Aug. 24 — HIGH POINT — How much would you pay for a pair of second-hand sneakers that have been rotting in a High Point woman’s attic for nearly 30 years?
Would you pay $45,000?
This is the current offer for a pair of frayed Converse high-top sneakers worn by Michael Jordan in his historic first basketball season at the University of North Carolina.
The shoes – white with Carolina blue trim, size 12 1/2, with the superstar’s iconic number 23 scrawled on the tongue tag and with his autograph on both heels – are being auctioned off to benefit the program of Tar Heel basketball.
So why have the sneakers, which would be considered a treasure trove for any sports memorabilia collector, been languishing in a High Point attic all these years?
Well, frankly, that’s because Mary Eliza Duckett is, by her own admission, a bit of a pack rat.
“My kids give me the most trouble because I never throw anything away,” Duckett confesses. “But now you see what can happen. I’m just glad I never took those shoes to Goodwill or put them in the trash. I wish I had taken better care of them, though.”
Duckett, who was unmarried at the time, received the shoes from her future brother-in-law, Chuck Duckett, in 1982, months after Jordan sank the game-winning shot to give the Tar Heels a national championship against Georgetown. by Patrick Ewing. Hoyas. Chuck Duckett was the 1982 team’s student manager and Jordan gave him the sneakers. He, in turn, gave the shoes to his future sister-in-law.
“I have younger brothers who are big UNC fans,” says Mary Eliza, “so he said, ‘Take them — they’re going to have fun with it. That’s how I ended up with them.”
And for the past 40 years, while Jordan was busy laying claim to the title of greatest basketball player in history, his shoes have been hidden – the last 29 years in Duckett’s attic, since she and her husband, Chip, moved to High Point in 1993.
“They weren’t even in a box,” Duckett says. “They sat in my attic burning all these years. They were pretty torn.”
Duckett had more or less forgotten about the sneakers until she recently heard about a pair of Air Jordans from her NBA rookie season auctioning off for over $400,000.
“I took the shoes out and reminded Chuck that I still had them, and sent him a picture of them,” she says.
Shortly after, the UNC championship team held its 40-year reunion in Chapel Hill, and Chuck showed Jordan the photo. Realizing their value, sentimental and monetary, Chuck offered to return the shoes to Jordan, but he declined, instead suggesting that Chuck might want to sell them.
Together, they agreed to auction off the shoes — after Jordan autographed them, of course — and donate half of the proceeds to the Tar Heel basketball program.
“The rest will likely go to charity,” says Mary Eliza Duckett.
The shoes are auctioned by Heritage Auctions (HA.com), with bidding continuing through Sunday.
Tuesday night’s highest bid was $45,000, but there’s still plenty of time for the bidding to rise. As Jordan himself said, “The ceiling is the roof”.
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