Shortly after Michael Jordan's sneakers from Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals sold for $2.4 million at Sotheby's in April, the consignment of Jordan's sneakers from the "Flu Game" to Goldin was announced. Since that moment, many suspected that the 1998 Jordan XIII's reign atop the record books would be short lived.
The Last Dance certainly exerts a strong gravitational pull for collectors seeking to own a piece of Jordan's last great campaign, which was thoroughly documented in the immensely popular documentary series. The time period, combined with strong authentication, made those sneakers a worthy record holder. However, not many have a vivid memory of Game 2 of the '98 Finals. There's no real iconic imagery that lives on in our heads 25 years later. So impressive though the sneakers are, their place at the pinnacle of the rankings was never unassailable, but it would take a candidate of incredible power to supplant them.
The "Flu Game" Jordan XIIs were just that candidate....or so we thought.
The images are absolutely iconic. There's Jordan doubled over with his hands on his knees, devoid of any energy beyond what was needed to play the game. Or better yet, how about Jordan surrendering his full body weight onto Scottie Pippen, who near carried him to the bench? Basketball fans hear "Flu Game", and instantly, those images come to life in their memories.
Now, perhaps we were overeager in our assessment; perhaps, the news of the consignment alone wouldn't be enough to vault these Jordans into record position. When the listing was finally posted, though, and the authentication could be assessed, it seemed like these were a highly viable candidate. There's strong provenance from a ball boy, but that's kind of table stakes in today's market....old news. Keep scrolling down the listing, and there's the affirmation we're looking for: the sneakers are photomatched by both MeiGray and Sports Investors Authentication to the occasion. Getty Images, specific identification points....it's all there.
The combination of the indelible moment and the strong authentication seemingly made these seem a *shoe-in* for a record result. But there was a disadvantage relative to the Sotheby's Last Dance sale months prior. That sale had the benefit of an irrevocable bid (or third party guarantee), issued before the beginning of the auction. This ensured the sneakers would challenge their $2 million low estimate, and it actually turned out to be the only bid, with the pair selling for $2,238,000 with fees. There was no such irrevocable bid for the Flu Game pair, with 12 bidders having registered interest prior to extended bidding, bringing the bid to $1,260,000 by midday Wednesday.
Typically, extended bidding is where an item catches fire. That simply didn't happen on Wednesday night. In fact, there wasn't a single extended bid until time nearly expired (it was like a Jordan buzzer beater, in fact the lot page said bidding had closed). Ultimately, only one other bid was recorded, pushing the final price to $1,380,000. The sneakers last sold in 2013 for $104,750, appreciating at a rate of just under 30% annually.
Any seven-figure result for a pair of sneakers is an incredible number, but this just might be a rare case where it's a significant disappointment. The result ranks the Flu Game Jordans #4 on the all-time list of most expensive sneaker sales, slotting in behind the $1,472,000 Air Ship sold in the fall of 2021.
Maybe the story behind the Last Dance Jordan 13 alone isn't enough to make them unassailable, but the bid they captured is proving to be a very high - maybe even fluky - bar to clear.
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