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Michael Jordan's 'Last Dance' sneakers sell for a record-breaking $2.2 million

Michael Jordan's game-worn sneakers from the 1998 NBA finals are displayed at Sotheby's on April 5 in New York. On Tuesday, they sold for a record $2.2 million.
Bebeto Matthews
Michael Jordan's game-worn sneakers from the 1998 NBA finals are displayed at Sotheby's on April 5 in New York. On Tuesday, they sold for a record $2.2 million.

A pair of Air Jordan 13 sneakers that basketball legend Michael Jordan wore during the 1998 NBA Finals sold at auction for $2.2 million. The sneakers from the historic season known as Jordan's "Last Dance" are now the most valuable sports footwear ever sold, according to auction house Sotheby's.

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate predicted $2 million as the low end, and Tuesday's final $2.2 million sale came in well below the predicted high of $4 million. The shoes are "the only complete pair of sneakers worn by Michael in an NBA Finals game" ever to be authenticated by the NBA's official authenticator, according to the auction house.

The previous record sneaker auction price was $1.8 million for a pair of Kanye West's Nike Air Yeezy 1s, which were also the first pair of sneakers to sell for over $1 million.

Jordan is a supremely valuable athlete at auctions, with other Jordan sportswear memorabilia regularly clocking in at and above hundreds of thousands of dollars. A "Last Dance" jersey sold for $10.1 million last year, beating the previous record in another sports memorabilia category.

"The sale speaks volumes of Michael Jordan's legacy as one of the most influential athletes, businessmen and pop culture icons of our time," Brahm Wachter, Sotheby's head of streetwear and modern collectables, said in a statement.

Jordan wore the sneakers during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals in 1998, where he scored 37 points in 40 minutes to secure the Chicago Bulls' victory over the Utah Jazz. After the game, he signed his shoes and gave them to a ball boy who had found and returned Jordan's jacket during an earlier practice, Sotheby's reports.

"What differentiates these record-breaking sneakers is their condition. They are immaculate, as if Jordan laced them up and wore them yesterday," Wachter said.

The black and red Air Jordans featuring the Bulls colors were banned by the NBA, which fined Jordan $5,000 at each game he wore them in violation of the league's strict uniform code. That gave the shoes — also known as "Breds" — a mythic status among fans. The pair Sotheby's auctioned off were the last Breds Jordan ever wore in an NBA game.

Today, Jordan owns the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and earns millions of dollars in royalties from Nike Air Jordan sales.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde
Kaitlyn Radde is an intern for the Graphics and Digital News desks, where she has covered everything from the midterm elections to child labor. Before coming to NPR, she covered education data at Chalkbeat and contributed data analysis to USA TODAY coverage of Black political representation and NCAA finances. She is a graduate of Indiana University.