Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    The earliest documented pair of Air Jordans worn by its namesake!

    1984-85 Michael Jordan Worn Air Jordan I Rookie Prototype Sneakers.

    UPDATE: Letter from Cumberland to Bulls trainer is a photocopy of original.

    The news landed upon Chicago Bulls nation like a ton of bricks. After claiming a Gold Medal in the Los Angeles Summer Games and NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1984, Michael Jordan completed just two games of his sophomore season before breaking a bone in his foot in the third, sidelining the most dynamic young star in the National Basketball Association for the remainder of the regular season. Jordan famously raged against the decision to choose discretion over valor as the team brass argued that a reinjury could spell the end of his career.

    "You're not understanding the risk-reward ratio," Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf explained. "If you had a terrible headache, and I gave you a bottle of pills, and nine of the pills will cure you, and one of the pills will kill you, would you take the pill?"

    "It depends on how bad the [expletive] headache is," came Jordan's reply.

    The supreme rarity on offer here survives due to that snapped bone that nearly robbed the sport of its greatest figure. These sneakers are consigned to auction by Glenn Cumberland, a leading specialist in custom foot orthotics in Michigan who was commissioned by the Bulls to tend to their hobbled young star. The pair met at the Bulls' practice facility in Deerfield.

    "I met Michael in the Bulls Deerfield practice facility," he wrote in his letter of provenance, "I cast his feet to make the orthotics. I requested a pair of his shoes to make sure the orthotics fit properly. He gave me a pair that he had worn. I was told that it was one of the first pair of red/white/black Air Jordans."

    More than three and a half decades later, these profoundly important shoes are poised to incite a fierce bidding battle between a global audience of top-tier Michael Jordan collectors and their "sneakerhead" counterparts. The prize for victory is perhaps the earliest surviving incarnation of the shoe that started the greatest dynasty in athletic footwear history.

    Even the casual collector knows the story of the enormous buzz Jordan's Nikes caused upon their arrival, the NBA condemning its bold graphics and (as the apocryphal story goes) instituting a $1,000 fine every time it appeared on one of its courts. Nike wisely leaned into the furor the sneakers caused, launching a television advertising campaign hailing their new creation as "The Most Controversial Shoe in Basketball." Everybody loves an outlaw, and Nike was more than happy to keep that controversy churning.

    But look closely, and you'll see a key deviation from the finished product that assures these to be the among the earliest "Air Jordan" sneakers ever laced to their namesake's feet. Where those two words have always appeared above the winged logo at exterior ankle, the "Nike" brand name resides instead, virtually assuring production in the Fall of 1984. The more sophisticated experts in the field will also note the polyurethane midsole of the subject sneakers, abandoned for the solid rubber of the final iteration.

    That decision proved to be a boon to collectors of vintage sneakers, as the Originals are generally spared the degradation we see in the later models that did opt for polyurethane midsoles. But here as well, that material has fallen victim to the merciless passage of time, and it is only due to very delicate handling that they remain in as fine display condition that they do.

    But this inevitable condition flaw must be forgiven in its context as an early step in the evolution of the most important sneaker ever produced. There is no size or manufacturing coding inside the ankles, a clear indication that these were custom-made prototypes for Jordan. At the time this catalog goes to print, we cannot state with certainty whether or not these sneakers were worn in NBA competition or only in training, but this text will be updated online should any such information arise in the coming weeks. We note that a letter of thanks from the Bulls' head trainer Mark Pfeil to Mr. Cumberland is likewise included in the lot. Letter of provenance from Michael Jordan's pedorthist. Letter to Mr. Cumberland from Bulls trainer (photocopy). LOA from Heritage Auctions.

    Guide Value or Estimate: $50,000 - up.

    Auction Info

    Proxy Bidding Ends
    27th Saturday 10:00 pm CT
    Auction Dates
    27th-28th Saturday-Sunday
    Proxy Bidding Time Remaining
    1 Day 1h 52m 58s
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: 65
    Page Views: 2,657

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    This lot is in: 1 - Signature Internet Extended Bid Session - Extended Bidding - Platinum Session:
    (Lots 80001-80142) - 10:00 PM Central Time, Saturday, February 27, 2021.
    (Normal bidding closes and extended bidding begins at 10:00 PM Central Time the evening of the session. Details below.)

    Show All Session Information

    Show Auction Type Info

    Exhibition Viewing Times, Title Page, Floor Session and License Information

    Additional Location Info:
    Heritage Auctions
    2801 W. Airport Freeway
    Dallas, TX 75261

    Current Bid:
    w/ Buyer's Premium (BP) : $55,200.00 Minimum Next Bid: $47,000 ($56,400.00 w/ BP)
    Track Item