In May this year, Diego Maradona’s 1986 World Cup shirt was sold at Sotheby’s London for a record-breaking £7.1 million pounds (US$9.28 million dollars), causing a sensation around the world.
Yet, his record has only lasted for four months. Last week, a Chicago Bulls jersey worn by the "God of Basketball" Michael Jordan during his appearance in the 1998 NBA Finals went under the hammer at Sotheby's New York with an estimate of US$3 million. In the end, it attracted a total of 20 bids and sold for a whopping US$10.1 million, setting the new record for the most expensive game-worn sports memorabilia.
Jordan's shirt comes with a photo matching certificate from the MeiGray Group
Michael Jordan 1998 NBA Finals “The Last Dance” Game Worn Jersey | Game 1
Nike, Nike Mesh Jersey, Size 50 (+4 Length)
Estimate: US$3,000,000 – 5,000,000
Auction House: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Invictus | Part I
Date: 6-14 September 2022
Before introducing the jersey, let us first look through the previous auction records.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Diego Maradona’s 1986 World Cup shirt was once the most expensive game-worn sports jersey in history, having sold for £7.1 million pounds in April 2022. It was also the most expensive sports memorabilia then.
In August 2022, the record for the most valuable sports memorabilia was renewed by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, when it was sold at Heritage Auctions for a staggering US$12.6 million.
This time, this Jordan Jersey, having fetched US$10.09 million, has smashed the record set by Diego Maradona, but not enough to beat the Mickey Mantle baseball card. Therefore, it is the most expensive "game-worn" sports memorabillia, and the other record is still held by Mickey Mantle.
Argentine football legend, Diego Maradona's jersey was the most valuable game-worn sports jersey ever | Sotheby's London, 2022 | Sold: £7.1 million pounds
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card, holding the record for the most valuable sports memorabilia at US$12.6 million
In 2015, a NBA Finals Chicago Bulls jersey that Jordan gathered slightly over US$173,000 dollars. Worn in 1998 against the New York Knicks, it marked his final regular season appearance with the Bulls and became the then highest price paid for a Jordan collectible at auction.
This time, the record-breaking shirt was accompanied by a photo matching certificate from The MeiGray Group regarding the game use. It also comes with a graded copy of a June 1998 Sports Illustrated, which features this jersey on the cover.
Highly desired artifacts from the zeniths of Jordan’s career, most of his NBA finals jerseys remain in private hands and are regarded with the highest levels of importance in the collecting community. In 2016, the basketball legend donated US$5 million dollars to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and a 1996 NBA Finals Home jersey.
It is also accompanied with a copy of a 1998 Sports Illustrated magazine featuring the iconic jersey
The basketball legend's Nike Airship shoes worn in 1984 are the most expensive pair of game-worn sneakers | Sotheby's Las Vegas, 2021 | Sold: US$1.5 million dollars
The jersey worn in his last regular season game for the Bulls in 1998 became a then record for match-worn Michael Jordan memorabilia | Goldin Auctions New Jersey, 2015
The Last Dance was Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls (1997-1998) and is one of the most beloved periods amongst his fans.
Jordan reached the pinnacle of his popularity and powers, whilst conquering major internal divisions that were fracturing the team dynamics of the late 90s Chicago Bulls. The season is referred to as The Last Dance largely due to the ESPN documentary miniseries by the same name, which featured exclusive footage of the Bulls’ efforts throughout their title-winning season.
With players such as Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley, the star-studded team knew that the Bulls franchise would ultimately be disbanded at the end of the season. As such, they knew it was their last opportunity to capture a sixth Championship for the Bulls. It was one of Jordan’s final key matches as an athlete – a testament to him as a champion.
(From left to right): Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Luc Longley and Dennis Rodman were part the Bulls' title-winning team in the 1997-1998 season
The Last Dance documentary (2020) showcased the Bulls' progress throughout the 1997-1998 season
Jordan holds onto the 1998 Finals MVP award, while Bulls coach Phil Jackson raises the team's champion trophy
The most watched NBA Finals of all time with nearly 36 million views, fans from around the world tuned into the matches between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz. The Chicago players were greeted by a hostile home crowd. Some Utah fans were driving their cars with a Bull placed on a spit, as if it were grilled. This antagonistic atmosphere meant even Jordan’s children were not allowed to attend the game by their mother.
In the first of six closing matches, Jordan played 45 minutes – the most minutes on court of any of his 1998 NBA Finals games. The legendary player sent the game into overtime, scoring 33 points in this iconic red away jersey on his way to his sixth NBA Championship (second three-peat between 1991 and 1998) and sixth Finals MVP award.