An expert’s look at the career highlights that made Jordan the ‘Greatest of All Time’
On 10 June, Christie’s, in partnership with Sports Authority Authentication Services (SAAS), will proudly present Six Rings — Legacy of the GOAT, an auction comprising six rare artifacts from the six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan.
Jordan memorabilia expert and Co-Founder of SAAS, Gerard Starkey, offers six key insights into basketball’s greatest and most inspirational athlete — one for each championship ring.
Jordan’s title of the GOAT — the ‘Greatest of all Time’ — refers to not only his six NBA Championship Rings but also the sheer volume of awards and record-breaking statistics that make up his legacy.
Over the course of his career, he achieved 10 scoring titles, five League MVPs, six NBA Finals MVPs, and the highest points average in NBA history with 30.1 points per game. He was named NBA steals leader three times, as well as NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1988) and nine-time All-Defensive First Team.
There are many other stats that set Jordan apart, but his reputation is truly defined by the longevity of his career and how he changed the game, playing at the highest level and stoking respect and fear in his toughest opponents.
When 23-year-old Jordan dropped 63 points at the Boston Garden on 20 April 1986 and his Chicago Bulls still lost to the top-seeded Celtics 135-131 in two overtimes, his GOAT status was already confirmed. Rewatching the game, you can see the absolute shock in the faces of the great Celtics.
Larry Bird summarized the team's thoughts when he told the Boston Globe: ‘I would never have called him the greatest player I'd ever seen if I didn't mean it. It's just God disguised as Michael Jordan.’
Over the six Bulls championship seasons during his career, Michael Jordan went six-for-six, winning Finals MVP each time and playing 602 of the total 608 games. He missed only six games over these championship seasons.
Jordan’s dedication and unbeatable mindset comes through vividly in the 2020 documentary about the 1998 final, The Last Dance. In the film he says, ‘If you ask all my teammates [they’ll say] “The one thing about Michael Jordan was he never asked me to do anything that he didn’t do.”’
Over the Bulls’ dominating seasons, Jordan led by example, inspiring his teammates and further contributing to his GOAT title.
Only nine times in NBA history has a player averaged 40 points per game (PPG) or more in a playoff series — five of these amazing results were achieved by Michael Jordan. He nearly made it six, missing the mark by a couple points in a 1989 game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.
These five achievements include averaging 43.7 PPG in 1986 against the Boston Celtics, 45.2 PPG in 1988 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, 43 PPG in 1990 against the Philadelphia Sixers, 45 PPG in 1992 against the Miami Heat, and 41 PPG in 1993 against the Phoenix Suns.
Jordan scored 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on 28 March 1990. When he did it he was wearing the Player Exclusive Jordan V ‘Fire Red’, like the pair offered in this sale.
The Bulls did not win the NBA Championship that year, but the GOAT was lining himself up for the absolute dominance that was to follow. After this season, he went on to six NBA finals and walked away with six NBA rings for the seasons when he was present full time. The statistics do not lie.
In 1998, given all the stress and pressure from the media, with coach Phil Jackson being pushed out amid the Chicago Bulls’ rebuild plans, Michael Jordan wanted to win the ‘Last Dance’ final in Game 5.
Jordan had a conversation with the team in the locker room, saying, ‘You go out there and play hard tonight and we win, you don't have to hear from me no more, ever again.’ As he spoke, he held the MJ PE Low XIII sneakers offered in Six Rings — The Legacy of the GOAT. The pair is also photo-matched to the first two quarters of Game 5 — Jordan switched to the high black ‘Playoff’ XIII for the last two quarters.
While the Bulls lost Game 5, they went on to finish the Utah Jazz in Game 6. If they had won Game 5, this Low XIII MJ PE could have been the last-shot pair from his final game as a Bull. An incredible piece of Michael Jordan history, it captures so much from Jordan’s final moments with the iconic team.
The Upper Deck Company, known for their production of sport memorabilia, has a long-standing relationship with Jordan. Over the years, they have released several important trading cards. The Michael Jordan Upper Deck signed 1986 #57 Fleer Rookie Card is the ultimate Jordan card to own.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the 1986 Fleer Rookie Card, Upper Deck issued 23 anniversary cards. The lucky finders of these cards were invited to return the anniversary card to Upper Deck in order to receive the coveted original 1986 Fleer Rookie Card signed and numbered by Jordan.
Of the 23 20th anniversary Michael Jordan Fleer Buy Back cards initially released, only 14 signed rookie cards are known to have been redeemed and graded — making them exceptionally rare. These are in the hands of private collectors and rarely come to market. The present card is the second highest Beckett Grading Services (BSG) graded UDA signed Fleer #57 card in existence and is accompanied by the original Upper Deck anniversary card.