Throughout his star basketball career, Michael Jordan was famous for gravity-defying dunks and 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 the hit Netflix documentary The Last Dance – has taken jaw-droppingly at auction for a record $10,091m (£8.85m).
The total, which is more than double the initial estimates, sets a new auction record for a sports memorabilia worn in-game, according to Sotheby’s. The previous highest figure was $9.28m (£8.14m) paid for Diego Maradona’s jersey in the “Hand of God” match against England in the 1986 World Cup.
Jordan wore the jersey in the first game and scored 33 points against the Utah Jazz. But he later took the Bulls into a brilliant comeback by winning their sixth NBA championship ring. Sotheby’s said it was one of only two auctioned jerseys Jordan wore in an NBA finals game and billed it as “one of the highlights of Michael Jordan’s career.”
“The season itself is his ‘magnum opus’ as an athlete and a testament to him as a champion and competitor,” added Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and contemporary collectibles. “Jordan’s final kits are extremely inadequate and  Finals are arguably the most sought after of all.”
Wachter said there was great interest in the jersey. “In the weeks we announced the auction, there was a noticeable excitement not only from sports fans, but also from collectors who want to own a rare piece of history,” he added.
The sale of Jordan’s jersey is another example of the notable explosion in memorabilia in recent years.
In June 2019, a jersey worn by legendary player Babe Ruth from 1928 to 1930 sold for $5.6m (£4.91m) at an auction in New York, making it the most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold.
However, this record was broken six months later when the original copy of Pierre de Coubertin’s 1892 speech outlining his idealistic vision for the revival of the old Olympic Games was sold for a staggering $8,806,500 (£7.72 million). $8 million and setting a new world auction record.
Baseball cards have also proven extraordinarily popular; The Honus Wagner T-206 portrays the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates nicknamed the ‘Flying Dutchman’ as one of the most collectibles. Fewer than 100 are said to be in circulation, with the final sale hitting $7.25m (£6.36m) last month. However, the overall record for sports memorabilia stands at $12.6m (£11.05m) paid for a Mickey Mantle baseball card.
For those with deep pockets looking for a memory from their sports idol, there are still relative bargains to be had. Earlier this week, a signed Roger Federer racquet used at Sotheby’s 2011 French Open sold for a relatively modest $50,400 (£44,195), while a pair of signed Serena Williams’ Nike trainers went for $5,292 (£4,640).