On 27 January, a Miami Heat jersery worn by basketball megastar LeBron James during Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals sold for US$3.7 million at Sotheby's New York, smashing the previous auction record for his game-worn jersey by more than five times.
The sale also marks the third-highest price for a game-worn jersey ever auctioned, trailing only Michael Jordan's 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which fetched US$10.1 million, and Diego Maradona’s 'Hand of God' goal shirt from 1986 World Cup that went for US$9.3 million.
LeBron James led Miami Heat to defend the NBA Finals title in 2013
Lot 1 | LeBron James 2013 NBA Finals Miami Heat Game Worn Jersey | Game 7 | Championship Clinching Game
Adidas, Adidas Mesh Jersey, Size 2XL (+2 length)
Estimate: US$3,000,000 – 5,000,000
Auction House: Sotheby's New York
Sale: The One
Date: 27 January 2023
The market for sport memorabilia has experienced exponential growth in recent years. Last year alone, the auction record for the most valuable game-worn jersey changed twice, with the aforementioned Michael Jordan jersey bringing in an eye-popping US$10.1 million in September, just four months after the record-breaking sale of Diego Maradona's shirt.
Both astronomical sums, however, fell short of surpassing a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, which sold for a staggering US$12.6 million at Heritage Auctions last August to become the most expensive sports memorabilia.
As for LeBron James' sports memorabilia, his current record stands at US$5.2 million, which was set when his signed rookie card sold in 2021, marking the second-highest selling price for a basketball card. While the present lot fails to break that record, it is the most expensive jersey worn by James ever auctioned, beating the one from the 2020 NBA All-Star Game that went for US$630,000.
Diego Maradona's jersey from 1986 World Cup | Previous record for the most valuable game-worn sports jersey | Sold: £7.1 million pounds
Michael Jordan's 1998 NBA Finals jersey | Record for the most valuable game-worn sports jersey | Sold: US$10.1 million
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card | Record for the most valuable sports memorabilia | Sold: US$12.6 million
The 2003-04 LeBron James autogrpahed rookie card | Record for the most valuable LeBron James' sports memorabilia | Sold: US$5.2 million
Nicknamed "King James", LeBron is widely recognized as one of the most iconic and greatest players in the history of NBA. The comparisions to "God of Basketball" Michael Jordan had started for LeBron earlier than most. Before even laying a toe on an NBA court, in 2002, as a high school basketball underclassman, he was featured in the cover of Sports Illustrated that famously proclaimed him as "The Chosen One" – at the tender age of 17 years old, LeBron was set to be a worldwide phenomenon.
And the 2012-2013 season was LeBron's masterclass, with many considering it the King's best NBA season. In 2012, LeBron won his first career NBA championship with the Miami Heat after winning 4-1 against the Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the following year, Miami Heat defeated Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers in the playoffs, and once again advanced to the champion game. Facing off with the Heat was San Antonio Spurs, who had Timothy Duncan and Tony Parker on their side.
LeBron James with Miami Heat became the defending NBA champion in the 2013 season
The jersey comes with a NBA finals patch
2013 marked the 25th anniversary of Miami Heat
In a series of seven games in a 2-3-2 format, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were tied at 3-3 in six tense games. On 20 June, with 26.3 million fans tuning in from home, the pressure-packed Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals eventually took place, with the Heat getting the home-court advantage.
After one quarter of play, the Heat got off to an 18-16 lead, following a 28-point tie in the second quarter, and one-point deficit in the third quarter.
With a 72-71 edge, the Heat headed to the final 12 minutes of the season stronger than ever before, leading the game the entire time and becoming the defending NBA champion in a 95-88 victory.
LeBron James recorded a 37-point double-double in Game 7
MeiGrayGroup has photo-matched the present jersey to prove its authenticity
One of the photos matched by MeiGrayGroup
Named the season MVP as well as the Finals MVP for the second straight year, LeBron achieved a remarkable double-double with 37 points and 12 rebounds in his first NBA Finals Game 7 appearance, wearing this shirt throughout the first half. It was arguably the most important performance of his career, and he finished with the most points of any winning Game 7 performance in NBA Finals history.
LeBron had entered a new realm. He was one of just 3 players in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs & NBA Titles, joining Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. He was in the conversation for the greatest to ever play the game – and now, the basketball star is less than 120 career points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record, which was set before he was born.