CHICAGO — The Last Dance docuseries aired its final episode last Sunday, but apparently that hasn’t slowed the gold rush on Michael Jordan and 1990s Chicago Bulls items.
In fact, in the past few weeks, the appetite for all things Jordan has been building to a crescendo, with auctions setting records and apparel flying off shelves — well, “virtual” shelves in some cases with many areas of the country still under quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Last Dance effect has rippled across consumer sectors like Jordan’s series-winning last shot in the 1998 Finals rocked the NBA world.
It’s gotta be … the backboard?
Speaking of last shots by Jordan, “The Shot” he sank over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo in a 1989 Eastern Conference first-round playoff series has been immortalized in a clip of Jordan jumping and thrusting his fist in the air. The hoop-and-backboard set from that classic moment is up for sale through Heritage Auctions, currently with a high bid of $8,500 ($10,200 once the 20 percent “buyer’s premium” is tacked on). The auction ends this Sunday night.
In case you’re wondering, the hoop and backboard from Jordan’s championship-winning shot over Utah’s Bryon Russell in 1998 sold for $41,825 through Heritage Auctions in July 2015.
At least a few major merchandisers see monster sales
When you consider overall U.S. retail sales took a record 16 percent dive in April, it makes The Last Dance effect all the more incredible.
Since the premiere of the 10-part ESPN-Netflix docuseries on April 19, eBay said in a statement that its average one-day sales for Bulls items skyrocketed a “staggering” 5,156 percent compared to the beginning of April.
For apparel retailer Fanatics, the Bulls have been the top-selling NBA team, with various shirts, hats and other merchandise selling in all 50 states and more than 90 countries.
Since the beginning of May, Bulls sales are up 400 percent compared to the same period last year.
But here’s a twist: The top market for Jordan merchandise sales since the premiere is New York — not Chicago. Chicago is the second city once again.
Never been more interest in MJ, says Google
Google Trends measures a topic’s “interest over time” on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 reaching peak popularity. According to partial data for May, “Michael Jordan” as a search term has reached 100.
Google Trends’ last confirmed data, from April, set his interest value at an all-time high (for now) of 64. His highest previous peak, dating back to 2004, was 45 in February 2013, when Jordan turned 50 and sparked many retrospectives.
Here are some other insights.
Since The Last Dance premiered on April 19, and spanning up to three days before the last two episodes aired, the most searched Jordan-related consumer items in the United States included the following:
• Michael Jordan jersey
• Michael Jordan tequila
• Michael Jordan poster
• Jordan rookie card
• Michael Jordan cards
In the same time frame, the most searched Air Jordans in the country are:
• Jordan 13
• Jordan 1
• Jordan 11
• Jordan 4
• Jordan 10
Gamers trying to be like Mike — or his opponents
Naturally, NBA2K users playing as Jordan have spiked in number, but there’s even rising interest some of Jordan’s old Eastern Conference nemeses: Larry Bird’s Celtics and Isiah Thomas’ Pistons. Here are the numbers.
• Jordan usage increased 99 percent on NBA 2K live online in the first week after The Last Dance premiere.
• The ‘85-86 Boston Celtics saw a 196 percent increase in the week after the first two episodes aired.
• The ‘88-89 Detroit Pistons saw a 197 percent spike in the same span. At least that’s one team Isiah Thomas wasn’t left off of. (Too soon?)
• All classic Bulls teams (Bulls squads featuring Jordan) jumped 131 percent in a little less than a week after the premiere. And yes, many of those gamers were playing the Bulls against Pistons or Celtics (179 percent and 141 percent increases for those matchups, respectively.)
Rush on Jordan rookie cards continues
In a market where even base Jordan cards are doubling and tripling (or more) in value, collectors seem to be scrambling for Jordan rookie cards.
After the docuseries’ premiere, eBay reported that 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie cards saw a 151 percent increase in sales for the rest of the month. Total sales for April, $1,625,458, shot up 150 percent from March’s $647,646.
Jordan trading card sales in general doubled from the previous month.
Got $90,125 handy? That’s what it would take early Monday to keep the bidding going (currently $90,025) for a PSA 10 gem-mint ‘86 Fleer Jordan rookie card, which PWCC Marketplace is auctioning through eBay.
Auction house Probstein123 has a “dead-centered” cut of the same card with the same quality. The card sold for $85,100 Tuesday night. Both cards have had their “authenticity verified,” according to the site.
Probstein123 is handling another high-value cardboard memento of Jordan. While the ‘86 Fleer is generally regarded in the hobby as Jordan’s rookie card, technically the true rookie card comes from the 1984-85 Star Company set.
Bidding was up to $53,000 on the autographed card and the auction through eBay ended Thursday night. According to a letter of authentication, Jordan signed the card during his Flight School Camp in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2017, and the signature was witnessed by a representative of Upper Deck.
A factory-sealed package containing the same ‘84-85 rookie card is up for sale through eBay for $225,000.
More top bids could be in cards (as in basketball cards)
The Chicago Tribune talked to renowned card collector Nat S. Turner. He might want to keep his eye on the following items — if he doesn’t already have them in his collection.
