Michael Jordan cards and memorabilia have set record after record during the latest sports collectible boom, but Heritage Auctions may have the best piece of Jordan memorabilia yet with a game-worn jersey from North Carolina’s 1982-83 national championship game.
The May 6-8 Heritage Auctions Spring Sports Catalog features the Carolina blue and white jersey No. 23 — the same one Jordan was wearing on the cover of the Sporting News issue that proclaimed Jordan the NCAA Player of the Year. Jordan famously hit a jump shot with 17 seconds remaining to lead the Tar Heels to the historic win over Georgetown. The shot made Jordan a household name and was a moment he later said “started my career.”
The jersey opened at $285,230.
According to Heritage, the Jordan jersey is the most significant Jordan artifact to ever reach an auction.
In 1983, Jordan’s sweaty uniform was traded among team managers after a Stanford-North Carolina game during the Stanford Invitational tournament at Maples Pavilion.
In December of that year, high school student named Chris Williamson was assigned as the visiting team manager for the Cardinals’ games at Maples Pavilion. It was his job to make sure the visitors had fresh towels and plenty of water and snacks, whatever they needed.
According to lifelong friend Steven Cauchi, after the game Williamson worked the trade of a lifetime, swapping some Stanford gear for some of the Tar Heels’ jerseys, shorts and socks, the shorts of future NBA star Sam Perkins.
“He showed me the stuff on the way home from the game, and that was when I saw that he had obtained Michael Jordan’s jersey.” Cauchi recalls. “The jersey was still soaking wet with sweat. I made the comment to Chris that maybe if he rubbed a little of Michael Jordan's sweat on his shoes, he might be able to jump like Michael Jordan.”
In his senior yearbook, Williamson celebrated his Big Win. In the text published beneath his class photo, he wrote, "Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks Dawn. Hey Michael, where's your jersey?" Sixteen years later, the jersey made its auction debut, selling in 1999 for a then-record price of $63,500. Stanford assistant coach Ron Close and Williamson’s sister confirmed the extraordinary tale.
Today, the jersey is estimated to sell for $1 million or more, a price Heritage says befits “the photo-matched and picture-perfect specimen that has been out of sight and out of reach for more than two decades.”
The jersey is actually one of more than 125 Jordan items in the May 6-8 event,
Including a PSA Gem Mint 10 1986 Fleer rookie card — the one that spent most of 2020 making headlines each time it reached the auction block.
The auction also includes autographed rookie cards from the 1984-85 Star Co. collection issued before the Fleer favorite, alongside other signed cards, notably the 1996 SPx card, graded PSA NM-MT 8, PSA/DNA Auto 10, that was Jordan’s first autograph card promotion.
There auction features more than 60 lots signed by the NBA legend, including a signed ticket stub from the 1982 NCAA Finals, when Jordan and the Tar Heels bested Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.
There is also a copy of Jordan’s book, “For the Love of the Game,” which was autographed for Whitney Houston and gifted to the late singer with a pair of Air Jordan V “Metallics” he wore during Game 3 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals.
One of the most coveted items in the auction is expected to be a signed marker for a $200,000 line of credit at the Bellagio in Las Vegas left by Jordan.