A Recently-Unearthed Pair Of Air Jordans Could Be The Most Valuable Sneakers In History

04 May 2020
Sports, Basketball, Sneaker, Footwear, Air Jordan, Michael Jordan, The Last Dance
Image: Getty Images
Owned by the GOAT himself, they were Jordans before Jordans were even a thing

Most people familiar with the basics of sneaker folklore will know of the iconic "banned" colourway that Nike has released and re-released over the years to celebrate the history of the iconic Air Jordan 1.

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MJ's first actual signature sneaker has been a staple in the collections of sneakerheads globally for more than 30 years now, with the iconic Red and Black colour scheme of its earliest versions the most storied of all Jordans. However, the story of the first 'banned' Jordans, the shoes that helped cement both Nike and Jordan himself as a disruptive, revolutionary force in the NBA, isn't so simple.

In fact, the first "Banned" Jordans weren't actually Jordans at all. Allow us to explain.

Nike signed Michael Jordan in the lead-up to his rookie year of the NBA, supplying him with sneakers after he wore Converse basketball shoes throughout much of his glittering college career. And while Jordan did play his first NBA games in his own signature shoes, they weren't the kicks that courted controversy with the higher-ups in the NBA, as most people think.

Instead, the first sneakers provided to Jordan by Nike were versions of the Air Ship model: shoes reminiscent of the Air Jordan 1 as we know it now, but worn by many NBA players of the time in the accepted predominantly white colour scheme. Black and Red Air Ships were issued exclusively to the young Chicago Bull in his team's colours for the pre-season games leading up to his 1984-85 Rookie season.

The NBA quickly took action against Nike and Jordan when he was spotted wearing the kicks, writing to Nike to say that the shoes were prohibited. When Nike did release its first pair of official Air Jordans in what they dubbed the 'banned' colourway, they did so with a flurry of marketing fanfare, cementing the anti-establishment legend of the shoes and the player that wore them for decades to come.

Nike actually chose not to retro the Air Ship model at all until this year, meaning that the story of the shoe faded into obscurity while 'Banned' and 'Bred' retros of the Air Jordan 1 became some of the most sought-after sneakers in the brand's history. However a pair of the original Air Ships, issued by Nike to Jordan himself, has surfaced on the internet amid the flurry of MJ Interest worked up by Netflix's documentary The Last Dance. They could, in fact be the most valuable kicks ever created.

The shoes are currently owned by veteran sports agent Aaron Goodwin, and are claimed to be one of the first two pairs of shoes ever given by Nike to Jordan after signing him. Goodwin didn't detail how he came into possession of the kicks, nor where they've been for 35 years, but a number of small details set them apart. One is the fact that they're seemingly autographed by Jordan, however the killer comes in the "Air Jordan" personalisation on the heel of each shoe, designating them as the prototypes to the shoe that would become a sneaker icon.

And while Goodwin seemingly has no plans to part with the kicks at the moment, the prospect of them hitting the auction block one day has historic sneaker experts salivating. "It could be worth a million, honestly," Leon Benrimon, who deals in vintage sneakers at sports memorabilia firm Heritage Auctions, told Complex. He put a conservative estimate of the pair's worth at $500,000, minimum.

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If the pair did indeed sell for that much, they would easily eclipse the record set by a pair of 1972 Nike Waffle Racing Flat "Moon Shoes", some of the first athletic shoes ever made by The Swoosh, which sold for just over $400,000 USD at an auction last November. Even another pair of Jordan's own game-worn kicks, a pair of Converses that he wore on the way to winning a gold medal with  Team USA at the 1984 Olympics, don't hold a candle to these, having sold at auction for little over $100,000 USD a few years back.


Via GQ Australia