Gone are the days when all a basketball player needed to do was to lace up a pair of no-frills Chuck Taylor All Stars and run down the court to play the game. Basketball shoes have gone a long way since then. Ever since Earvin Magic Johnson and Larry Bird revived the National Basketball Association with their team-first style of play characterizing the intense rivalry of their Lakers and Celtic teams, the technology behind basketball shoes have grown by leaps and bounds.
Converse initially ruled the roost, with Magic, Bird and Sixers star Julius Erving endorsing the brand. Even Michael Jordan sported a Converse when he first rose to national prominence by leading his North Carolina Tar Heels to the NCAA championship in 1981. Half a decade later, Jordan started endorsing the Nike brand. Suddenly, basketball shoes had air or gel underneath it to help lessen the impact of constant jumping and running, and design was further improved to help support a player’s ankle and soles.
All these improvements come at a price. Combined with the collectible factor of the shoes, some may fetch incredible amounts. Here are the top ten most expensive basketball shoes in the world.
1. Air Jordan I – $25,000
The Jordan I had two versions. The original had a red and black design that was banned by the NBA as the rules state that shoes must have some white on them. Jordan loved the Peter Moore-designed shoes, however, and insisted on using it during games. As a result, he got fined $5,000 each game he would play with the disallowed sneakers. Jordan and Nike eventually relented and replaced the design with a red, black and white combination. A black and metallic gold version was released in March 1985 in Asia. Only 12 pairs were created and these now cost $25,000.
2. Air Mag – $12,000
In 1989, the sequel of the smash hit Back to the Future was released. Michael J. Fox, the star of the movie, sported a pair of futuristic sneakers in the film. That pair is the Nike Air Mag. Nike eventually released it, though only 20 pairs were made. Michael J. Fox had previously appeared as a basketball player in the 1985 movie Teen Wolf, and he has been spotted watching the New York Knicks at the Madison Square Garden. Still, he is not a professional basketball player. Yet, the shoe that he made famous is the second most expensive pair of basketball shoes today.
3. Air Jordan V – $10,000
This featured a reflective tongue and clear rubber soles. It is also the first shoe that sported lace locks, thus allowing the user to easily strap the shoe. The mid sole has shark teeth shapes, which were probably copied from World War 2 fighter planes where Hatfiled drew inspiration. A version with the number 23 printed at the back in black and metallic silver was created in February 1990 specifically for Jordan and they now cost $10,000. A retail version was later released without the number 23.
4. Air Jordan I – $8,000
5. Air Jordan VI – $7,200
This is the last of the Air Jordans with the Nike Air logo. It featured reinforcement materials in the toe area, two holes in the tongue and molded heel to protect the Achilles tendon. It came in five different color combinations, namely black/infrared, white/infrared, white/carmine black, white/sport blue and off white/maroon. It was the shoe Jordan used when he and the Bulls won the championship against the Lakers. The white/carmine black version now fetches $7,200, as it was the color Jordan used during the 1992 Olympics that featured the original Dream Team.
6. Air Jordan III – $4,500
When the original designer of Jordan I, Peter Moore, was let go by Nike, Jordan almost went with them. He decided to stay however after seeing Air Jordan III, the first Air Jordan designed by Tinker Hatfield. It featured the now iconic Jumpman logo, an air unit at the heel and leather finish. Jordan went on to have a stellar year, winning a memorable Slam Dunk contest against Dominique Wilkins, grabbing the All Star Game MVP award the following day, and at the end of the year, bagging Defensive Player of the Year honor.
7. Adidas KB8 Selection – $3,000
It was named KB8, in honor of Kobe Bryant’s jersey number. The shoe was later renamed Crazy 8 after Bryant left Adidas in 2002. Bryant is also sporting a new number now, ditching his old number 8 for 24. Only 2 pairs of the golden shoe were made and they were intended for the 1998 Slam Dunk contest. Waning interest in the contest forced its cancellation, however, and Bryant never got the chance to wear the shoe.
8. Air Jordan XI – $2,700
Jordan first used this pair in 1995 when he made a comeback in the middle of the season after a brief fling with minor league baseball. Though he had several memorable games that season, particularly the buzzer beater against the Atlanta Hawks in just his fourth game back, and the 55-point game against archrival New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, the Bulls fell short that year after losing to the Orlando Magic in the playoff. With the condura nylon top and carbon fiber plates allowing a lighter weight and better torque, Jordan used it again the following season. In his first full season back, the Bulls regained the title. He then used the shoes in his movie Space Jam with the number 45, his number in the season when he came out of retirement, printed at the back.
9. Air Force I Chamber of Fears – $2,500
The original Air Force I was created in 1982 and have been tagged as the most influential sneakers of all time. In 2005, a black, red and gold version was released, with half going to Asia and the rest remaining in the US. It is only available in auctions or as giveaway items.
10. Air Force I Four Horsemen – $2,500
Nike designed this shoe especially for LeBron James during the 2004 ESPY Awards. Less than 12 pairs were made.