All six original game-worn shoes will be showcased at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey from July 27-31.
For the first time ever, an insanely rare set of Air Jordans will be housed publicly in one place, with one shoe from from all six of Michael Jordan’s NBA Finals-clinching games appearing together for the very first time.
To close each season, Jordan began a tradition with one of his closest confidants, handing off and often autographing one shoe from the pair worn to close out the series. Nearly 25 years later, it turns out that those sneakers have been housed together by a private collector all along, and they’re set to be showcased from July 27-31 in Atlantic City at one of the country’s largest collectibles and memorabilia events — the National Sports Collectors Convention — by Certified Sports Guaranty, a third-party sports card grading and authentication company.
Dubbed “The Dynasty Collection” by CSG, this is undoubtedly one of the rarest and most noteworthy sets of sneakers in collectibles history.
“Even after examining the world’s most important collectibles for four decades, the Dynasty Collection had the power to take my breath away,” said Mark Salzberg, Chairman of Certified Collectibles Group. “For the role these shoes play in our collective consciousness, how they relate to sports, fashion and celebrity, they are the contemporary Ruby Slippers — only rarer.”
It goes without saying that the Air Jordan series has set the foundation of the signature footwear business in the four decades since initially launching in 1985. For many, the six models worn by Jordan during each of his unscathed NBA Finals appearances are also among the very favorite silhouettes penned by iconic sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield.
For his first title against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers, MJ donned a defining model to begin the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat, a clean black Air Jordan VI with a loud Infrared color pop along the midsole and collar.
The clean toe was a departure from his prior models that featured a stitched toe overlay, a new ode to his emerging love of clean dress shoes. The molded heel spoiler drafted from the speed-driven molded parts seen on the back of Porsche coupes.
“We always say that if some things are similar from one year to the next, there should always be something that’s radically different,” Hatfield told me years ago.
While the midsole shows some age more than 30 years later, the additional five pairs have held up well. It’s also worth noting that Jordan was renowned for wearing a brand new pair in every single game; still, they often took a visible beating during the 24 Finals games in which he averaged 43 minutes per outing.
Notably, this was long before players wore an endless array of different colorways throughout the course of the playoffs. Michael often wore a black and white colorway for home games and a black and red edition on the road during his playoff pushes.
With this in mind, when it came time to authenticate each sneaker, CSG uncovered unseen high-res game photographs and went through high-definition footage from each game to match all six shoes to the clinching games of each series.
“Evaluating the sneakers — the innovative designs, the quality of materials, the scuffs and scratches accumulated on the court — and pouring over the game photos took me back to that incredible era when Jordan and the Bulls ruled the sports world,” said Andy Broome, Vice President of CSG.
After wearing the Air Jordan VII throughout the 1992 Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, MJ entered the 1992-93 season with the Summer Olympics in Barcelona sandwiched in between, making for a grueling stretch of ongoing hoops at the highest level and with the grandest of expectations. The Bulls were hoping to complete a three-peat, a milestone seen in the NBA for thirty years.
The shoe featured a dual-crossing strap, cubic-dipped graphic heel counter, higher cut, and Mercedes Benz-inspired three-sector circular logo along the tongue, treated in chenille like a letterman’s jacket patch.
“[It was] adorned, complex and with lots of detail,” Hatfield described. “It’s what was happening in his life at the time, as well. The Bulls were about to win their third straight championship, and everything was getting bigger for Michael on and off the court.”
Just after defeating the Phoenix Suns on the road in six, MJ penned the final score of 99-98 atop his pair of black Air Jordan VIIIs, along with a personalized inscription along the toe:
“One” LAST Fucking Game
And then he retired.
(For the first time.)
While the “private collector” of the entire game-worn set has aimed to be anonymous, the “To Tim” inscriptions on many of the sneakers don’t take long to uncover and connect the dots. Jordan’s trainer throughout his meteoric rise to superstardom, Tim Grover, was as inside as it gets, warranting the kind of exasperated inside joke that was etched onto the VIIIs.
By the time Jordan had returned to Chicago and the Bulls began their quest for a second three-peat in 1996, the Air Jordan franchise had been cemented as the pinnacle leader of the footwear industry, making way for the launch of “Brand Jordan” in the Fall of 1997 ahead of MJ’s “Last Dance” season with the Bulls.
Both the XI and XII – two drastically different designs and material executions, yet beloved and innovative models – were worn to close out the ’96 and ’97 Finals. The XII is most known for its “Flu Game” colorway worn in Game 5 of the Utah Jazz series, though it was the simple black and white “Playoff” colorway worn in the clinching game.
The black patent leather and translucent red outsole XI has lived on as one of MJ’s most memorable individual sneakers. (On top of all his on-court exploits, Michael won his fourth championship on Father’s Day just three years after the death of his dad, James Jordan.)
“The XI became the foundation of what performance greatness was going to be in a truly high-performing basketball product,” former Jordan VP of Footwear Gentry Humphrey said.
In the decades since, the importance of each silhouette has only taken on an even grander mythical stature in the sneaker industry, with the design, materials, technology, and innovation standing the test of time and adding to what now drives more than $4 billion of annual business for Jordan Brand.
“I’ve had the privilege of handling some of the rarest sneakers in the world, and this group is truly a grail like no other. Michael Jordan game-worn sneakers are among the most sought-after and valuable sneakers for collectors,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Head of Streetwear and Modern Collectibles. “Sotheby’s recently sold a pair of Michael Jordan’s earliest known regular season Nikes for a record-setting $1.5 million.”
For the 1998 Finals, as Jordan was perhaps already looking ahead to life after the Bulls, he debuted the Air Jordan XIV well ahead of its eventual fall release. He went on to hit the picturesque “Last Shot” in the black and red Ferrari-informed sneakers to close a decisive Game 6 against the Utah Jazz.
“To have all six game-worn, championship Michael Jordan sneakers in one set is absolutely unbelievable,” added Wachter. “And should not be missed by any Jordan fan or collector while they can see them.”
The full “Dynasty Collection” will be showcased at the Certified Sports Guaranty exhibit at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from July 27-31, 2022.