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"It's just a shoe until my son puts his foot in it."
Damn right, Deloris Jordan....as played by Viola Davis in the new Nike movie Air.
Few would disagree that the Jordan XIII is indeed just a shoe. If you polled 100 sneakerheads on their favorite Air Jordans, the XIII probably wouldn't find its way into more than 20 top 5s. But when Michael Jordan put his feet in one pair in 1998, even he probably didn't realize he was stepping into what would become the most expensive sneaker ever sold. After all, it was just Game 2 of the NBA Finals....
Fast forward 25 years, though, and those sneakers have sold for $2,238,000 at Sotheby's, displacing a pair of Air Ships he wore in his rookie season as the most expensive sneakers sold at auction.
When he took the floor to drop 37 points on the Jazz, he wasn't thinking about putting his feet on display for a great photomatch, and afterwards, he probably wasn't too worried about applying a signature with great eye-appeal for the ball boy. He might've had a feeling the documentary crew following the Bulls just might make something worth watching years down the road, but was he expecting The Last Dance phenomenon?
Regardless, all those pieces fell into place quite tidily like a Jordan midrange jumper nestling through the bottom of the net. The ingredients combine to form yet another in a long line of trophy assets to hit auction and smash records over the last year. There was just one lone irrevocable bid at $1,800,000 to seal the deal, but the deal was struck in uncharted price territory nonetheless. The record-breaking sneaker sale comes just days after the announcement of a record-breaking baseball bat sale, with Hunt Auctions fetching $1.85 million for top-of-the-line Babe Ruth lumber.
While the trophy assets shower in headline praise, though, the bulk of these markets struggle to enjoy the trickle down.
In Part II of the "Victoriam" sale at Sotheby's, following the marquee Jordan sneaker lot, 11 of 39 lots went unsold with 1 additional withdrawal. Of the remaining 28 lots, just 8 hammered at a price above their low estimates (13 if you include buyer's premium). In aggregate, sales with premium totaled $1.47 million versus a total low estimate (including unsold lots) of $2.27 million.
Undoubtedly, there were still some strong results. A Jordan jersey photomatched to 2 games in the 1998 season sold for $508,000. Kobe Bryant's shooting shirt from his 81 point game reached $406,400. Pele's New York Cosmos debut jersey raked in $177,800. But those are the generationally-entrenched household names, and the assets are hardly generic.
There were no takers for a Shohei Ohtani rookie jersey, or for two milestone Connor McDavid sweaters. A full Tom Brady uniform from 2004 - a Super Bowl-winning season - was withdrawn. The ball that parted the uprights to win Harrison Butker and the Chiefs this year's Big Game didn't find a new home either.
It's trophy assets....and then it's everything else. That won't be the last time we touch on that theme in this week's newsletter.
While the trophy assets command headlines that convince the general public the space is on fire, the distinction between "trophy asset" and "everything else" is growing, and "everything else" is encompassing a much greater swath of the population. Game-worn remains far and away the effervescent bright spot of the sports collectibles space over the last year, but that success is exerting a gravitational pull on supply to auction against weakening demand for "the rest".
Joel Embiid, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, and Paul George all saw game-worn sneakers sell for less than $2,000 on Tuesday afternoon.
Whether she actually said it or not, Deloris was right.Maybe they are just shoes until Michael Jordan puts them on.
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