It’s been 30 years since Michael Jordan left North Carolina’s campus for the NBA ranks, but his three-season run in Chapel Hill remains a boon for the sports memorabilia world.
Citing an ESPN report, Goldin Auctions, a New Jersey-based auction house, has acquired two UNC recruiting letters to Jordan, circa 1980, shortly before the future Tar Heels star began his senior year at Laney High School in Wilimington, N.C.
The recruiting letters — from legendary UNC head coach Dean Smith (retired in 1997) and Bill Guthridge (who succeeded Smith as Heels head coach) — were recovered sometime in 2003, when a storage locker inside "Michael Jordan’s 23" restaurant contained pieces from the legend’s schoolboy past.
According to ESPN, Smith’s letter to Jordan opened at a bid of $5,000 on Friday, with Guthridge’s letter claiming an initial asking price of $2,500.
A little backstory: It’s been well-documented that Jordan was cut from the Laney varsity squad as a sophomore.
But a year later, after Jordan had undergone a timely growth spurt, his game rose to a new level, dominating state/regional competition and wowing coaches at national summer camps — including Smith and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who reportedly penned a letter to Jordan around that time, after Jordan rejected Coach K’s scholarship offer.
At North Carolina (1981-84), Jordan would capture one national championship (1982) and collect multiple All-American and Player of the Year honors for his sophomore and junior campaigns.
Jordan was part of a celebrated 1981 class of high school stars, a group that included Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Charles Barkley (Auburn), Chris Mullin (St. John’s), Milt Wagner (Louisville), Ed Pinckney (Villanova), Bill Wennington (St. John’s), Eric Turner (Michigan) and Sam Vincent (Michigan State).
To view (and perhaps bid on) Dean Smith’s 1980 letter to Jordan (via Goldin Auctions), click here.
To view Bill Guthridge’s letter to Jordan, click here.