For sale in Heritage Auctions’ June 14 Sunday Sports Collectibles Weekly Online Auction: one Nike Air Jordan I from Michael Jordan’s personal collection, as well as a black Wilson baseball glove bearing its owner’s moniker (“MICHAEL JORDAN,” hard to miss) stitched across the thumb.
These days, in the wake of the Last Dance documentary that captivated a nation currently in short supply of sports and heroes and iconic moments, those signifiers should be enough to spark interest among collectors and casual onlookers. When rookie cards, sneakers and ticket stubs set record prices at auctions, week after week after week of late, Items once owned or worn or touched by The Greatest of All Time immediately demand widespread attention from collectors and fans as they’re set upon the auction block.
Especially when this appears to be the very first Jordan baseball glove ever available for sale.
But there is a backstory to these items – this deeply treasured sneaker, this extraordinarily rare mitt – that elevates them from valuable keepsake to significant treasure. And it begins in 1994, when Jordan’s wife at the time, Juanita, could not decide what to buy the man who had everything for his 32nd birthday.
For advice, she turned to a high-end jeweler of her acquaintance, who suggested reproducing some of his most iconic belongings in “precious metal,” as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently recounted. The jeweler knew a man in Tel Aviv capable of doing such a thing, by taking items and making detailed molds from the originals.
“One day we received an order by fax to make a shoe and baseball glove in silver,” Dan Lavi told the Israeli paper a few weeks ago. “They didn’t say who it was for. My father asked them to send a sample, saying he would see what could be done. If it were possible, we’d quote a price, he told the sender.”
Days later, a prized 1985 Air Jordan I – from the right foot, size 13.5 – and the Wilson mitt were dispatched to Israel. To create the molds and make sure the original items kept their shapes, the glove was filled with permanent epoxy, while material like modeling clay, which could be removed, was inserted into the shoe.
What emerged on the other side were silver replicas so perfect in their detail, from the leather grain to the shoelace patterns, they look almost wearable – were they not so heavy (the shoe alone weighs 10 pounds) or sheathed in thousands of dollars’ worth of silver. Only 10 of each were made, as Juanita Jordan requested. After that, the molds were destroyed. Only these items, the original sneaker and mitt, remain.
Michael Jordan kept one silver shoe and one silver glove, so the story goes, and disbursed the other pieces to his agent, one of his restaurants, a golf club, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and elsewhere. In time they would scatter to the wind. They cost around $2,000 each to make – and when they do show up for auction, which is rare, they command significantly higher prices.
And that was long before Jordan took a victory lap and a Last Dance.
Only after ESPN began airing the documentary did Lavi go looking – at his mother’s request – for the shoe and glove that served as models for those silver molds. His discovery made the Israel newspapers. Now, they come to a Dallas auction house. And in days, they will belong to someone else – 26 years after they were taken from Michael Jordan’s closet and replicated down to the last stitch in silver.
“It was a great thrill to hear from the family in Israel that created the incredible silver sculptures and to learn that the original items that were used to create the molds still existed,” said Heritage Auctions’ Chris Ivy, Sports Auctions Director. “Like most of the world, the owner has been captivated by The Last Dance and decided now was the time to part with these treasures his father gifted to him a quarter century ago.”
The Air Jordan sneaker and Wilson glove used to make silver replicas – each now, no doubt, worth their weight in gold.