Michael Jordan disappeared on a lot of defenders in his day.
He also disappeared from a card capturing one of the more famous moments in the 1990s Bulls-Knicks rivalry, one that got some airtime during a recent episode of “The Lance Dance.”
In the 1993 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, Knicks guard John Starks elevated and threw down a power dunk with a pair of Bulls players standing helplessly underneath: Horace Grant…and Jordan.
The move was memorable since Jordan was usually the one doing the posterizing but while you often hear that Starks “dunked over Jordan” that’s not really the case. Jordan was more of a secondary defender who arrived too late to stop Starks on his way to the rim.
In the weeks or months that followed, Topps got ahold of a photo of the moment and used it to create Starks’ card in the 1993-94 Stadium Club set (#116). Because, well, why wouldn’t you?
Jordan is turned with his side to the photographer.
Fast forward seven seasons. Topps again used the shot of the dunk on Starks’ 2000-01 Finest card, the Refractor parallel and the autographed version. This time, though, something was missing.
Compare the actual photograph of that moment (on the left below) with the new card produced by Topps (on the right).
While some long-time basketball collectors are no doubt aware of the missing Mike, it’s been generating some online buzz in recent days.
This Topps Basketball card celebrating the dunk says MJ wasn’t there 😂 pic.twitter.com/L0HM83ijQO
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 4, 2020
By 2000, Jordan was a six-time NBA champ and had been under an exclusive contract to Upper Deck for eight years. Topps likely did some extensive photo editing to remove him from the shot to avoid any issues with its rival over such a high-profile player.
Interestingly, Jordan wasn’t the only thing cropped from the photo. Take another look at the images above and you’ll see that NBA official shown in the background on the ’93-94 cards also went poof. Some other work went into filling in the area where Jordan and the referee were once pictured.
All of those cards have started to gain momentum in the market in recent days, especially the different versions associated with Starks’ 1993-94 Stadium Club card, which include Members Only, First Day Issue and Super Team versions. Several base versions have sold on eBay in recent days and collectors and dealers have been digging into boxes and listing more.
The Finest cards are in much shorter supply but without Jordan in the photo, they’re more of a curiosity except for the autograph version, which is obviously the most desirable.
Upper Deck hasn’t had an NBA license for several years now, but is still willing to put some money into flaunting its long-running exclusive with Jordan. The company recently filed suit against Panini America over recently created cards that include a barely recognizable Jordan in the background of other players’ cards.