Lelands is auctioning rare pack-pulled Jordan and LeBron James cards, as well as other items associated with the basketball greats. The headliner is likely the 2005-06 Upper Deck Exquisite Dual Number Pieces Michael Jordan and LeBron James Patch Auto card signed by both players.
Air Jordans set an auction record
The Bulls legend’s autographed Air Jordan 1s set an auction record for sneakers, topping Nike’s rare 1972 Waffle Racing Flat “Moon Shoe,” which sold for $437,500 in July 2019. Both shoes were auctioned through Sotheby’s.
A bidding war in the last 20 minutes drove up the Jordan shoes’ price by $300,000, and the $560,000 sale more than tripled Sotheby’s high estimate of $150,000.
They’re not your typical “Jordans,” but a pair of his autographed Birmingham Barons Air Jordan cleats, which Jordan wore in 1994 as a White Sox prospect, fetched $93,000 through Heritage Auctions on May 8.
According to eBay, the top 10 most popular Jordan sneakers sold on its site include the following:
1. Bred 11
2. Royal 1
3. Cement 4
4. Concord 11
5. Space Jam 11
6. Infrared 6
7. Bred 1
8. Bordeaux 7
9. Chicago 1
10. Black Toe 1
A Jordan photo’s worth 1,000 words — or $14,000, in one case
Original sports photos have seen booming business as the sector has gained favor among collectors in recent years.
An original 8x10 photograph of Jordan from his University of North Carolina days, shot by Malcolm Emmons, was sold privately to top sports photo collector and North Dakota businessman Ben Weingarten for $14,000. Like much of Weingarten’s collection, it’s a “type 1” photo, developed from the original negative within two years from when the shot was taken.
The sale, brokered by Tustin, California-based Albersheims.com is the second-highest price paid for a type 1 Jordan photo. A shot of Jordan from his first NBA game in 1984 sold for $22,200 at auction in 2019.
Another Jordan photo, this one an autographed reproduction, is the top draw on a new niche auction site, Chicago-based MJAuthentic23.com. The iconic Nike “Wings” image, in which Jordan palms a basketball while spreading his arms wide to show his wingspan, measures 75 inches wide and 26 inches high in its frame.
“Wings” shot up to $1,888 from a starting bid of $800. Like all other items from MJAuthentic23’s debut lot, the auction closes on Saturday — the 23rd of this month.
Ticket to MJ’s first game a hot commodity.
It was Oct. 25, 1984. The Bulls hosted the Washington Bullets at Chicago Stadium. Jordan scored 16 points and had seven assists, four blocks and two steals in front of 13,913 fans during his NBA debut.
Some patrons who held onto their stubs or acquired them later are now cashing in. Bidding on one ticket, graded “good 2” by PSA, has reached $5,800 in a Huggins and Scott auction that’s set to end May 28.
A similar ticket with the same grade sold for $16,200 through Heritage Auctions in February, then was resold for $33,000 earlier this month — a profit of about 104 percent in less than three months.
That price still falls shy of the ticket that gave fans their first official look at Jordan in a Bulls uniform. A stub from his first preseason game — against the Pacers at the Peoria Civic Center on Oct. 5 — sold for $34,800 through Heritage Auctions on May 8.
1992 Dream Team spawns couple of high-profile auctions
Lelands is auctioning signed, game-worn shoes by Jordan and Barcelona Olympic teammates Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen, and the auction runs through June 19. Bidding for Jordan’s kicks opened at $10,000 Sunday night and had reached $23,581 by Wednesday.
According to Lelands, the consignor was a Dream Team staff member, and the players gave that person the shoes after the United States won the gold medal. Some of the proceeds will be donated to COVID-19 relief efforts.
Last month, a Michael Jordan’s game-used jersey from the ‘92 Olympics sold for $216,000 through Robert Edward Auctions, the second highest public auction price ever for a Jordan jersey.
Other items worn by ‘90s Bulls range from affordable to high-end.
• Dennis Rodman’s game-worn jersey from a Christmas Day 1997 matchup against the Heat at the United Center. According to Heritage Auctions, which is handling the consignment, a young girl persuaded Rodman to give her the jersey while holding up a sign featuring her drawing of “a shirtless, green-haired Dennis Rodman holding his own jersey in his right hand.” Bidding on Wednesday was at $9,750 ($11,700, once the 20 percent “buyer’s premium is added).
• Jordan’s signed, game-worn 1981-82 North Carolina Tar Heels shoes had an opening bid of $5,000 and were up to $10,717 Wednesday on Lelands. The auction ends June 19.
• Jordan’s game-worn 1994 White Sox warmup jersey requires a starting bid of $2,500 on Lelands.
• Sneakers worn by Rodman in December of the 1997-98 season — The Last Dance season — requires an opening bid of $500 on Lelands.
• One eBay seller is offering an unopened, plastic-wrapped Scottie Pippen college basketball card from a Wheaties box for $25,000.
• Another eBay user is selling Luc Longley’s Bulls-customized Arlen Ness motorcycle for $25,000 or “best offer.” Good luck there.