It may have never seen action in an NBA game, but the story behind why that might be the case helps explain why what appears to be the oldest surviving Michael Jordan-worn jersey is now up for auction. Blame it on a magic marker.
The rookie year home mesh jersey bearing Jordan’s iconic number 23 is in the current “Michael Jordan and Basketball Icons Auction” at Heritage Auctions and it comes with the provenance of the Chicago Bulls employee who kept it after it was defaced by a magic marker during a commercial shoot prior to his first NBA season.
The story dates to October of 1984 when Corrine Zartler, a young assistant working in the Bulls’ public relations office, was sent to the Bulls’ training facility, with instructions to hand the jersey to the team’s new first round draft pick, stay around for the shoot and then bring the jersey back to the office.
The day went on without an issue until it Zartler was back at team headquarters when the jersey was taken out of the bag where it had been kept. At some point, someone had dropped a felt tip marker into the bag but hadn’t put the cap on properly. The tip of the marker came in contact with the jersey, leaving some stray black marks and making it unusable for game use. Zartler speculates that the marker it could have been used for autographs by those who were there that day.
Zartler had dutifully returned the jersey to her boss, former PR Director Tim Hallam, who opened it up, saw the unfortunate result and handed it back to her, saying the club would have to order a replacement.
Zartler did take the jersey, which was washed by her mother, eliminating most of the accidental markings.
Jordan is also wearing the jersey in a photo shown in the January 1985 edition of Hoop Magazine, which chronicled his arrival in the Second City. Those magazine photos reveal the mesh hole patterns that Resolution Photomatching was able to match to the jersey now up for auction.
Bidding for the jersey stands at $85,000.
There’s another Jordan jersey in the auction and that one is game-used, dating to wear by Jordan in at least five games during the 1986-1987 season and possibly more. ’86-87 was the only season that Jordan surpassed 3,000 points, which has only been done by one other player in NBA history.
It’s also been matched to the famous November 17, 1986 “One Man Gang” issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Included with the jersey is a pair of Jordan shorts which were also photomatched to multiple games.
Bidding on the uniform is already over $200,000 with the 20 percent buyer’s premium factored in.
The auction closes October 3.