Champion Gold Jerseys…

Michael Jordan Champion Gold BlogFrom 1991-1992 through the 1996-1997 season, Champion held the exclusive uniform license for the NBA. Champion produced the on-court uniforms for all 29 teams, and was the only licensee able to produce replica and authentic jerseys for retail. Starting in the 1997-1998 season, the NBA divided the uniform licenses between Champion, Nike and Starter. While Champion could no longer produce authentic jerseys for the 19 teams now held by Nike or Starter, they still had the exclusive license to produce replica jerseys for all 29 teams. Replica jerseys fueled NBA merchandise sales in the mid-90s, in part due to strong draft classes in 1993 (Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn) and 1994 (Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill). In addition, the Jordan-led Bulls had dominated merchandise sales in the early 90s, but in the 1994-1995 season were overtaken by the Charlotte Hornets, led by Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. Michael Jordan’s retirement prior to the 1993-1994 season officially marked the end of an era that had featured Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. There was a new group of up-and-coming superstars, and Champion was in the right place at the right time as fans scooped up jerseys of their new favorite players and teams.

Champion Gold tag

Champion Gold Tag

During the 1995-1996 season, NBA licensed apparel sales began a multi-year decline. The reason for the decline was four-fold: fashion trends were just starting to move away from sports apparel and towards casual clothing from retailers like Gap and Abercrombie, the market was saturated with jerseys from the NBA’s limited pool of marketable superstars and teams (the Bulls and Rockets won every title from 1991 through 1998), the NBA was undergoing a cultural shift with up-and-coming superstars like Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett who weren’t popular with casual fans, and the bounce the NBA had experienced from Major LeagueBaseball’s strike in 1994 had leveled out . During the initial decline, replica jersey sales were still strong and helped negate declines in other NBA licensed apparel. But by the end of the 1996-1997 season, Champion was experiencing a 20% decline in replica jersey sales.  With Nike and Starter now producing on-court apparel for the 1997-1998 season, Champion needed to focus on increasing sales of its replica jerseys. The 1997 NBA draft was lackluster (despite Tim Duncan being the #1 pick), so Champion couldn’t drive sales through rookie jerseys. Jordan was back and the Bulls were putting together another three-peat. The market was already flooded with Bulls jerseys, so Champion couldn’t capitalize on sales generated from the crowning of a new NBA championship team and bandwagon fans.

Champion’s answer was to release a limited edition line of jerseys under the name “Champion Gold”. The line was announced in November 1997 and released on February 1, 1998, a week prior to the NBA All-Star game. The limited edition line paid tribute to NBA players who achieved “gold” status by being 1997 All-Star Game starters, Schick Rookie Game MVP, Nestle Slam Dunk Champion, league MVP, and NBA Rookie of the Year. The jerseys featured gold fabric with the team logo and players name in the traditional team colors. The collection featured 13 players, and you can see them all in my Special Edition jersey gallery:

  • Charles Barkley (Western Conference All-Star)
  • John Stockton (Western Conference All-Star)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (Western Conference All-Star)
  • Shawn Kemp (Western Conference All-Star)
  • Gary Payton (Western Conference All-Star)
  • Michael Jordan (Eastern Conference All-Star)
  • Scottie Pippen (Eastern Conference All-Star)
  • Anfernee Hardaway (Eastern Conference All-Star)
  • Patrick Ewing (Eastern Conference All-Star)
  • Grant Hill (Eastern Conference All-Star)
  • Kobe Bryant (Nestle Slam Dunk Champion)
  • Allen Iverson (Schick Rookie Game MVP & NBA Rookie of the Year)
  • Karl Malone (NBA MVP)

A couple of interesting things to note. Patrick Ewing was named an All-Star starter in 1997, but did not play. Dikembe Mutombo started the game in Ewing’s spot, but Champion still honored Ewing for this collection rather than Mutombo. Also, Shawn Kemp was still on the Sonics for the 1997-1998 season and played in the 1997 All-Star game for the West. But prior to the 1997-1998 season Kemp was traded to the Cavs, so Champion printed his special gold jersey with his new team rather than the Sonics.

Drake Memorial Day Gold JordanThis was the only year Champion issued the limited edition “gold” collection, which means it didn’t sell that well. Today, these jerseys are pretty difficult to find. The Michael Jordan jersey is the most common, followed by Hill, Hardaway and Iverson. The John Stockton jersey is probably the hardest in the collection to find (I’ve only seen it a couple of times in 15 years of collecting), followed by Olajuwon and Malone. This past Memorial Day, Drake posted a photo on Instagram of him wearing a gold Jordan jersey. Since then, the demand for these jerseys has skyrocketed. A year ago you could get a Jordan gold jersey for around $50. Now they are going for $250+. These jerseys were made in the USA, so the jock tag and collar label should reflect that. Also, since these didn’t sell well and there was deadstock inventory leftover, you’ll see these often come up for sale with the tags still attached. However, you don’t often see the Champion Gold tag attached. I have a feeling once these jerseys didn’t sell and ended up in factory stores and on clearance racks, they were retagged. So if you are an avid collector and pay a premium for deadstock  jerseys with tags attached, you might want to make sure the Champion Gold tag is included.

