If you’re sneaker obsessed, then this list is for you. Specifically, Nike, the brand that turned the common gym shoe into an all-out status and fashion statement. In the long ago past, if you had a pair of Chuck Taylors or the early 80s iconic shell toed Adidas, you were considered “funky fresh”.
Enter Nike and Michael Jordan. The most popular sneaker collaboration ever. When the superstar joined forces (pun intended) with the sneaker company, these rubber-bottomed shoes were no longer just something to run laps in.
Suddenly, people were wearing them everywhere, as a fashion accessory. Kids around the globe were mowing extra lawns and begging their parents for pricey sneakers.
Jordan, Nike, and their sneakers became a cultural phenomenon, which continues today and has branched out to include collaborations with rappers. None of it would have happened without Mrs. Bowerman’s waffle maker.
How A Kitchen Appliance Started An Empire
Bill Bowerman was a track and field coach for the University of Oregon during the 1950s and 60s. A decorated World War 2 veteran, Bowerman hated being called a coach. He considered himself a “trainer of athletes”, and train he did.
Over the course of his career, Bowerman trained 31 Olympic athletes, 51 All Americans, and 12 world record holders. He was always looking for ways to shave time off his athletes’ running times. Part of the problem, as he saw it, was with the shoes.
Bowerman was very unhappy with the quality of running shoes on the market. He felt they were too heavy and didn’t offer enough traction. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.
On a gentleman’s handshake, the coach entered into a partnership with one of his former athletes, Phil Knight. Together, they started Blue Ribbon Sports. Bill began brainstorming ways to get good traction on both the hard surface and the grass.
One day, while futzing around the kitchen, an idea occurred to him. He retrieved some of the rubber he’d been playing around with and put it in Mrs. Bowerman’s waffle maker. What came out, ruined the waffle maker, but would change the course of history.
Nike was born from Mrs. Bowerman’s small appliance that day. Within a few years, that piece of rubber was replicated and attached to lightweight fabric. The “moon shoe”, as it was called for its resemblance to the footprints left on the moon, was the first major sneaker produced by what was now renamed Nike. That’s how Mrs. Bowerman’s waffle maker created an empire. We sure hope she got a new one.
Undoubtedly, over the years, Nike has produced some pretty nifty footwear. But what follows are the most expensive Nike shoes ever sold.
20. 2014 Macklemore x Air Jordan 6 – $25,000
These lime green beauties were the result of a collaboration between Nike and the Seattle rapper Macklemore. Only 23 pairs were made and were “gifted ” to Macklemore to distribute to friends and family. 11 green (called cactus by the company) and 12 red (called clay).
Each pair was a buttery soft leather with wax leaves. The shoes also had a shark embroidered on them. As usually happens, a pair eventually made its way to the auction block. A green pair went for $25,000.
19. 2015 Eminem Carhartt Air Jordan 4 – $30,000
In 2015, Nike did another “friends and family” gifting. This time it was with rapper Eminem. Carhartt work gear was also brought in on this one. The result was a black sneaker with chrome eyelets and a leather interior. The icing on the cake (or heel in this case) was Em’s signature backward E and a hockey mask (that he used as a stage prop in live performances at the time).
But Marshall Mathers, being the philanthropic man that he is, wanted more. He asked that 10 pairs be made to be auctioned for charity. Nike happily agreed and each pair went quickly at $30,000 a pop. Proceeds were donated to the Michigan State University school of music.
18. 1986 Air Jordan 2 OG – $31,000
Although the original price was $100 (a tidy sum for a sneaker in the 1980s), a pair of these simple red, white, and well worn went at auction for a pricey $31,000 in 2014. The story behind their creation was very much a throwback to the reason Nike was created.
Michael Jordan had suffered an ankle injury during the 1985 season. He needed a basketball shoe that would give him more support on the court. So, Nike immediately got to work. This was still at a time when designs for celebrities were also released to the general public.
All was well until the mold that was used for the Jordan 2 was lost or destroyed or something. That loss turned them from a functional sneaker into an instant collectors item.
17. 2005 Nike Dunk SB Low Staple NYC Pigeon – $38,000
Released to the public in 2005 with a price tag of $300, these New York City pigeon-inspired shoes caused quite a stir. To the point where a NY Post ran a story about them headlined: “Sneaker Frenzy”.
The pigeon shoes are actually credited with creating the sneaker crossover into the fashion and professional collectors’ world. People were passionate about the pigeon. Folks camped outside stores when a new batch was set to come in. People were buying multiple pairs to sell at a profit.
When someone finally decided to put a pair up for auction on Ebay, a collector wanted them so badly, they kept bidding until everyone else gave up at $38,000.
16. 2017 Air Jordan 11 “Jeter” – $40,000
Not your average training shoe, these Nike’s are considered to be one of the best around. Not just for the quality and support, but for their butter did blue velvet shell. Only 5 pairs were made to commemorate the retirement of the man himself, Derek Jeter.
One of the greatest players to grace the field at Yankee stadium. Jeter’s number 2 is emblazoned on the heel. Eventually, Nike did come out with a replicated batch, but one of the original 5 went for $40,000 at auction.
15. 2009 Nike Dunk SB Low Yellow Lobster – $42,624
Only 34 pairs of these red, yellow, and black spotted low tops were ever made. Made for some select Nike employees, they were not for retail sale. It’s that rarity that makes them so expensive.
Also, Nike launched an ad campaign that got a lot of people excited about the shoe. So when they didn’t come through, collectors started scouring. Finally, a pair went up for auction and sold for $42,624.
