The sneakers were worn by Jordan during just his fifth NBA game. The rookie gave his shoes to T.J. Lewis, a ball boy for the opposing Denver Nuggets ball boy, after the game. Lewis then sold the sneakers along with his staff pass for the 1984-1985 season for $1.47 million through an auction at Sotheby’s in 2021.
At the time, the Air Ships broke the record for the most expensive sneakers ever sold at auction—nearly tripling the previous mark set by a pair of game-worn, autographed Air Jordan 1s that commanded $560,000. That record was broken again earlier this year by a pair of Air Jordan 13s, also autographed and worn by Jordan during his last-ever NBA Finals appearance in 1998, that sold for $2.2 million.
Despite the legend of the Air Jordan 1 being banned by the NBA, it was actually the Air Ship that drew the ire of the league for not conforming to its uniform policies. Jordan was fined $5,000 each time he wore the black and white sneakers—a fee that paled in comparison to the attention the whole saga drew. When Nike was ready to roll out the Air Jordan 1, it ran a campaign emphasizing the ban instead of shying away from it and breaking some of the first ground for the Air Jordan mythos.
The return of this particular pair of Air Ships comes through Goldin, which is hosting the auction until 10 p.m. EST Sept. 13. As of publishing, the top bid is just $160,000—but we can expect that figure to soar over the coming weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if the Air Ship can set another auction record, let alone surpass the price it garnered just two years ago. The sneaker auction market, particularly Jordan’s game worn pairs, has exploded over the past three years. Where its outer limits are, however, is not yet clear.
The timing of the auction also coincides with Nike reviving the Air Ship, which had previously been little more than a trivia fact among sneakerheads. A small number of collaborations and in-line releases have seen the silhouette return to market, now under the Jordan Brand umbrella instead of Nike.