For the last year, Michael Jordan cards and game-worn memorabilia have piled up countless world records at auction; once The Greatest of All Time, forever The Greatest of All Time. But to that formidable list of coveted collectibles, a new best-ever contender emerges in Heritage Auctions’ May 6-8 Spring Sports Catalog Auction: the only known Jordan game-worn University of North Carolina jersey photo-matched to the championship 1982-83 season.
This Carolina blue-and-white No. 23 jersey, in fact, is the very one Jordan sports on the cover of The Sporting News issue that proclaimed him the NCAA Player of the Year. It would be the first of countless accolades to follow that title-winning season, made possible when Jordan hit that jumper with 17 seconds left to secure his Tar Heels the historic win over Georgetown. That was when a nobody named Mike Jordan became Michael Jordan – the very moment, Jordan later told Craig Sager, “that started my career.”
In 2021, this jersey is arguably the most significant Jordan artifact to reach auction. But in 1983, it was just a sweat-drenched uniform traded among team managers after a Stanford-North Carolina game during the Stanford Invitational tournament at Maples Pavilion.
In December of that year, a high school student named Chris Williamson was tapped to serve as 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.
As his lifelong friend named Steven Cauchi recounts the tale, after the game Williamson worked the trade of lifetime, swapping some Stanford gear for some of the Tar Heels’ jerseys, shorts and socks – including Sam Perkins’ shorts.
“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, during which Stanford assistant coach Ron Close and Williamson’s sister confirmed the extraordinary tale.
It sold in 1999 for a then-record price of $63,500.
Today, that jersey is estimated to sell for $1 million or more, befitting this 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, among them, of course, 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. Here, too, are 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.
But cards weren’t the only things Jordan signed to show up in this sports spectacular at Heritage Auctions. In fact, there are 60 lots in the auction bearing his autograph.
Here, too, collectors will find a signed ticket stub from the 1982 NCAA Finals, when Jordan and the Tar Heels bested Patrick Ewing and Georgetown. And a copy of Jordan’s For the Love of the Game book autographed for his friend Whitney Houston, which gifted to the late singer along with the pair of Air Jordan V “Metallics” he wore during Game Three of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. And there’s a flier for a Mötley Crüe record-store promotion in 1987, upon which Jordan left his name – and phone number! (After all, he was friends with the owner of Rolling Stones Records, outside Chicago.)
But perhaps most coveted of all is a signed marker for a $200,000 line of credit at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It’s one of many sure bets in an event full of jackpots.