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The Unreleased Michael Jordan 1998 NBA Finals Shoes That Could Fetch $500K

An unreleased Air Jordan 13 sample from the early days of Jordan Brand has made it all the way from MJ’s feet in the ’98 NBA Finals to the Christie’s auction block.

Michael Jordan’s final title run in The Windy City is well-documented. Quite literally. In 2020 amidst shutdowns and stir-craziness, The Last Dance unearthed hours of footage from MJ’s swan song season in Chicago.

For hoop heads, behind-the-scenes film of Mike at practice offered a lens on his other-worldly competitiveness and perhaps underrated sense of humor. For sneaker connoisseurs, the in-depth dive into the 1997-98 season saw all sorts of heat, marking not just Mike’s last season with the Chicago Bulls but also the first formal season of Brand Jordan.

Much like Stephen Curry today, MJ attracted all eyes as the toast of the league with his own insignia. In building a brand, Jordan played roles of CEO, endorser, and wear-tester. That year’s Air Jordan 13 appeared in all 82 regular season games — Mike played and started in every one — with the only rotation exception coming in New York City. Famously, Mike dug deep in Madison Square Garden, unearthing a pair of Air Jordan 1s for his last road trip to the Mecca as a Bull.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Off the court, MJ jumped on team planes wearing Team Js likened to Vin Baker and practiced in pairs inspired by Eddie Jones. It was in the 1998 NBA Playoffs that Mike really got loose, taking to the tunnel in prototype pairs of the Air Jordan 14 and asking Tinker Hatfield and company to come through with low-top looks of his storied signature.

Such was the case for the Air Jordan 13 Low PE: a rarity reserved only for the GOAT.

Well, until now.

Rare Air

This week, Christie’s placed a game-worn pair of these unreleased MJ relics up for auction. Lighter and lower than the Air Jordan 13 “Playoff” released to the public that Mike laced for much of the postseason, this under-the-ankle sample is amongst the scarcest sneakers in the legend’s loaded catalog.

Worn by MJ in Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, the Air Jordan 13 Low PE was so similar to its mid-top take that few could make out its nuances in the days of low-definition television. Seen up close and personal by the likes of Karl Malone and John Stockton, Jordan cut up and down the United Center in this look-alike low-top inspired by his “Playoff” proper.

An all-black upper swapped in a sidewall made of mesh, kept tough through a leather toe box. Blood-red outsoles predated Louboutins, while a metallic Jumpman logo replaced that of the heralded hologram. Notably, the upper was contrasted by white pods on the sole inspired by the foot of a panther. Infamously, the shoes started to separate during the grueling battle of Game 5 as unearthed in footage from The Last Dance.

The Air Jordan 13 Low wouldn’t launch on the market until the Fall of 1998, deviating from court colorways in favor of a lifestyle “Chutney” flavor and a “Brave Blue” rendition with no nods to the Bulls. Conversely, Michael rotated AJ 13 Low PEs throughout the postseason in the months leading up to the model’s autumn arrival.

Against the Larry Bird-led Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan wore this same “Playoff” Low PE style, as well as another unreleased Black/Black-Red rendition.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

After 24 years in the archives, Christie’s is auctioning the PE pair from Game 5 of the NBA Finals. At the time of typing, the bidding is at $300,000, with an estimated end price placed somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000.

When considering the amount of game-worn Michael Jordan sneakers available to the public, the numbers are scarce. Add in the fact that this particular style never released at retail and the ante is simply upped.

So, where does that price come from? And who could afford such a distinct piece of Air Jordan history?

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Bank Shot

The collectible cache around everything from trading cards to NFTs has skyrocketed over the course of the last few years; smack dab in the middle of the “everything is art” adoration are Air Jordan sneakers. Whether retro releases tied to Travis Scott or OG colorways cashing in on the nostalgia from The Last Dance, Mike’s models have always moved momentously at retail.

However, in 2022, the sky has become the limit for stunting whether it’s paying resale rates on aftermarket sites or taking it up a level by bidding on museum status sneakers.

Leveraging their expertise in the auction world and excellence in fine arts, Christie’s has assembled a Six Rings: Legacy of the GOAT lot right in time for the 2022 NBA Finals. From autographed Air Jordan 1s to rookie cards rated at PSA 8.5, the items range in starting spot from $10,000 to estimated endings of $3 million.

Near the top of the mountain is this Air Jordan 13 Low PE.

Despite playing in all 82 games for the majority of his career and reaching the NBA Finals six times, game-worn Michael Jordan sneakers are a hot commodity and impressively hard to find. While MJ was well-known for rocking a fresh pair of shoes each game and often giving away his played-in pairs to equipment managers or young fans, few of the lucky recipients are willing to let go of the memories attached to such colossal kicks.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

This particular pair of size 13.5 samples is incredibly rare for a number of reasons. Aside from being worn in-game by His Airness, this take touched the court in not just his last trip to the NBA Finals, but his last home game as a member of the Chicago Bulls entirely. Additionally, this color code never made it to retail.

In 2015, a ringer retro was released as an off-the-mark homage, missing out on marquee details and any sense of storytelling. A red liner, leather upper, and gold Jumpman differed from that of Mike’s Playoff PE, with few picking up on the sentiment or the stylistic nod.

Because likely fewer than even five pairs exist of this Air Jordan 13 Low PE, hitting the half-million-dollar hammer price for a final sale can absolutely happen; just last year, an Air Jordan 1 sample worn in NBA action by MJ from 1985 fetched $560,000 on Sotheby’s. The mid-top take made in mismatched sizes just for Jordan coincides with the toast of modern sneaker culture despite its ancient origin. And critically, MJ played in Air Jordan 1s over the course of almost 100 games, while this Air Jordan 13 Low PE saw on-court action in single-digit outings all during the infamous Last Dance.

Regardless of whether it’s a high-profile sneakerhead like PJ Tucker or a peer in playing or collecting that ends up copping this rare pair, it’s an interesting investment. Prices and overall esteem surrounding this class of memorabilia continue to climb, whether in the form of trading card, shooting shirts, or sneakers. Because of this, brands and brokers are pulling together resources to christen new classics and resurface these stories of the past.

And though the market may get saturated in years to come, one thing remains certain.

They’re not making any more Michael Jordan game-worn PEs.

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