Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey sells for record $10.1M

Basketball jersey from Jordan’s famed ‘Last Dance’ season with the Chicago Bulls sets record for game-worn memorabilia.

Michael Jordan Jersey
While the Bulls led by Michael Jordan lost Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals to the Utah Jazz, they went on to win the series and capture their sixth NBA championship title in eight seasons [Courtesy of Sotheby's]

Famed US basketball player Michael Jordan’s Game 1 jersey from the 1998 NBA Finals has been sold at auction for $10.1m – a record for any game-worn sports memorabilia, auction house Sotheby’s has announced.

The red, number-23 jersey from Jordan’s “Last Dance” season with the Chicago Bulls fetched 20 separate bids, Sotheby’s said in a statement on Thursday, which drove the price to double its $5m estimate.

The sale also sets a new record for a basketball jersey sold at auction, and the jersey is the most valuable item of Jordan memorabilia ever to be sold.

“The historic jersey was worn during what is arguably the most celebrated season of Jordan’s legendary and storied career, when the superstar cemented his legacy as the greatest basketball player of all time,” Sotheby’s said.

According to the auction house, the jersey is one of just two of Jordan’s NBA Finals jerseys to ever appear at auction.

Interest in Jordan’s 1998 season was sparked yet again after the 2020 release of an ESPN/Netflix documentary titled, The Last Dance, which detailed the Chicago Bulls’ efforts to achieve an unprecedented sixth NBA championship in eight seasons.

The 1998 NBA Finals, which saw the Bulls take on the Utah Jazz, led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, was the most viewed NBA finals series ever.

It is also regarded as a testament to Jordan as a competitor, a sportsman and a teammate.

“Yet again, today’s record-breaking result, with an astounding 20 bids, solidifies Michael Jordan as the undisputed GOAT [Greatest of All Time], proving his name and incomparable legacy is just as relevant as it was nearly 25 years ago,” Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectables, said in a statement.

Game 1

On June 3, 1998, the Chicago Bulls arrived in Utah for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The home crowd was hostile to the team, but as the ESPN/Netflix documentary showed, Jordan was seemingly unfazed by the pressure. There is a now-famous scene of him grooving on the Bulls bus to R&B singer Kenny Lattimore.

Michael Jordan Jersey
Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals Game 1 jersey from the famed ‘Last Dance’ season sold for $10.1m [Courtesy of Sotheby’s]

While the Bulls lost by three points in Game 1, Jordan played 45 minutes – the most of any game in the finals, Sotheby’s said. He also registered 33 points to help send the game into overtime.

That season, the Bulls went on to win their 6th NBA Championship and Jordan secured his 6th NBA Finals MVP Award.

The previous record for any item of Jordan’s sports memorabilia was an autographed relic card from 1997-1998, which sold for $2.7m, according to Sotheby’s.

Kobe Bryant’s game-worn and autographed jersey from the 1996-1997 season, which sold for $3.7m, had previously held the record for a basketball jersey.

Prior to Jordan’s jersey being sold for $10.1m on Thursday, the previous record for any game-worn sports memorabilia was set by Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey, which fetched $9.3m earlier this year, Sotheby’s said.

In recent years, the auction house has expanded into the sneaker and sports memorabilia space.

Sotheby’s currently holds the record for the most valuable sneakers sold at auction, with Michael Jordan’s earliest known regular season game-worn Nikes selling for $1.5m last year.

Source: Al Jazeera