Champion failed to recognize that trends were shifting to “on-court” apparel. Since the market was oversaturated with Champion’s heat-pressed nylon replicas, fans looking to stand-out from the crowd were willing to pay premiums for sewn tackle-twill, polyester mesh authentic jerseys. Nike recognized this and eventually released the Swingman, which was a happy medium between expensive on-court authentic jerseys, and cheap printed replica jerseys.

 

13 thoughts on “Champion Gold Jerseys…

  • July 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm
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    Welcome back! Love the website, thanks for keeping it going.

    Question: Were there ever retail Authentic Champions produced without an NBA patch on the shoulder? In particular, I am trying to figure out if a 1992 Barkley Sixers #32 (he wore 32 briefly to honor Magic) with no NBA patch is legit. Thanks for any help you provide.

    Reply
    • July 12, 2016 at 5:41 pm
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      Thanks for checking out the site! This is tough one to answer, as I have seen both Barkley #34 and #32 authentic Sixers “falling star” jerseys (1991-1992 season) without the NBA logo. Normally I would say not legit since the whole point of an authentic jersey is to be exactly what the athletes wear on the court, and the NBA logo on the left (sometimes right) shoulder is essential. But this is an instance where there might be an exception.

      Here’s what I know….the Sixers unveiled the new uniform design at the start of training camp on October 3, 1991. This was Champion’s first uniform that they designed in-house since assuming the NBA uniform license a year earlier (at the start of the 1990-1991 season). At the opening of the 1991-1992 training camp, Barkley was presented with his normal #34 jersey for a photo op (jersey has the NBA logo). On November 7, 1991 Magic Johnson announces he has HIV and a few days later on November 12, 1991 Barkley announces that he is switching to #32 in honor of Magic. On November 15, 1991 Barkley wears #32 for the first time against the Celtics, and would wear it the remainder of the year before being traded in the off-season to the Suns. Champion only made replica Barkley Sixers “falling star” jerseys in #32.

      With all of the being said, the only authentic jerseys Champion sold for retail during the 1991-1992 season were Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. From my research, Barkley Sixers authentic jerseys were never produced or sold at a retail level (in fact, for the three years the Sixers wore the “falling stars” design, Champion never released an authentic Sixers jersey for retail). But given that the Sixers redesigned “falling stars” uniform was Champion’s first crack at design, prototypes/samples probably made their way into the market at some point (employees from the design team took some, marketing team used some as retail display pieces, etc). So it’s possible the Barkley jerseys that are out there are samples and not having the NBA logo was to signify they were sample pieces and not for resale. I’ve only seen non-game-worn authentic Barkley “falling stars” Sixers jerseys come up for sale like three times in 20 years, so there aren’t many out there which reenforces this theory. And if they aren’t samples, then they are just after-market customizations by someone who got a hold of blank jerseys at some point (again, Champion produced this style of jersey for three seasons from 1991-1992 through 1993-1994).

      So in conclusion, they aren’t legit based on the fact that they were never produced for or sold at a retail level. They could possibly be super rare samples, but they could also be after-market customizations. And worst case, they are complete counterfeits. As a collector, I wouldn’t buy one. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • July 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm
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    Thank you for the thorough response! Looking forward to your gallery updates.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm
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    Dude. Awesome write up. Next ones if like to see are:

    NBA @ 50 throwbacks

    Olympic jerseys

    Reply
  • July 25, 2016 at 6:26 am
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    May I be the first to say, this post is gold!! The write up is an education, as always, and I can only agree with you that the Stockton gold jersey is undoubtedly the rarest of the bunch. I knew they existed but have never seen one for sale or in the flesh in my life. Wonderful photos too and I’m looking forward to your next post.

    Reply
  • July 27, 2016 at 7:42 pm
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    Hello friend I’m Rodrigo from Chile.
    Continuing his theme, I have a Scottie Pippen jersey Gold version
    You have more information on this jersey

    Reply
  • January 14, 2017 at 11:36 am
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    Please, please make a post on the collection of all NBA@50th Champion jerseys made. A lot of people including myself would really appreciate this info.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • May 21, 2017 at 9:28 pm
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      Ask and you shall receive (even if it’s 4 months later). NBA at 50 gallery is posted in the Special Edition section. I’ll be writing some blog posts shortly addressing the collection.

      Reply
      • May 25, 2017 at 5:02 pm
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        Really grateful for all the time and effort you put into this site, thanks, I will be checking out the NBA @50 section shortly!

        Reply
  • March 13, 2017 at 6:20 pm
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    Can i follow you on social media ?
    Keep up the great site
    Greets from belguim

    Reply
    • May 21, 2017 at 8:54 pm
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      Thanks for checking out the site. Unfortunately I’m not on social. I already have difficulty finding time to finish this site (it’s like 4 years in the making) let alone keep up social media. But maybe once I finally get this completed I’ll start an Insta or something.

      Reply
  • June 6, 2017 at 8:01 am
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    Hey! Thanks for doing this.. never give up! 🙂 I love this site and makes me more proud for my Champion NBA jersey collection. One question for you. Champion never made any jerseys in korea right ? So the jerseys with the tags with”made in korea’ are fake. Thanks! Greetings from Hungary!

    Reply
    • June 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm
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      Champion actually did produce jerseys in Korea during the end of their licensing deal in 2001-2002. At that time they were only producing authentic for 8 teams (Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Utah), and all the authentics were made in Korea. As for replicas, some were made in Korea and some still made in Mexico during the 2001-2002 season.

      Reply

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