ORLANDO, Fla. — In my office back home is a life-sized mannequin dressed like Shaquille O’Neal, draped in Shaq’s full purple Lakers road uniform, and it’s the skinniest Shaq ever measured.
It’s also the only piece of sports memorabilia I own, unless you count a sweaty wristband from Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA star. I should explain. I was at the WNBA All-Star Game years ago, and the players were tossing items into the stands during a timeout. I had my back turned, and McCoughtry threw her orange wristband and hit me in the head, and my daughter got the rebound. We decided to place the wristband on the Shaq mannequin, all in the name of gender equality.
I’m not sure what the Shaq stuff might fetch on the open market, and it doesn’t matter since it’s not for sale, but then I visit the NBA Auctions website and start to wonder.
The league, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is auctioning the social justice game-worn jerseys worn on reopening weekend by the 340-plus players on the 22 teams that participated here at Walt Disney World. The proceeds will be donated to the Players’ Justice Fund. They make for a nice collectable because you’ll probably never see “Black Lives Matter” or “Vote” on the back of jerseys again, or my personal favorite, “Ravnoprovnost” which is Bosian for “Equality” and worn proudly by Jusuf Nurkic.
LeBron James doesn’t have a social justice message on his jersey, and apparently that’s not swaying the bidders, because the price is currently at $45,520 and there’s still three days left in the Lakers’ auction. Most of the serious bidders wait until the last minute to show their hand, so expect that price to double at the very least.
Assuming LeBron’s very special jersey, which says “James” on the back and is no different than his others except the name is stitched below the number, goes beyond $100,000, I’d have some ‘splanin to do with the family if I mortgaged the house for that. I might be forced to live inside the jersey as a result.
I’m not one to tell anyone how to spend their money, unless they’re giving some to me, but five and six figures for a jersey means people have too much disposable income. I realize it’s an investment; it’s just that autographs and jerseys and sneakers were supposed to be personal, like proof of a brief interaction with an athlete, and kept for life.
However, at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite: I do own a game-worn jersey from the Atlanta Hawks media pickup game that I’d be willing to autograph and sell to anyone who’ll pay LeBron James money for it. OK, half.
So, to recap: I wouldn’t mind owning one of those restart jerseys for the historical significance. The jersey of Brian Bowen II of the Pacers that says “Vote” isn’t in much demand right now — I could find the $220 for that — and maybe a few other jerseys from lesser-known players could fall into my price range. Unless of course, my brilliant and understanding supervisor Steve Quintana — did I mention he’s brilliant? — could conclude that an auctioned jersey belonging to LeBron qualifies as a necessary business item and therefore I can expense it. After all, I’m writing about it.
Yes, right next to “meals” and “mileage” I can make note of this in miscellaneous: “LeBron James jersey, $100,000.00.” I’m sure the bean counters in payroll won’t even do a double take.
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