If you’re looking for a bit of fun, ask any sneakerhead that follows basketball how they feel about the Nike Air Jordan XI’s, specifically in black and red, just make sure you watch out for the drool. That’s the shoe that Jordan wore during the last series of the 1996 postseason, when the Bulls beat the Seattle SuperSonics and added another Larry O’Brien trophy to their dominant 72-10 regular season. Eric Snow, a rookie on that Seattle squad, wound up with a pair of them — a pair that had actually been worn by Jordan, during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, when he dropped 36 points, five assists, and three rebounds on 11-23 shooting. The Bulls won that game 108-86.
With over two weeks left to go, the shoes, which are being sold through Grey Flannel Auctions, the same auction house that sold Jordan’s Flu Game shoes last year, are currently going for over $6,500. In addition to the shoes, the winner of the auction will receive several pictures of Jordan in the shoes, as well as a document confirming their authenticity. The Flu Game shoes, by the way, sold for over six figures, making them the most expensive basketball kicks ever sold.
The most famous Nike endorser ever gave Snow his sneakers after the game, according to Sports Illustrated, then signed them at a 2004 basketball camp. Snow would reach the NBA Finals again in 2001, as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, before retiring in 2008. He now works as an Assistant Coach at Florida Atlantic University.
Jordan, who now owns the Charlotte Hornets franchise (who were, up until the end of this season, the Charlotte Bobcats), is perhaps the athlete most singularly connected to footwear in all of recorded history. His partnership with Nike, which has spawned more shoes worth more money than any other endorsee/endorser relationship, sprang from rough beginnings. In fact, when Jordan made it to the NBA, he had his heart set on one company — Adidas.
But Nike was able to win Jordan over by offering customization, something that was far from the everyday practice it is today, as well as “$500,000 a year in cash for five years, which was a ridiculous number at the time,” according to a history of Nike and MJ written by ESPN’s Darren Rovell. With stock options and other factors accounted for, “Jordan would earn $7 million over those five years, as long as Nike didn’t sever the contract.” Jordan’s personal imprint with the brand broke $1 billion in revenue in 2009.