The only known jersey worn by Michael Jordan during North Carolina’s 1982-83 championship season is up for auction where it’s expected to sell for $1 million or more.
The “Carolina blue” and white-trimmed #23 jersey is one of the centerpieces of Heritage Auctions’ May 6-8 Spring Sports Catalog.
The company says photos match the jersey to the one Jordan is wearing 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 “Mike Jordan” became Michael Jordan – the very moment, Jordan later told long-time basketball reporter Craig Sager, “that started my career.”
The jersey’s history dates back to a trade between team managers when Jordan and the Tarheels played in the Stanford Invitational tournament at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, CA.
In December of that year, a high school student named Chris Williamson was tapped to serve as visiting team manager for Cardinal games. It was his job to make sure the visitors had fresh towels and plenty of water and snacks or whatever else 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?” The jersey made its auction debut 16 years later during which Stanford assistant coach Ron Close and Williamson’s sister confirmed the story. It sold in that 1999 auction for a then-record price of $63,500.
The jersey is actually one of more than 125 Jordan items in the May 6-8 auction, 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. Others in the catalog include autographed 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.
Jordan signed items are a big part of the auction. In fact, there are 60 lots in the auction bearing his autograph. 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 (he was friends with the owner of Rolling Stones Records, outside Chicago).
The auction is set to close over three nights, May 6-8, with bidding for the jersey running until May 7.