A pair of Nike basketball shoes, believed to be the earliest NBA game-worn Michael Jordan sneakers to ever hit the market, will be auctioned off next month.
Khalid Ali, who was a ballboy for the Los Angeles Lakers for the 1984-85 season, has consigned the Nike shoes he says Jordan gave to him after the Chicago Bulls played the Lakers on Dec. 2, 1984, to SCP Auctions.
Ali, 15 at the time, distinctly remembers asking Jordan for the shoes on his feet during warmups. They were red, white and black, Ali said, a pair of what would become the first Air Jordans.
But Jordan told him he would be switching out for the game into what turned into a garden variety pair of white shoes with a red Nike swoosh.
"People obsess over game-worn Jordans and there's definite value to the fact that these are the earliest ones that have surfaced," said SCP Auctions vice president Dan Imler said.
Imler said he could see the shoes drawing bids past the $50,000. In 2013, a pair of shoes Jordan wore during the infamous "Flu Game," also acquired by a ballboy, sold for $104,765, a record price paid for a pair of game-used shoes in any sport. A pair of shoes that Jordan wore in his rookie season sold for $31,070, also in 2013.
Ali said after the game, he went into the Bulls locker room and asked for the shoes from Jordan, who autographed them.
SCP Auctions wasn't able to find a picture from that exact game, but did find a picture of Jordan just five days before, playing against the Phoenix Suns, in the same style shoes. The auction house also said it confirmed with longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti that Ali worked for the team.
Although Ali has been holding on to them for 30 years, he said it wasn't a tough decision to let them go.
"They were in my mom's closet," Ali said. "I didn't really talk about them much. People who met me after my teenage years don't even know I have them."
In fact, Ali said the shoes were his only true collectible he acquired from his season as a ballboy, never getting anything cool from any of the Lakers, who went on to beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals to win the title.
Jordan was paid $500,000 a year for five years to wear Nike shoes. In order to get the final two years of the deal, the company had to sell at least $4 million worth of Air Jordans in Year 3.
The first Air Jordan shoes hit retail in March 1985 at $65 a pair. By May, the company had sold $70 million worth.
The online auction begins April 8 and concludes April 25.