) mid-top shoes that Jordan wore during practice in his final season with the team, featuring his number 23 stitched on the back alongside the MJ slam-dunk icon.

“The pieces we’ve put together for this auction are truly unique,” Stadium Goods co-founder John McPheters said in a statement, “and will have deep resonance for Jordan fans, sneaker connoisseurs, and pop culture collectors alike.” Indeed, with the debut of The Last Dance documentary chronicling Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls and a dearth of live sports, the sale is well timed to capitalize on Jordan-mania.

Air Jordan 7 “Olympic” Player Exclusive, Game-Worn Sneakers, Nike 1992 with Magic Johnson t-shirt. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Another star lot is a relic from the 1992 US Olympic Basketball Team known as the “Dream Team”: a pair of Air Jordan 7 “Olympic” shoes Jordan wore to score a whopping 22 points in the game against Croatia. The kicks come to auction courtesy of a former receptionist who worked at the Ambassador Hotel in Barcelona where the team stayed, who apparently received the swag as a sign of thanks.

Christie's x Stadium Goods "Original Air" sneakers. Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s x Stadium Goods “Original Air” sneakers. Courtesy of Christie’s.

In conjunction with “Original Air,” Christie’s is hosting two other athletic-themed sales: “The Athlete: Images by Walter Iooss, Jr” with exclusive images from Iooss’s decades photographing athletes, for which he gained a reputation of always “getting the shot.” By gaining the trust and respect of his subjects, “you don’t have to perform for Walter,” said Michael Jordan of the photographer, “Walter has never taken a bad shot of anybody or anything.”

The final sale, “For the Love of the Game,” includes work by a range of artists, from Andy Warhol to Jonas Wood, who have used sports as a subject. The selling exhibition launches July 23 and runs through August 14, 2020.

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