Michael Jordan, the jersey that was worth 10 million

We knew that vintage was back in fashion, but maybe not at this price. In the battle of the sporting collectibles auction, basketball legend Michael Jordan smashed a new record last week. At a new auction organized by Sotheby’s, owned by Franco-Israeli telecom magnate Patrick Drahi, one of the last tunics worn by “MJ” with the Chicago Bulls, was sold for a whopping 10.1 million dollars, more than double the original estimate.

It is “a new record for a basketball jersey at auction, a record for any previously worn, heritage sporting item, and the most expensive item ever sold in Michael’s collection. Jordan “, welcomed in a press release the auction house of works of art.

The famous red jersey, flanked by the number 23, of the Illinois franchise broke the previous world record held by that of footballer Diego Maradona, sold some 9.3 million dollars, also by Sotheby’s, shortly after his death in November 2020. This tunic was already nothing trivial since it had been worn by the “Pibe de oro” (the golden kid) during a famous quarter-final at the 1986 World Cup. match made legendary by the performance of the number 10 of the Albiceleste, who had martyred the England team that day, before going to win a second world title. Four minutes after opening the scoring thanks to the “hand of God”, he doubled the lead by crossing the entire field, ball at his feet, in the middle of six opponents. An action still considered today as the most beautiful goal ever scored in a football match.

A “living legend”

Three years younger than the late Argentinian, Jordan left a similar, if not superior, mark to Maradona in the history of the sport. Alongside Mohammad Ali, Pelé and perhaps the very next retiree Roger Federer, he is one of those athletes who have decompartmentalized the limits of their respective disciplines. “Jordan is history,” said Brahm Wachter, one of the people responsible for the sale when it was announced. “The enthusiasm was palpable among sports fans, but also among collectors eager to own a rare piece of history,” he detailed, before saluting “the incomparable name and legacy of Michael Jordan, still relevant almost 25 years later”.

If such sums may logically seem absurd for the acquisition of a simple jersey, these are up to the impact that “His Airness” left in the memories of several generations of children born between the 70s and 80. The uniqueness of this piece, ripped off as we recall for the modest sum of 10.1 million dollars, lies in the greatness of the sporting feat that Jordan has achieved, with this precise jersey on the shoulders, in company of his teammates during the 1997-1998 season.

Largely staged in the Netflix series The Last Dance (The last dance) released in 2020, this final score of the legendary Chicago Bulls team has left an indelible mark in the history of the orange ball. Informed by their management that the year 1998 would sound the death knell for their common adventure, Phil Jackson’s players were determined that their last joint scores would live up to the extent of their domination over the NBA at the time. A league over which they reigned almost unchallenged throughout the 1990s, winning six championship titles between 1991 and 1998. Interrupted in the middle by the fake retirement of “MJ” in 1994, this unrivaled series is responsible the aura still enjoyed 24 years later by the names of Michael Jordan, but also Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman in “basketball” memories. “This season is perhaps one of Jordan’s fan favorites because Michael was at the peak of his abilities, knowing that this was his last chance with the Chicago Bulls for the NBA championship,” Brahm said. Watcher.

One of the greatest comebacks

On June 14, 1998, the Bulls traveled to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz. A decisive meeting since Jordan and his family could succeed in a new “pass of three”: namely to lift for the second time a third consecutive NBA champion title. And by leading the series 3 games to 2, Jordan and the Bulls are one step away from giving themselves the most beautiful bow.

Problem: 40 seconds from the final buzzer, the Bulls are ahead of 3 units by Utah (86-83). Chicago coach Phil Jackson calls a last-ditch timeout and orders his players to give Jordan all the last shots.

The latter, accustomed to winning his team on the gong since his arrival in Illinois in 1984, then performs a series of actions considered one of the greatest shows in the history of the NBA Finals. When play resumes, Jordan receives the ball, goes to the basket and flies over several Jazz defenders. He scores, but the referees not granting the expected foul, the Bulls remain one unit behind. The Utah players therefore recover the ball and circulate it to Karl Malone. Trying to gain as much time as possible by “eating” the stopwatch, he does not see a furious Jordan appear who steals the ball from his hands and thus offers himself a match point.

