From athletes to rappers, many of culture’s MVPs are self-described sneakerheads. As society puts increasing demand on the style of shoes once used only for sports, kicks are taking their place as fashion royalty. In response, the value of sneakers is finally catching up to athlete’s jerseys—the king of sports memorabilia which routinely go for multiple millions of dollars. Take a look at the history of world record holders for most expensive sneakers.
1. “Grammy Worn” Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototype – $1.8 million
2021 was an unprecedented year across the board, including a sneaker sale that shattered records and changed the way shoes are auctioned for good. The “Grammy Worn” Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes were worn by Ye at the 50th Grammys when the controversial rapper performed hit songs “Hey Momma” and “Stronger”.
The pair was the debut design of the Yeezy collection, introducing the world to Kanye as a fashion mogul. The black leather hightops with signature pink Y design were sold to the investment platform Rares in a April 2021 private sale, more than tripling the former record for sneaker sales of only (only!) $615,000.
2. Michael Jordan ‘Shattered Backboard’ Air Jordan 1 – $615,000
Global giant auction house Christie’s passed their first ever sneaker auction in August of 2020 with flying colors when they sold a game worn pair of first edition Air Jordans signed by MJ himself for $615,000. The shoes hold a special place in basketball culture, worn during a famous 1985 exhibition match when Jordan dunked so hard that the backboard shattered into thousands of tiny glass pieces. As a special bonus for the buyer (something you would not be excited about if you intended to wear the shoe), one of those pieces is still lodged in the left sole.
3. Michael Jordan “Game Worn” 1985 Air Jordan 1 – $560,000
Next up is a pair of first edition Air Jordans, also worn and signed by the namesake basketball legend. The player sample size 13-13.5s (or “TYPS”specifications)were sold by Sothebys in 2020 for an outstanding $560,000.
The kicks feature the iconic “Chicago” colorway, reflecting the red and black colors of the Chicago Bulls—the team Jordan led to 6 NBA championships over 13 seasons before taking a hiatus from the sport to try his hand at baseball. Though Jordan is long retired, Nike’s popular shoe line is going strong with 34 editions and counting.
4. Nike Waffle Racing Flat “Moon Shoe” – $437,500
While other kicks on this list are valuable for the famous feet who wore them, this never-worn piece of sneaker history is important for the hands who made them. The Nike Waffle Racing Flat was designed in 1972 by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman and one of 12 pairs ever hand-cobbled by Geoff Holliste, one of Nike’s first employees.
The sneakers were dubbed “Moon Shoes” because the waffle sole (which co-founder Bill Knight claims in his best-selling book was inspired by Bowerman’s wife’s waffle iron) left similar prints in dirt to the prints of astronauts on the moon.
Far fewer than the original 12 remain today and this pair is the only unworn pair in known existence. Sotheby’s sold the iconic shoes in 2019 for $437,500 in the auction house’s first-ever foray into collectible sneakers.
5. Michael Jordan “Game Worn” Converse Fastbreak – $190,373
The first non-Nike to make the list, SCP Auctions sold this signed pair of Converse Fastbreaks worn by MJ at the Olympics during the gold-medal game against Spain for what was at the time a world-record price of $190,373.
Jordan had no say in the design of this pair, showing how in-demand the market for the bball legend’s foot sweat really is. But there is a lot of history stored in these soles—in addition to winning gold for the U.S., this was 21-year-old Jordan’s last amatuer game before going pro, and was the last time MJ was ever seen wearing a non-Nike pair.
6. Michael Jordan “Flu Game” 1997 Air Jordan XII – $104,765
Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals became known to sports fans as the “flu game” because Jordan led the Bulls to victory despite being visibly ill with a flu rumored to be caused by poisonous pizza. After the highly publicized victory, MJ signed his 1997 Air Jordan XIIs before giving them to teenage ball boy Preston Truman. About 30 years later, Truman entrusted them to Grey Flannel Auctions who garnered $104,765 for the Nikes.
7. Honorable Mention: Drake’s Solid Gold OVO x Air Jordan – +$2 million
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If you’re wondering why the most expensive pair is at the bottom of the list, let’s set the record straight: no one (except champagne papi himself) knows the exact details on these. But the novelty is too good to skip over.
Supposedly, Drake commissioned a solid gold pair of Nike Air Jordans from artist Matthew Senna in the style of the singer’s actual line with Nike, Ovo X Air Jordan. Unlike the real-deal editions which could cost a collector $600, GQ did the math and estimates the Canadian crooner must have shelled out at 1.9 million for materials alone to make the sneaks out of solid gold. Unlike the others, these have never been certified by an auction house, so all we really have to go on is Drake’s word and instagram pics.