A Chicago Bulls jersey worn by Michael Jordan in the 1998 NBA finals has sold for a record $10.1 million at auction

The iconic jersey worn by Michael Jordan during the opening match of the 1998 National Basketball Association (NBA) finals has been sold at auction for a record $10.1 million (£8.8 million/€10 million).

The Chicago Bulls vest was famously worn during a sporting season dubbed "The Last Dance," which saw double Olympic gold medallist Jordan win his sixth and final NBA title.

It has become the most expensive piece of game-worn sports memorabilia in history - eclipsing the $8.9 million (£7.7 million/€8.8 million) paid for Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" shirt worn during Argentina’s victory over England in the quarter-final of the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

The red and black jersey, emblazoned with the number 23, is also the most valuable Michael Jordan item ever sold at auction.

The Nike mesh vest was listed on New York City auctioneer Sotheby's website as being in "excellent condition, consistent with use".

The jersey was worn during Game 1 against the Utah Jazz, as Jordan played 45 minutes and scored 33 points, forcing overtime but ultimately falling 88-85.

The Bulls would go on to win the series in six games. 

The winning bid was more than double the estimate of $3 million (£2.6 million/€2.9 million) to $5 million (£4.4 million/€4.9 million).

The jersey was accompanied by a photo matching the certificate of authenticity and a copy of Sports Illustrated published in June 1998, which highlights the jersey on the front cover.

"The season itself is his 'magnum opus' as an athlete, and a testament to him as a champion and competitor," said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby's head of streetwear and modern collectables.

"Finals jerseys from Jordan are remarkably scant and the [1998] Finals are arguably the most coveted of them all."

It is only the second Jordan jersey from the NBA Finals to ever appear at auction, according to Sotheby's.

The previous record for any Jordan item was a 1997-1998 Upper Deck Game Jersey patch card, with an on-card autograph, which sold for $2.7 million (£2.3 million/€2.6 million) in October 2021.

Before the sale of Maradona’s shirt, the most ever paid for a match/game-worn jersey was $5.64 million (£4.90 million/€5.63 million) in 2019 for a Babe Ruth jersey, worn circa 1918-1920.

The previous record for any NBA jersey was $3.69 million (£3.20 million/€3.68 million), paid in May 2021 for one worn by Kobe Bryant during his 1996-1997 rookie season.

"In the weeks since we announced the auction, there's been palpable excitement from not only sports fans, but collectors alike who are eager to own a rarefied piece of history," Wachter said.

"[The] record-breaking result, with an astounding 20 bids, solidifies Michael Jordan as the undisputed GOAT (Greatest of All Time), proving his name and incomparable legacy is just as relevant as it was nearly 25 years ago."

The figure paid for Michael Jordan's jersey eclipsed the previous record for a game-worn shirt set by Argentinean footballer Diego Maradona ©Getty Images
The figure paid for Michael Jordan's jersey eclipsed the previous record for a game-worn shirt set by Argentinean footballer Diego Maradona ©Getty Images

A previous lot in the same auction as the record-breaking jersey, a pair of Nike Air Jordan 9 "Player Sample" Baseball cleats fetched more than $44,000 (£38,250/€43,500).

The size 13.5 black and white boots were cut to Jordan's specifications in 1994, months after he shocked the basketball community by announcing his retirement from the sport after three consecutive NBA Championships in October 1993.

He threw fans a curve ball after revealing his intention to switch sports, embarking on a brief stint as a professional baseball player.

But the athlete returned to the NBA and Chicago Bulls in 1995 - just nine days after retiring from baseball.

In 1999, he bowed out of basketball for a second time, insisting he was "99.9 per cent certain" he would not return.

But two years later in 2001, Jordan returned to the basketball court again, retiring for the third and final time in 2003.

Another pair of Nike Air Ship trainers, worn during Jordan's fifth NBA game in November 1984, sold for almost $1.5 million (£1.3 million/€1.4 million) in October last year.

The collecting market is particularly hot at the moment.

Last month, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million (£10.9 million/€12.5 million), the most ever paid for a sports card and the first sports collectible to break the $10 million (£8.7 million/€9.9 million) threshold.