Already author of 43 points since the beginning of the meeting, he then rushes with great strides towards the basket then abruptly stops his race near the racket. This sudden change of pace tripped his vis-à-vis Bryon Russell. Then, with the help of a small step back to give himself the free field, he propels the ball into the opposing basket: 87-86. John Stockton’s desperate three-point shot at the buzzer does not change anything, the Bulls offer themselves their 6th championship title, just like Jordan who receives for the 6th time the title of best player, “MVP” in English, from the final. This meeting, which looks like a jubilee for the greatest basketball legend, still has the highest audience for an NBA final today.

A record far from being a first

The presence that Michael Jordan still has at 59, a true living legend of basketball, explains, at least in part, the why and how a simple basketball jersey can be exchanged for more than 10 million dollars. Sotheby’s was all the quicker to sniff out the beautiful financial operation given the pedigree of “Air Jordan”, whose career was punctuated with commercial successes that filled the pockets of its various sponsors.

The child of a General Electric worker father and a bank worker mother, the Wilmington, NC native didn’t become one of the sports industry’s highest-grossing athletes overnight. . In October 2021, Sotheby’s had already organized the sale of one of its most famous pairs of sneakers. His Nike Air Ships, which he had exceptionally put on during his last All-Star Games on the floor of Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1998, were then exchanged for nearly a million and a half dollars. If she had put his feet in blood from the half-time of the meeting, she had above all allowed him to register more than 40 points. Something to recall the very first performances that revealed him to the eyes of the world when he arrived in Illinois in 1984.

Revelation of the university season with the North Carolina team, to whom he offered the national title by scoring a final 3-point basket at the buzzer in the final, Jordan attracted all the major world brands from the age of 20 who were already dreaming of it. make their future muse. But while he was dreaming of signing with Adidas, a young brand still little known, created 13 years earlier, won the day by offering him a then historic contract for a basketball player amounting to 250,000 dollars. By enlisting the future interplanetary star, Nike has won the bet that will allow him to become the most famous comma in the world. Equipped with his own line of shoes, the Air Jordans with their revolutionary technology soles, Michael will make all the young people of the 80s dream, whose only objective is to be able to jump as high as their new idol. By signing this contract, Nike hoped to sell the equivalent of 3 million dollars of Air Jordan in four years, not imagining then that it would sell for 126 million in the first year.

“The name ‘Michael Jordan’ has always been good merchandise,” says David Falk, his lifelong agent who pushed him to sign with Nike. Absolutely all the sponsors requested it”. “It was said of him that he was able to sell dishwashing products as if they were bread rolls. “, he quips in the series The Last Dance.

“For a child, having his pair of Air Jordans was a bit like holding a Star Wars lightsaber,” jokes the American rapper NAS. In the same episode, pop star Justin Timberlake explains how he saved up a whole year to be able to queue up at a Foot Locker and find the sesame of a generation. “Before Michael Jordan, sneakers were just pairs for playing basketball. And suddenly, they became fashionable shoes, part of the culture”, explains Roy Johnson, director of Fortune Magazine having overseen an edition entitled “The Jordan’s Effect”.

In addition to having the assurance of being the star of the playground, this collective hysteria around the Air Jordan will even push the filmmaker Spike Lee to center the plot of his first film, titled She’s Gotta Have It. have it), about the quest for a pair of Air Jordan led by its main character. A true hero of the youth of several successive generations, he can also pride himself on being one of those who have built bridges between urban culture and that of sport.

By breaking all sales records, this jersey, which is therefore not “simple”, has been invited to the table of the most precious works of art. However, it is doubtful that its new owner, whose identity has not been disclosed, will wear it during his Sunday sports session. Unlike the happy owners of a pair of Air Jordans, authentic or counterfeit, who line and will line basketball courts around the world for a long time to come.

We knew that vintage was back in fashion, but maybe not at this price. In the battle of the sporting collectibles auction, basketball legend Michael Jordan smashed a new record last week. At a new auction organized by Sotheby’s, owned by Franco-Israeli telecom magnate Patrick Drahi,…

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