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The Rarest Jordan Collection In The World Shows Us Game-Worn and PE Samples Galore

Various Game-Worn Air Jordan Silhouettes
Various Game-Worn Air Jordan Silhouettes

Many can consider themselves collectors of sneakers, though how deep that may go varies from person to person. Maybe having all OG colorways of the Jordan 1 through Jordan 14 would suffice while others may just need a handful of their personal favorite colorways. One anonymous collector however has been secretly building up what is arguably the rarest collection of Jordan Brand sneakers on the planet, ranging from signed and game-worn sneakers to 1 of 1 PE samples that were tooled specifically for MJ himself. Let's go through and take a look at some of the most interesting samples within this collection.

Michael Jordan's Nike Sky Force

Nike Sky Force Worn And Signed By Michael Jordan
Nike Sky Force Worn And Signed By Michael Jordan

During his college days at UNC, Jordan was often spotted rocking Converse or the adidas Forum as he didn’t like the feel of Nike silhouettes when on the court. In order to try and court the star athlete to their brand, The Swoosh seeded a pair of their then top basketball model the Nike Sky Force. Originally released in 1982, The silhouette was overshadowed by the eventual release of the Dunk and AF1 years later, but Nike has shown some love to the silhouette with retros in 1988 that changed the design and an eventual comeback in the late 2000s and most recently in 2020. As legend has it, MJ was not a fan and immediately returned to playing in his favorite on-court sneaker, the Converse Pro Leather.

MJ's Game-Worn Nike Air Ship

Game-Worn Nike Air Ship
Game-Worn Nike Air Ship

True sneaker historians will tell you the truth that Jordan Brand may not want you to know, that the Air Ship was the sneaker that was “Banned” by the NBA, not the AJ 1. This predecessor to what became the legendary AJ 1 is now seeing a revival with updated tooling, though the original pairs worn by MJ were slightly different than what the public received both then and now. On this game-worn pair, the silhouette features a lower cut and unlike the more recent pairs like A Ma Maniere’s collaboration, the tooling is as OG as it can get.

Air Jordan 1 Samples & PEs

Air Jordan 1 With A Nike Dunk Sole
Air Jordan 1 With A Nike Dunk Sole

While we may enjoy many of the OG AJ 1 colorways, it seemed MJ had his preferences as he consistently wore the iconic Chicago colorway during games. He unfortunately injured his foot during the 1985-1986 season and missed the majority of the season but was able to return for a short-lived playoff run. Once he did return to the team, various retooled Air Jordan 1’s were constructed to help deal with the foot injury, like the Air Jordan 1.5. Taking the upper of the AJ 1 and sole of the then-unreleased AJ 2, providing better support while keeping the lockdown and mobility MJ was used to. A key difference between this hybrid and a standard pair of J’s is the Nike branding replacing Air Jordan along the collar, a feature that returned when the silhouette was surprisingly retroed in 2015.

Another hybrid pair that if Nike ever decided to release would generate massive buzz, is an AJ 1 upper with a Nike Dunk sole unit. Famously worn by MJ when he set the still-unbroken record for points in a playoff game when he scored 63 against the Celtics, the pair also featured dual Wings logo branding on both lateral and medial sides of the collar.

One of the more infamous pairs was what is referred to as the Air Jordan 1 Strap wherein a normal pair of AJ 1’s was cut open and had a lockdown strap added to give Jordan extra support for his healing foot. Aside from being worn in select games, our first glimpse at this rare pair came in 2011 when it was put up for auction on eBay, though since then it has surfaced a handful of times. While Nike did release AJ 1s with straps around the collar, this particular construction has never seen a public release.

Air Jordan 1 Strap Sample

Game-Worn Air Jordan 7 Olympic

Air Jordan 7 Olympic Worn On Foot By Michael Jordan During The Gold Medal Ceremony
Air Jordan 7 Olympic Worn On Foot By Michael Jordan During The Gold Medal Ceremony

Often cited as the greatest team ever assembled on the court, the 1992 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team, aptly nicknamed the “Dream Team,” took home the gold while MJ famously covered the Reebok logo on his tracksuit during the medal ceremony. Proving his brand loyalty during this moment, his footwear option was often a specially crafted pair of Air Jordan 7s, now well-known as the Olympic colorway. The pair pictured below was worn on the feet of Michael Jordan when Team USA won the final game, securing both the sneakers and the team as a whole legendary status. Unlike other colorways of the AJ 7, the back features MJ’s Olympic jersey number 9, a detail that has remained on all retro releases to this day.

Jordan 10 PEs

The retirement era when MJ started playing baseball for the Chicago White Sox and their minor league affiliate the Birmingham Barons saw the introduction of the Air Jordan 9. This silhouette never graced the court until his Washington Wizards days, though there were a handful of cleats produced to wear when he played in the outfield. The AJ 10 however was worn during the infamous return to basketball. We do get a glimpse at an unworn cleated pair of the model, though what is most interesting is a black and charcoal grey PE that sports his number 45 on the collar, contrasting the OG white/black/red Chicago colorway. While none of the original release AJ 10s came with the iconic “45” embroidery, a handful of retros did feature this once-player-exclusive detail.

While we only touched on a handful of different models and PEs, the entire collection is one to be reckoned with. Every model and pair from 1 through 13 was worn by MJ at one point in his career, often getting special treatment to accommodate one of the greatest athletes in the world. Some pairs feature half-size differences between the left and right sneaker while others come with memorabilia linked to specific moments when they were worn on the court. Maybe one day the anonymous collector will reveal themselves to the world, but in the mean time, if you’re looking for a full look at the various samples, collector's items, and history behind some of these pairs, check out the Complex Closets episode below. For real-time updates on the latest happenings in the sneaker and streetwear world, keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app.

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