An archival Air Jordan 1 hybrid worn as MJ returned from injury is now a six-figure collectible straight from sneaker heaven.
UPDATE 3/1: Heritage Auctions announce that the pair of Jordan 1 sneakers sold for a record-setting $675,000:
Imagine being one of the best basketball players in the world at only 21 years old.
Imagine being the face of a franchise. Imagine embodying the identity of an entire city while still trying to figure out your own identity.
And now imagine that the literal foundation for all your athletic and professional potential is quite literally fractured.
Such is the conundrum right now for the young and talented 2019 No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Zion Williamson. But it is often forgotten that Michael Jordan was once in the same situation.
In 1986, Nike was tasked with a tall order: to make Michael Jordan a shoe he could wear while returning from a broken foot that cost him a chunk of his second season with the Bulls. The challenge? To make the shoe so that MJ wouldn’t re-injure his foot, thus risking a career that would ultimately become worth billions of dollars.
Amongst uncertainty from the Bulls and a possessed MJ, the Swoosh sought out to alter Peter Moore’s iconic Air Jordan 1. Outfitting Mike’s signature shoe with a supportive strap, Jordan returned to the court in March of 1986 after breaking his foot in the Fall of ’85.
Early on, he played limited minutes in the protective pair. By April, Mike wanted to run a full 48 minutes and have something more modern that could keep up.
Doubling down on Moore’s brilliance, the brand called in two classics by the poster designer to outfit their recovering poster boy. The NBA-provoking Air Jordan 1 would appear as the upper — taking on the sole of the NCAA-engineered Nike Dunk. This hybrid design was not intended to touch the hands of the public. Rather, only to help the reeling Bulls make a run at the postseason.
Unexpectedly, these AJ1s ended up becoming one of the richest products in sneaker history.
In 2011, the ankle-strap edition of Michael Jordan’s 1986 comeback kicks resurfaced on eBay for $25,000. By 2017, the pair was sold again for $55,000.
By 2020, ESPN’s 10-partThe Last Dance documentary debuted, igniting nostalgic fever for all Air Jordan collectibles. The strapped shoe was once again re-listed, and this time, bidding began at $100,000.
So, why is the timing of Heritage Auctions listing Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan 1 “Dunk Sole” PE from the same season so enticing?
Heading into 2022, StockX reported the Air Jordan 1 and Nike Dunk as the nos. 1 and 2 top-traded sneakers, respectively, over the course of 2021. To have an unreleased shoe from 1986 on the market with trends in current culture is unprecedented.
And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Not only is this auctioned item both pairs in one, but these were also worn in-game by Michael Jordan himself.
The particular pair up for auction was worn on April 1, 1986, in a 116-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Still returning from an injury that had him sidelined for months, Mike was quite literally finding his footing.
So much so, in fact, that the reigning Rookie of the Year was coming off the bench — spelling George Gervin for 26 minutes of play.
Naturally, Mike made the most of his time and scored a team-high 28 points. The sore foot didn’t shy Mike away from contact, as he went 12-for-12 from the free-throw line. Yes, the Bulls lost, but the spark from Jordan’s comeback would ultimately earn them the 8 seed for that season’s playoffs.
Just 19 days after coming off the bench against the Bucks, Mike would set a new benchmark against Larry Bird and the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics. MJ lit up Boston that game by way of a 63-point explosion in Game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Bird — that season’s league MVP and eventual NBA champion — described the performance as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
By Bird anointing the second-year star as the second coming, Mike had made his comeback well worth it, even if the Bulls didn’t advance to the next round.
That spring, both the Air Jordan 1 and Nike Dunk remained on shelves with only Mike possessing a pair that was all-in-one.
Unbeknownst to the untrained eye and grainy box television sets, it was the Air Jordan 1 “Dunk Sole” PE that Mike rocked with red laces in his divine duel against the Boston Celtics.
Big Buck Hunter
While the pair presented by Heritage Auctions has only been game-matched to that one Bucks game, it’s still an unprecedented piece of sneaker and hoop history.
With a reserve set for $500,000 and previous pairs of inline and OG Air Jordan 1s going for north of $600,000, one would expect these rarities to register as even more valuable. The shoes don’t just represent the two most topical shoes in the sneaker space. They endearingly embody the inspirational comeback arcs of Jordan in the ’80s as well as Jordan Brand’s most powerful prospect, Zion Williamson.
The Air Jordan 1 “Dunk Sole” PE is the ultimate rarity — and unpreceded hoop-hybrid — and also a pivotal symbol in the larger narrative of one of the most climactic “what-if” stories in basketball history. With any luck, we will be talking about whichever shoe Zion returns in with the same gusto decades from now.
If you’re inspired, you better act fast. The bidding on the AJ1 “Dunk Sole” PEs ends Saturday.