Most sneaker collectors would agree that one of the most epic pairs you could own is an Air Jordan 1 worn by Michael Jordan during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. But this pair available in the ORIGINAL AIR: Michael Jordan Game-Worn and Player Exclusive Sneaker Rarities auction somehow even eclipses that.
That's because what we have here predates and was worn for a much shorter period of time by Jordan than the legendary Air Jordan 1: a Nike Air Ship PE from early in his rookie season.
Before the Air Jordan 1 was released, Michael Jordan wore the Nike Air Ship for the NBA preseason and early games of his rookie year. Michael Jordan’s version of the Air Ship was modified exclusively for him in the form of an Air Jordan 1 TYPS MJ PE (Tong Yang Player Sample Michael Jordan Player Exclusive). The design features the upper of the Air Ship with the sole of the Air Jordan 1.
Jordan's edition also features a modified lower cut than the retail version of the Air Ship. Like Air Jordan 1s from early in his career, this pair of Air Ships also features different shoe sizes for each foot: 13 for the left foot and 13.5 for the right.
Laced with history, a black-and-red version of the Air Ship that Jordan wore in the preseason was the subject of a letter sent by then-NBA executive vice president Russ Granik to Nike vice president Rob Strasser, citing Jordan for violating the league’s "uniformity of uniform rule," stating: "A player must wear shoes that not only match their uniforms, but match the shoes worn by their teammates." After the black-and-red Air Ship was "banned," Jordan switched to this white-and-red colorway to meet league requirements.
Michael Jordan wore the white-and-red Air Ship MJ PE model for most games until his debut of the Air Jordan 1 on November 17, 1984. He continued to wear the Air Ship for a few more games after debuting the Jordan 1, then switching to the Jordan 1 full-time by the beginning of 1985.
This pair was sourced from a New Jersey Nets equipment manager. Per photographic research, it is assumed to be worn in at least one of the Bulls vs. Pistons games on December 11 and 12, and the Bulls vs. Nets game on December 14, 1984. Since Jordan wore the Air Ship only for a brief period early in his rookie season, to find a game-worn pair today is incredibly rare.
The ORIGINAL AIR: Michael Jordan Game-Worn and Player Exclusive Sneaker Rarities auction is live July 30-August 13, 2020.