Sonny Vacarro was the executive who pushed Nike to sign Michael Jordan—who was then just coming out of North Carolina. The partnership boomed to a billion-dollar business and instantly revolutionized the shoe industry. After winning his first NBA title, Jordan gave Vacarro a shoe, which the executive has kept in his wife’s dresser for almost three decades.
Now, he’s taking this rare memorabilia out for auction.
After Jordan won his first NBA title in 1991, he sent over a pair of signed Jordan 4’s to Vacarro. The item is notable because it has a hole cut on top of the right shoe to help Jordan play amid a bruised big toe he suffered in Game 3. But more than anything, it also served as Jordan’s parting gift to Vacarro, who left Nike in 1991.
“That was my last thing with Michael Jordan,” Vaccaro told USA Today Sports. “Being associated with Michael from 1984 to that day was one of the major turning points of my life, and now it’s over. It’s been 28 years, and I want the public to know that’s what happened. That’s how beautifully it ended, and I want to say it that way.”
Vacarro knows how many Jordan shoe mementos are out there—every single one of them special in their own way. This particular shoe holds many meanings for Vacarro, though. Perhaps the most important of all is his role in spotting Jordan’s marketing potential even before he became big in the NBA.
“There’s 10,000 pairs of Michael’s shoes-his first dunk, his first game, this one, that one and they’re all valuable and people save them,” the former Nike exec added. “But this was me and him 30 years ago and I never thought I’d sell them, but it’s the right point and the right time.”
“It also shows how close we were,” Vaccaro said. “I certainly didn’t call (and ask for those shoes). It’s a beautiful memory.”
As announced by Sotheby’s and Goldin Auctions, the shoe of the Chicago Bulls icon will be open online through December 7. The estimated price could range from $500,000 to $750,000.