The Mysterious Story of Michael Jordan's Jersey Heist
5 minute read · Issue Number 45 · December 4th, 2020
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Let me tell you a story I came across earlier this week that blew my mind — the time basketball legend Michael Jordan had to wear number 12 (instead of #23) because somehow, his jersey disappeared from the locker room without leaving any trace.
It was February 1990, and Michael Jordan has yet to become the success he’s known for today.
By then, the Chicago Bulls shooting guard has already stacked rookie of the year, MVP, and defensive player of the year in his trophy cabinet.
The six NBA trophies and six finals MVP awards were yet-to-be-written in the sports history books.
At that time, Jordan’s brand was not known for being one of the greatest athletes to ever step on a ballcourt, yet this story serves to prove the public already idolized him.
The Bulls traveled to Orlando for Valentine's Day matchup against the Magic in what turned out to be remembered for a mysterious heist of MJ’s number 23 jersey.
At 17:30 hours, the stadium staff equipped the Bulls locker room with the players’ uniforms, and it was ready to receive them. The locker room attendant locked the place before the players arrived.
By 17:45 hours, players arrived at the locker room to find out that a single piece of equipment was missing — the jersey with number 23.
Somebody stole Jordan’s iconic #23 jersey.
Back then, teams flew commercial and traveled lightly to cut costs and always brought only one piece of uniform per player; hence, they had no replacement for the missing jersey.
The arena staff could not find the jersey, and some say they even tried finding a replacement jersey in the crowd that could fit Jordan’s measures.
Luckily, the bulls equipment staff found a spare jersey for Michael, which had no name, just the number 12.
If you watched The Last Dance, you’d know about Jordan’s character — the moment he saw his jersey was missing, he was pissed.
The best part?
He went on and scored 49 points that night off of 43 shots. It was the second most shots he had ever taken in an NBA game.
Check out this video from the NBA Vault to watch some of the highlights from the extremely rare time the GOAT wore number 12 in a basketball game:
The Bulls lost that game in overtime 129-135, yet the enigma of Jordan’s jersey heist remained unsolved.
Today, nameless Bulls No. 12 jerseys are on sale for $300 (which might be the real theft), but after all, they never did find that missing 23 jersey — or so we thought?
Earlier this year, an Orlando Magic longtime equipment staff came forward and revealed to Yahoo Sports the course of events that happened that day:
“In the end (…) the jersey was taken by a member of the arena security personnel with the intent to keep it, (…) he went through the ceiling to the locked Bulls locker room.
Not sure if Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible comes close to this guy’s.
He was successful in getting to the jersey and planned on leaving the jersey in the ceiling for awhile to come and retrieve later”
If you’re going to do something wrong, do it well?
“the jersey was retrieved by the Magic and eventually sent back to the Bulls.”
Mysteriously, the Bulls management do not recall ever getting the stolen #23 jersey returned to them.
“What happened with it when it was returned, (…) I guess we will never know.”
Jordan never wore the number 12 again, and this story shows how much of a figure MJ was to the game. People were willing to risk their job and go through the ceiling just for a bit of his legacy.
This heist remains one of the most unique and mysterious incidents in sports history. Thirty years later, the #23 jersey from that Valentine’s day matchup is still out there, somewhere, waiting to be found.
🎙 Challenging the Traditional Sports Broadcast System; This week's Halftime Snack features Evan Kirkham, the CEO & Co-Founder of Colorcast! We talked about the story and roadmap of Colorcast, the skills Evan transferred from law to entrepreneurship, finding product-market fit, and so much more. You can listen to a snippet of the episode here.
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Until next week,
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