The NBA All-Star Game MVP Trophy awarded to Isiah Thomas in 1984 was on the auction block until the former Detroit Pistons star guard alerted Heritage Auctions that his trophy had been stolen from his high school’s trophy case.
The trophy was a part of the Summer Platinum Night Sports Collectibles event that runs through Aug. 29-30.
Thomas used Twitter to inform the auction house Monday night that the trophy had been “stolen from St. Joseph High School the night Mr. Pingatore my coach died it belongs to me [sic]. You stole my trophy please return it!”
Mr. Pingatore was identified as Thomas’ high school coach, the legendary Gene Pingatore, who coached at St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Ill.
The trophy, consigned to Heritage Auctions by a sports memorabilia dealer in the Midwest, was immediately pulled from the auction and an investigation was launched.
“Heritage Auctions does not sell stolen property, so we take any claims of title seriously,” Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, said in a statement.
“Even though each consignor warrants clear title when material is consigned to auction, we do have issues of title or potential stolen property come up a handful of times per year. In those instances, we investigate to validate any claims, and if the title is in question, then the lot is removed from auction until the dispute can be settled.”
Heritage Auction officials spoke with Thomas, a Westchester Police Department detective and an official from St. Joseph High. It was decided that for now the trophy would remain at Heritage Auctions’ Dallas offices. Heritage Auctions will continue to work with Thomas, law enforcement, St. Joseph High and the consignor to reach a resolution.
Thomas told Heritage Auctions that he loaned the MVP Trophy to the school out of respect for Coach Pingatore, who died June 26, 2019 at age 82. The loan agreement stipulated Thomas would one day get back his trophy and the other items he donated which were also stolen.
“For me and my family, the silver lining in all of this is that it showed up at your house [Heritage Auctions],” Thomas told Heritage Auctions on Tuesday. “We never would have known, so we are grateful and I am thankful that the item was found and will be returned.”