During his stellar basketball career, Michael Jordan was famous for his gravity-defying dunks and for redefining the limits of what seemed possible. Now, a jersey won by the former Chicago Bulls player in the 1998 NBA Finals – a period chronicled in Netflix’s hit documentary The Last Dance – has also made jaws drop, attracting a record price of $10.091 million (£ 8.85 million) at auction.
The sum, more than double initial estimates, set a new auction record for a game-worn sports memorabilia, according to Sotheby’s. The previous highest value was the $9.28m (£8.14m) paid for the shirt worn by Diego Maradona during the “Hand of God” match against England at the 1986 World Cup.
Jordan wore the jersey in Game 1, scoring 33 points in a loss against the Utah Jazz. However, he later led the Bulls to a brilliant comeback by winning his sixth NBA title ring. Sotheby’s said it was one of only two Jordan jerseys worn in an NBA Finals game to appear at auction, calling it “one of the most significant items from Michael Jordan’s career.”
“The season itself is his ‘magnificent opus’ as an athlete, and a testament to him as a champion and competitor,” added Brahm Wachter, director of modern streetwear and collectibles at Sotheby’s. “Jordan finals jerseys are remarkably scanned and the  The finals are possibly the most coveted of all.”
Watchter said there had been considerable interest in the shirt. “In the weeks since we announced the auction, there has been a palpable excitement from not only sports fans, but also collectors who are eager to own a rare piece of history,” he added.
The sale of the Jordan jersey is another example of the notable rise of memorabalia in recent years.
In June 2019, a jersey worn by legendary player Babe Ruth between 1928 and 1930 sold for $5.6 million (£4.91 million) at auction in New York, making it the memorabilia most expensive sports car ever sold.
Six months later, however, that record was broken when the original copy of Pierre de Coubertin’s 1892 speech, outlining his idealistic vision for a revival of the ancient Olympic Games, sold for a staggering $8,806,500 (£7 .72 million), beating the high estimate by nearly $8 million and setting a new world auction record.
Baseball cards have also proven extraordinarily popular, with the Honus Wagner T-206, depicting the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates player nicknamed ‘The Flying Dutchman’, one of the most collectible. There are said to be fewer than 100 in circulation, with the last one selling for $7.25m (£6.36m) last month. However, the overall record for sports memorabilia is still in the $12.6m (£11.05m) paid for a Mickey Mantle baseball card.
There are still relative bargains for those with deep pockets looking for a moment from their sports idol. Earlier this week, Sotheby’s sold a Roger Federer-signed racket used at the 2011 French Open for a relatively modest $50,400 (£44,195), while a pair of Serena Williams-signed Nike shoes sold for $5,292 (£4,640).