UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The excitement surrounding the Sept. 11, 2009, induction of Michael Jordan into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame set the pace for a weekend of unforgettable reunions and highlights, capped off by Grey Flannel’s $1.2 million Hall of Fame Induction Auction held at Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Conn.
Grey Flannel’s respect for the basketball community and its close working relationship with the Basketball Hall of Fame was never more evident than at the opening banquet it hosted for returning Hall of Famers and 2009 inductees on Sept. 10. “The dinner was held on center court at the Hall of Fame in Springfield (Mass.),” said Grey Flannel president Richard E. Russek. “Right there, under one roof, you had basketball’s royalty – past, present and future.”
During his induction speech, Michael Jordan mentioned the 1998 NBA Championship Finals and his famous last-second goal that won the trophy for the Chicago Bulls. The actual complete backboard and rim into which he scored that goal was a headliner in Grey Flannel’s auction. Did it get a bidding spike thanks to Mike? Could be. Entered with an opening bid of $25,000, it ended up selling for twice that and more, at $57,000.
While more than impressive in the price it achieved, the backboard was overshadowed in the top 10 auction results by two items: Jordan’s autographed 1984-1985 rookie road jersey, believed to have been the first one issued to him as a Chicago Bull, which sold for $66,000; and the sale’s top lot: the late Wilt Chamberlain’s 1972 Western Conference All-Star Game-used home uniform, which soared to $72,000.
“Wilt Chamberlain was the most awesome offensive force the game of basketball has ever seen,” said Russek. “He set numerous NBA all-time scoring and rebounding records and was the only NBA player in history to score 100 points in a single game. The uniform we offered came with pristine provenance and was consigned by a gentleman who had been a ball boy for the Philadelphia 76ers. We literally spent five years trying to get the jersey. The consignor was thrilled with the result and said it’s going to help him in his retirement.”
A trend missed by no one was the incredible auction strength of ABA jerseys. Exhibiting bold colors and an appealing primitive style with players’ nicknames on the back, jerseys from the short-lived (1967-1976) American Basketball Association are rare and highly desirable.
“Nowadays, players wear a new jersey for each game,” Russek explained, “but back then, the teams didn’t have a lot of money, so the players wore their jerseys over and over again. They even got recycled and would have new names put on them in subsequent seasons. As a result, ABA jerseys are like the Fabergé eggs of professional sport.”
ABA stars’ game-used apparel included Stew Johnston’s Pittsburgh Condors road uniform and James “Fly” Williams’ St. Louis Spirits road jersey. Each was aggressively chased to a winning bid of $51,000.
Bidders paid close attention to items associated with the Top 50 Players in NBA History. A New York Knicks game-used road jersey that belonged to the great Dave DeBusschere (1940-2003) earned a price worthy of “Big D’s” legacy as one of the most talented players in the NBA: $42,000. A classic-era 1955 NBA All-Star Game jersey worn by then-rookie Bob Pettit (Milwaukee Hawks) was a big winner at $51,000; while Nate Thurmond’s Golden State Warriors road jersey picked up $45,000.
Other top 10 highlights included Don Buse’s 1972-73 Indiana Pacers ABA World Championship ring, $33,000; and Bill Walton’s 1979-80 San Diego Clippers game-used road jersey, $27,000.
Consignments are now being accepted for Grey Flannel’s Dec. 9 Internet-only Holiday Auction 2009. The auction will feature rarities from all major sports, including a circa-1932 Lou Gehrig game-used New York Yankees pinstriped jersey.
Illustrated prices realized from Grey Flannel’s Sept. 12, 2009, Basketball Hall of Fame Auction are available to view online at www.greyflannelauctions.com. To contact Grey Flannel, call 631-288-7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.