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    The very first home white Bulls jersey worn by the game's greatest figure!

    1984 Michael Jordan Earliest Known Worn Chicago Bulls Rookie Jersey--Photo Matched! It all came down to a loose cap on a magic marker. That's all. It seems extraordinary that one of the greatest treasures known in the sports collectibles marketplace could have survived to present day due to a single, simple act of carelessness, but Napoleon Bonaparte put it best when he proclaimed, "There is no such thing as accident--it is fate renamed."

    Still, Corrine Zartler, just a year into her employment as a PR assistant for the Chicago Bulls in October 1984, felt her stomach drop when she opened a plastic bag containing the jersey of the team's first-round draft pick and saw what had happened. She had been sent to the Bulls' run-down training facility at a Civil War-era orphanage called "Angel Guardian" for a single purpose, and she had failed in that mission. Bring Michael Jordan his game jersey for a photo shoot, wait until it's over, and bring the jersey back to team headquarters, unharmed.

    The task had been an important one because, as Ms. Zartler asserts in her detailed letter of provenance, each Bulls player was issued just one home and one road uniform during those "low frills" days for the team and the NBA at large, before the newly-minted Gold Medalist began his gilded transformation of each. By the time His Airness was competing for his sixth championship ring, he rarely wore any garment twice.

    You can get a sense of the Bulls' budget-consciousness during Jordan's rookie season in the photo match that establishes this as the earliest known Bulls garment from Jordan's career wardrobe. He poses for the cover of the January 1985 edition of Hoop Magazine beside a backboard and hoop dangling the rattiest net you've ever seen. Zartler tells us that the "Angel Guardian" training facility for the Bulls was used by a wide array of Chicago-area hoopsters, rented out to various schools and recreational leagues as well as the local pros. Even Jordan's old Tar Heels practice courts seemed palatial by comparison.

    While Zartler cannot recall the exact date of the photo shoot, she is certain it was in October, a determination further validated by the fact that the image of Jordan and fellow Bulls star Orlando Woolridge that appears on the cover of the 1984-85 Chicago Bulls yearbook surely derives from the same event. Certainly this photo shoot would have been orchestrated prior to the beginning of the regular season on October 26, 1984 so that the yearbook would be available to the Opening Day crowd.

    Our records show that the Bulls played in seven preseason contests between October 5 and October 19. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), all efforts to locate photography from those games have failed to provide the clarity necessary for matching. But Zartler's letter tells us that she was instructed by her perturbed boss that she might as well just keep the marker-damaged jersey, and that he'd simply order a rush job for a replacement from the local distributor. Logic would suggest this would mean that there was a reasonable amount of time to acquire that replacement jersey, likely the week between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular.

    Ironically (and fortuitously), a careful laundering of the jersey by Zartler's mother virtually eliminated its accidental tattoos--the worst of it can be seen just left of center below the rear numerals. Certainly the aesthetic command of this single-season (for Jordan) format remains as powerful as it does on the covers of the publications where it is showcased.

    "Bulls 23" is screened to the chest, the digits smaller and offset from the center line in a way the Bulls would abandon the following year. "Jordan" is screened in red block above a larger, centered number "23" on verso. Interior collar holds "Rawlings Adult [size] 44" label. Wear is clearly evident, though the mystery of its precise derivation is likely to endure.

    However we can be certain of this--that careless and magical pairing of a black magic marker and the offered jersey has assigned this extraordinary relic with a significance of nearly immeasurable magnitude. As this catalog heads to print just days after Heritage more than quadrupled its own record for Jordan's Fleer rookie at an astounding $420,000, we can be certain that the ceiling for this peerless jersey is nothing short of the sky.

    You would have to track back a full century, to the transaction that delivered Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, to find a figure as transformative to the fortunes of his team and the sport he would rule repeatedly as World Champion. Michael Jordan's six NBA Championship rings mark the pinnacle of athletic achievement, of one man's ability to shape destiny. When considering the distance traveled from that grungy practice ground to the highest reaches of the sporting pantheon, we find a tale of pure inspiration. Thirty-six years after it introduced Michael Jordan to the National Basketball Association, this garment will mimic its master, and rewrite the record books in its image. LOA from Resolution Photomatching. LOA from Heritage Auctions. Letter of provenance from former Bulls employee.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2020
    3rd Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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