14. 2007 Diamond Encrusted Air Force 1 – $50,000
Coming in at number 14 on our list, is the most expensive pair of Air Force 1’s ever made. The all-white sneaker is accented with a champagne diamond and gold encrusted swoosh. Eleven carats of diamonds, to be exact.
The kicks were a gift to Atlanta rapper Big Boi, the other half of the legendary duo Outcast. After a few wears, he generously auctioned them off to raise money for his charity organization, the Big Kidz Foundation. The organization received $50,000 from the sneakers.
13. 2017 Nike Air Jordan IV Retro Eminem Encore – $56,700
In 2005, Eminem and Nike created a blue, red, and black version of the Air Jordan IVs in celebration of the release of his album Encore. In 2017, a one of a kind model was made and sold at Sotheby’s for $56,700.
12. 2002 Nike Dunk SB Low Paris – $62,000
This shoe was limited to only 150 to 200 pairs. That alone makes them much sought after by sneakerheads, but there’s more to justify their lofty price tag. Each pair boasts different works from French painter Bernard Buffet. So, no two pairs are the same. When originally released in 2002, the shoe art sold for $1,000 a pair. The highest price at auction thus far is $62,000.
11. 2004 Nike Dunk High Pro SB FLOM – $63,000
FLOM stands for – For Love Or Money. These sneakers certainly say you must love sneakers and have money. They are one of the most elusive pairs of Nikes in the world. Released in 2004, only 24 pairs were released to the public.
The shoe displays different denominations of money in canvas, with brown leather trim and a white swoosh. With only a few pairs left in existence, it’s no wonder a serious collector would drop over 60 grand to own the Holy Grail of the sneaker world.
10. 2016 Nike MAG Back To The Future – $76,925
These very sought after sneakers look like a cross between space shoes and hockey skates. Though not released in reality until 2016, they were first seen on the silver screen in Back To The Future 2. But at the time, it was only the special effects that made them magical.
When technology finally caught up with imagination, the sneakers became a reality. The automatically lace and light up. Popular with sneaker collectors, nostalgia buffs, and movie fanatics. The 76 thousand dollar price tag was a veritable bargain.
9. 2006 Nike Air Firce 1 Entourage x Fukiyama Gold – $88,200
Featured in season three of the HBO series Entourage, these sneakers are downright fascinating. A cross between designer jewelry and street art. A limited number were produced after the popularity of the episode. These turtles come in a wooden, laser-engraved box. A pair was bought at auction for $88,200.
8. 2016 Air Jordan 12 OVO Drake Edition – $100,000
These gold accented, white leather kicks are so classy and sleek, they could be worn at formal functions. The rapper once again collabbed with Nike to make these allegedly extremely comfortable athletic shoes. The original price was $225 in 2016. But they were very limited and Drake himself wore them, so people wanted them. Recently, a pair went to auction for a cool $100,000.
7. 1997 Air Jordan 12 (Flu Game) – $104,765
First released to the public in 1997, for a mere $190, the latest in the Air Jordan line was nice, but pretty common. What made this particular pair go for an astounding amount of dough?
The fact that Mike wore them during the 1997 NBA finals. What’s more, he played an outstanding game while battling a vicious stomach flu. People were dumbfounded that even the king could play through that type of misery. So he signed them and put them up for auction.
6. 1996 Air Jordan “Space Jam” Sample – $176,400
These one of a kind sneakers were auctioned at Sotheby’s in July of 2021 for $176,400. Why were they so special? Because they were custom made for you know who, and he wore them in the movie (Jordan, it was Jordan, again).
5. 2019 Jordan 1 Retro High Charlotte Hornets Foundation – $250,000
When Michael Jordan was seen wearing a pair of these white, black-trimmed sneaks at the NBA All-Star weekend in 2029, sneakerheads lost their minds. Collectors were clamoring. They’d never been seen anywhere before.
Where’d they come from? Well, there were 300 pairs made special for Mike’s 56th birthday. The sneakers sold for $88,071 in 2019. Last year a pair went at auction for a quarter of a million dollars. Happy birthday.
4. 1972 Nike Waffle “Moon” Shoe – $437,500
Remember the shoes Mr. Bowerman made in his wife’s waffle maker? Well, these are those
shoes. The actual, never worn prototype was sold at Sotheby’s New York auction house in July of 2019. The buyer, Miles Spencer Nadal, planned to display the training shoes at his Dare To Dream Autimobile museum in Canada.
3. 2016 Air Jordan Retro “Kobe Pack” – $800,000
This truly beautiful shoe has a classic design with a white base color and just enough purple and yellow to satisfy any Lakers fan. The 3/4 Jordan’s were produced to celebrate Mamba’s 20 years in the game.
At the time, these Jordan 3 replicas were only given to friends and family of the iconic sports hero, and, of course, Kobe. Over the years, a few pairs have popped up at auctions, with the highest bidder paying a mind-boggling $800,000.
2. 1984 Michael Jordan (Game Worn) Nike Air Ship – $1.47 Million
It’s hard to fathom that one of the most expensive pairs of sneakers ever sold were worn out and scuffed up. Then again, it was Michael Jordan that wore them out, so there’s that. When they debuted to the public in 1984, the cost was a reasonable $65.
However, the pair Mike played in, for quite a few games, apparently, sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2021, for $1.47 million. Collector Nick Fiorella was the lucky buyer.
1. 2008 Kanye West Nike Air Yeezy “Prototype” – $1.8 Million
The infamous rapper wore these sneakers at the 2008 Grammys while performing his hit, Stronger. He then went on to announce his Yeezy shoe project to the planet. The sneakers have changed hands a few times since Ye wore them on Grammy night.
They are presently in the hands of a sneaker investment firm called RARES. They bought the one-of-kind kicks for $1.8 million dollars.