Wilt Chamberlains Lakers jersey set for record breaking 4M auction
Wilt Chamberlain of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1969 NBA World Championship Series - CC BY-SA
Sotheby's auction house is anticipating that Wilt Chamberlain's jersey, worn during the 1972 NBA Finals, will fetch over $4 million at an upcoming auction.
According to the Associated Press, the online bidding for Chamberlain's 1972 NBA Finals jersey will occur from August 28 to September 27. The jersey will be showcased at Sotheby's Los Angeles gallery from August 2 to August 31 for public viewing.
Heading to Sotheby's, the jersey holds historical significance as it is the first from Chamberlain's two championship wins to be put up for auction.
Dressed in the classic Lakers colors of yellow, purple and white, Chamberlain graced multiple Sports Illustrated covers donning this jersey. Among them are the October 1972 issue with the headline "It All Depends on Wilt" and the May 1972 issue proclaiming "Los Angeles Champions at Last!" For over 50 years since the finals, this jersey has remained out of the public eye until now.
The collectibles broker confirmed this is the jersey donned by Chamberlain during the Lakers' victorious Game 5 against the New York Knicks, which secured their championship.
"This jersey holds an extraordinarily significant place in the history of Los Angeles, not only adorned by the man many consider to be the greatest player ever to step on the court, but as a relic from one of the greatest franchises in sports history," said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby's head of streetwear and modern collectibles.
During that game, Chamberlain recorded a feat of 24 points, 29 rebounds and eight blocks, leading the Lakers to a 114-100 triumph. Following this performance, he was awarded the Finals MVP title, setting a record as the oldest Finals MVP at 35.
Per CBS Sports, beyond Chamberlain's impressive performance in Game 5, what truly stands out is that he played with a broken hand.
Initially thought to be a strained hand from a fall in Game 4, it was later revealed through X-rays that he had suffered a break. Despite this, Chamberlain chose to keep the information to himself and bravely continued to play through the pain. In a post-title interview, he disclosed that only he and his doctor were privy to the truth.
"At that time, I honestly felt that couldn't play on Sunday, couldn't bend it. But with an anti‐inflammatory injection and ice packs, it improved," Chamberlain said, as The New York Times quoted.
Sports Illustrated is offering three limited-edition photographs of Chamberlain from the 1972 NBA Finals for private sales, along with the jersey.
Additionally, a collection of magazines, newspapers, images and trading cards showcasing the legendary attire will also be available.
According to Sotheby's, the market for collectibles and game wear has experienced rapid growth in recent years, fueled by strong demand from collectors.
The auction house achieved noteworthy sales earlier this year, with Kobe Bryant's game-worn Los Angeles Lakers jersey fetching $5.8 million and Diego Maradona's iconic "Hand of God" jersey selling for $9.3 million in the May 2022 auction.
The late Chamberlain, whose extraordinary talent was recently highlighted in the Showtime docuseries "Goliath," remains an iconic figure in basketball history.
His towering height of over seven feet and unmatched dominance on the court led the NBA to implement rule changes. These changes included widening the lane, introducing offensive goaltending and revising free throws in a bid to curb his influence.
To this day, Chamberlain holds a multitude of basketball records, including the distinction for most points scored in a single NBA game and most points scored in an entire NBA season.