If Michael Jordan stayed tried to form, he probably lined up some endorsements for some French pastry bakers and some non-alcholic Paris wines on his and the Chicago Bulls' foray into Europe as part of the world champions' participation in a pre-season tourney this month.
And, more importantly to collectors and fans alike, if Jordan stays true to form on some recent statements this could be the last go-round for "His Airness" in the National Basketball Association.
Jordan brought pro basketball into a different world with his on-the-court achievements, most notably the five world championships he brought to the Chicago Bulls. But equally as important in the marketing sense to the league was Jordan's wide world of endorsements -- plugging everything from Gatorade and his own sandwich at McDonalds to his own line of underwear and colone. While his face and autograph seemingly appear everywhere, he is still a collectors' dream: he is the most recognized athlete -- some say person -- in the world and anything that bears Jordan's likeness, his autograph or his No. 23 moniker is extremely valuable.
Some critics have suggested because there is so much Jordan paraphanalia out for the public to consume that some of his treasure trove of items isn't worth as much as if he would have been more reclusive or selective. However, tell that to the salesman at a sports shop when collectors and fans alike line up for his newest marketing scheme.
That could change if Jordan goes ahead with his threat to make the 1997-98 season, which officially begins Nov. 1, his last. The chances that some of the older materials that have been grabbed by Jordan fans would enhance in value because Jordan figures to carry a much lower profile once he retires.
It isn't that Jordan's skills have diminished; quite the contrary. While he may be a step slower than he was when he carried a full head of hair, Jordan is still the class of the NBA. Kevin Garnett, Shawn Kemp and Grant Hill may be the future of the NBA into the 21st century it remains Jordan who is the crown jewel of the league both in terms of on the court and off the court performance. He will be even more tested for his individual skills for the first two to three months of the upcoming season because running mate Scottie Pippen will be sidelined due to a foot injury that required surgery. As a result, Jordan's individual point totals are likely to stay in the 30-40 point neighborhood until Pippen returns.
But Jordan has indicated that this will be his last professional season if his coach, Phil Jackson, doesn't return for another year. Jackson signed a one-year contract with the Bulls after some bitter contract talks with the club during the summer and pronounced at the start of training camp "this will be be final year." Jackson and Jordan are joined at the hip, much more so than Jordan and Pippen who earlier in their stellar careers had a sometimes strained relationship. Jordan believes Jackson, the only NBA coach who professes a belief in Zen and the Grateful Dead, is the best coach in the league and doesn't want to play for another new coach next season.
Jordan has used his power to get his way in the past with the Bulls' organization and usually wins. If Jordan didn't like the way a player was fitting in, Bulls' management would ship that player off in what often was perceived as a controversial move; if Jordan preferred a different coach, he got one; if Jordan wanted his teammates to get more money, they got it.
But Jackson's future with the Bulls is apparently sealed; he feels underappreciated -- and for the bulk of his tenure underpaid -- and is willing to make this his last hurrah, go back to his Montana ranch and wait for another NBA team to cough up around $10 million a year to return to the ranks. Jordan doesn't want to play for another NBA team -- his merchandising and collecting value would probably suffer a dip if he changed uniforms for just a season or two -- so he is willing to call it quits after what he hopes will be a sixth NBA ring.
How this will affect the Jordan market remains to be seen. If he comes out publicly and says this is his final year, there could be a run on Jordan collectables from autographs to pictures of him clowning with Bugs Bunny. If he teases the media and public about his future -- which is Jordan's style -- it could lead to fluctuations in the Jordan Stock Exchange of memorabilia. Or Jordan could do what he did several years ago; wait until the last minute, call a news conference and stun the sporting world and retire from basketball to go into professional baseball. Only this time Jordan's likely next sporting step will be to the nearest golf course which has become his No. 1 athletic passion.
When Jordan does retire, he will continue to endorse products and have materials that collectors will want to keep. But the public's memory is a relatively short one, even for someone as universally popular as Jordan. Once Jordan stops appearing on the court for the Bulls, Jordan, Inc.,'s stock will dive as another cultural icon or two makes their presence felt on the sporting scene. Jordan stuff will become more limited.
However, collectors who have saved Jordan materials from the past -- his rookie card, his short-lived No. 45 jersey or any Jordan picture with hair -- will be wise to hold on to their Jordan stuff, ride out the storm and enjoy a "bull" market on Jordan collectables.