Michael Jordan has always been magic for memorabilia collectors, and the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” has heightened interest in the basketball Hall of Famer.
Original photographs of Jordan have been selling at a premium, and a shot of MJ going up for a jumper during his playing days at the University of North Carolina has fetched $14,000 in a private brokered sale.
The shot, taken by noted sports photographer Malcolm W. Emmons, shows Jordan following through on a jump shot. Jordan made the shot right-handed, and his left wrist is wrapped due to an injury. The background is blurred to bring the main subject — Jordan — into sharper focus. The stands and banner in the background are blurred, but it is likely a home game since Jordan was wearing Carolina blue.
The back of the photo is stamped with Emmons’ name, address and telephone number in Delaware, Ohio.
While the exact date of the photograph may be unknown, it is definitely from the 1982-83 season. Jordan broke his left wrist six weeks before the start of the season and played with a cast before simply using a wrap to protect the injured bone.
Jordan never missed a game while playing for the Tar Heels.
The man who nabbed this first generation, or Type 1 photograph, of Jordan, is collector Ben Weingarten. The North Dakota businessman is one of the more knowledgeable collectors of sports photography. PSA defines a Type 1 photograph as a picture developed from the original negative within two years of the actual time when it was taken.
The sale was brokered by Richard Albersheim, president of Albersheims.com in Tustin, California. The $14,000 sale was second-highest price paid for an original Type 1 photo of Jordan, according to Albersheim. The highest price was $22,000 for a photo of Jordan from his first game in the NBA in 1984.
“Compared to the population of photographs of Jordan in a Bulls uniform, which number in the thousands; I’d estimate that maybe 10 or 20 original Type 1 photos of Jordan while at UNC have ever entered the collector’s market,” Albersheim said. “With the exception of the NCAA Final Four, in the the 1980s, college basketball usually only had regional photographers covering their games. “Understandably, this gorgeous specimen set a world record price for an original photo of Jordan in UNC uniform.”
Weingarten, who has been collecting original sports photography for more than 20 years, was equally effusive, calling the Jordan shot one of the finest he had seen, “bar none.”
“Very few people thought that original photos had any real value back then, so I was able to pick up some extraordinary pieces for much less than they are selling for today,” Weingarten said. “However, as the popularity in this segment of the hobby has exploded over the last few years, I’d like to think that I’ve become known as someone who will step up to the plate and pay a record number if I’m offered a piece that I think is out of this world.”
Emmons, who died in 1989 at the age of 54, accomplished a great deal during his career in sports photography. He covered the first 23 Super Bowls and more than 300 of his covers featured on the cover of The Sporting News. One of his images of Lakers great Jerry West was used to create the distinctive logo of the NBA.
Weingarten called Emmons’ photo of Jordan “truly a work of art.”
“Kids who grew up watching (Jordan) are now adults. Some of these guys now have kids of their own and are sharing the magic of Jordan,” Weingarten said. “I choose to collect the best pieces of Michael Jordan that I can find. If you have an extraordinary piece, I will buy it.”