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Michael Jordan jersey becomes priciest game-worn memorabilia ever sold

A jersey worn by Michael Jordan in Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals sold Thursday for $10.1 million. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
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A jersey worn by Michael Jordan in Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz sold Thursday for $10.1 million via Sotheby’s auction house.

After selling for more than double Sotheby’s initial estimations, the “Last Dance” jersey is the most expensive piece of game-worn sports memorabilia ever auctioned. This mark was previously set at $9.3 million in May for a jersey worn by Diego Maradona in Mexico City during thee 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, in which he scored his historic “Hand of God” goal.

The “Last Dance” jersey is now one of two sports collectibles to surpass the $10 million mark, along with a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million in late August. This is only the second Jordan game-worn NBA Finals jersey to ever reach auction.

The 1998 season was a grueling test for Jordan and the Bulls as they navigated internal conflict and strenuous team dynamics. With Bulls’ players aware the roster could be broken up at season’s end, the campaign was branded the “Last Dance” as the team pursued its sixth ring of the decade.

This tumultuous, legendary season culminated with an NBA Finals matchup against the Jazz, led by John Stockton and Karl Malone. Despite Jordan dropping 33 points and tallying 45 minutes, the Bulls lost Game 1, 88-85, in overtime in Salt Lake City.

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The Bulls would rally to win the 1998 Finals in six games, marking Jordan’s sixth championship in as many Finals appearances. Jordan averaged 33.5 points, 4 rebounds and 2.3 assists during the series while capturing his sixth NBA Finals MVP honor.

“The season itself is his ‘magnum opus’ as an athlete, and a testament to him as a champion and competitor,” Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectibles, said in a statement. “Finals jerseys from Jordan are remarkably scant and the [1998] Finals are arguably the most coveted of them all.”

Before the record-setting “Last Dance” jersey sale, the most expensive NBA jersey was a game-worn Kobe Bryant jersey from his rookie season, which sold for $3.7 million in May 2021. The Jordan jersey sold for almost triple that amount, highlighting the demand for the historic souvenir and memorabilia associated with 14-time all-star.

This immense demand for Jordan memorabilia in recent years may be linked to the release of ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” which premiered in April 2020. The 10-part documentary series featured never-before-seen footage and interviews, shedding light on Jordan the person and basketball player. The record-setting red jersey was featured in Episode 10, which focused on the 1998 Finals.

“In the weeks since we announced the auction, there’s been palpable excitement from not only sports fans, but collectors alike who are eager to own a rarefied piece of history,” Wachter said. “[The] record-breaking result, with an astounding 20 bids, solidifies Michael Jordan as the undisputed GOAT, proving his name and incomparable legacy is just as relevant as it was nearly 25 years ago.”

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