UNC Basketball: Air Jordans with unique history sell for over $500,000

5/8/84 Michael Jordan, University North Carolina in game against University of Maryland .C03JORDAN05 11P X 25 LINES S BKC
5/8/84 Michael Jordan, University North Carolina in game against University of Maryland .C03JORDAN05 11P X 25 LINES S BKC /

Air Jordans that sold for over $500,000 at a recent auction were once used as part of a UNC basketball recruiting pitch.

Not only is Michael Jordan widely considered the greatest basketball player to ever play the game, he’s also one of the most legendary figures in the industries of athletic apparel and sports merchandise. That’s despite being nearly 20 years removed from his playing days in the NBA.

At a recent auction, a pair of game-worn, autographed Air Jordan 1’s sold for an absolutely bonkers $529,770. But maybe even more alluring than being worn and signed by the former UNC basketball standout and 14-time NBA All-Star, is the story behind the shoes.

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According to MEARS Auctions — the company behind the sale of the sneakers — this particular pair of Jordans was once used in a recruiting pitch by none other than legendary North Carolina head coach Dean Smith. The two-time national title-winning coach was recruiting a player in the late-1980’s, and arranged a meeting between Michael Jordan and the player’s grandmother at a Chicago Bulls game.

Word has it that Jordan met with her after the game, and explained why her grandson should attend UNC. Jordan then removed the shoes from his feet, signed them and handed them over to her as a gift. While her grandson — who has been left unnamed — ultimately chose another college basketball program over the Tar Heels, she kept the shoes for 35 years to the time of her passing. The shoes were then passed down to another person, who eventually put them on the auction block.

And while we all know that in this day and age of college hoops, the aforementioned would have resulted in some egregious violation regarding improper benefits and what have you, it’s now just a pretty darn cool story from some three-plus decades ago.

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