Last Dance gives bounce to Jordan collectibles,

NEW YORK • The immense global success of the documentary The Last Dance amid the coronavirus lockdown has boosted sales of collectibles related to National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Michael Jordan, some of which are trading in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Timing is everything," says Jordan Geller, a collector who yesterday became richer by at least US$240,000 (S$342,600) thanks to the sale at Sotheby's of a pair of Air Jordan 1 sneakers - the first model created by Nike especially for Jordan, who made his NBA debut in 1984.

The various Air Jordans have been popular with collectors for 30 years, along with jerseys and trading cards featuring the guard - who won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and is widely considered the greatest player in league history.

Many specialists consider him a key figure in creating the market for collectible sneakers, with only non-sports celebrities such as Kanye West or Travis Scott able to compete with him today.

But ESPN's 10-part serial The Last Dance, which weaves details of his entire career through the narrative of the Bulls' pursuit of a sixth NBA title, has boosted interest in all things Jordan.

Last month, the first two episodes attracted the most viewers for a documentary in ESPN history, with an average of 6.3 million and 5.8 million respectively.

"I think this is a game changer," Chris Ivy, director of sports collectibles at Heritage Auctions, said of the series that was also carried globally by Netflix. He also predicted the interest fuelled by The Last Dance will continue.

On the StockX shoe resale platform, the Air Jordan 1 Chicago model now sells for up to US$1,500, compared to US$900 in March.

"That could be largely attributable to the documentary because that's a sneaker that's been on the market for years," says StockX economist Jesse Einhorn.

Likewise, a 1986 Fleer collector's card - an item that was worth US$20,000 to US$30,000 at the beginning of the year - sold for US$96,000 earlier this month at Heritage.

"A lot of people who had sports cards collections as a kid have been frantically going through their attics to find those boxes and those binders," said Geoff Wilson, founder of the Sports Card Investor platform. "I haven't seen anything like this, where it's well past his career (Jordan retired in 2003)."

The excitement extends beyond the 57-year-old himself. Sales of Bulls-branded items are up 400 per cent this month compared to last year on sports merchandise site Fanatics.

"For a lot of people my age between 40 and 50 years old, Michael Jordan was the Babe Ruth of our generation," Ivy said.

Even younger fans, weaned on the exploits of the late Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, are feeling the allure of Jordan.

"The majority of our customers are millennials and Gen Z, many of whom were not necessarily alive when Jordan played," Einhorn said.

"It's a testament to Jordan's staying power as an iconic, almost like mythical, cultural figure."