Champion Pro Cut Jerseys – Overview…

My main focus and expertise is Champion replica jerseys because of the nostalgia associated with them. But I get a lot of questions about Pro-Cut jerseys, particularly in regards to authenticity. So I wanted to dedicate a series of posts with information I’ve collected over the years about Champion Pro-Cuts, and I’m hoping the many people that read this site will also provide info in the comments below. That way we can all be more informed collectors.

Michael Jordan Champion Pro Cut Jersey

Let me start by saying that while I have owned over 1,000 replicas, I have never owned a Pro-Cut. As a young teenager in the pre-internet days of the early-to-mid 90s, it was pretty much impossible to come across Pro-Cuts at the mall or in sporting goods stores. They were a specialty item that didn’t really have a niche outside of the world of memorabilia (collectors, autographs, etc). Also, the $250 price tag would have been a bit to high for my parents to stomach. And let’s not forget that Pro-Cuts are made to the player’s exact specs, so a 6th grader rocking a Pro-Cut Ewing jersey is going to look like an idiot.

Over the years as I got heavy into collecting replica jerseys, I stayed away from Pro-Cuts because the high price point attracts counterfeiting, both blatant and subtle. Blatant counterfeits would be knock-offs made overseas (China) where not a single thread on the jersey is Champion. Subtle counterfeits would be taking a legit blank Champion team-issued jersey and applying a player’s tackle-twill name/number on it by an unlicensed third party.

Champion had three tiers of jerseys: Replica, Authentic and Pro-Cut

Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Champion Jerseys

Replica jerseys were made of nylon tricot mesh with heat transfer graphics. The NBA logo was either a felt patch or embroidered patch depending on the year, and sewn in most cases on the left shoulder strap, with the embroidered Champion logo patch underneath. They sold from $25 to $45 depending on the year and retailer. They were produced starting in the 1991-1992 season through the end of the 2001-2002 basketball season. Adult sizes were 36 (small), 40 (medium), 44 (large), 48 (XL) and 52 (XXL). Replica jerseys were made both in the USA from 1991-1992 through 1994-1995. Starting in 1995-1996, Champion started producing in Mexico and Costa Rica as well as the USA.

Authentic jerseys were made of polyester tricot mesh or texturized nylon tricot mesh (depending on year and team) and had sewn tackle twill (double appliqué) numbers/letters.  The NBA logo was embroidered onto the jersey strap (not a patch). These jerseys incorporated the more intricate design details like side panels and pinstriping that the replica jerseys did not start incorporating until the late 90s. They were very similar to what payers wore on the court. Champion marked these as “NBA Game Jersey by Champion.” They sold from $90 to $150 depending on the year and retailer, and only star players were produced. They were produced starting in the 1991-1992 season through the end of the 2001-2002 basketball season. But, starting in the 1997-1998 season, when Starter and Nike obtained team uniform licenses, Champion only produced Authentic jerseys for 10 teams. By 2001-2002 Champion was only producing authentic jerseys for 8 teams. You can check out a previous blog post about NBA Jersey Licensing to see the breakdown of teams. Adult sizes were 40 (medium), 44 (large) and 48 (XL). Not until the late 90s did Champion add size 52 (XXL) for authentic jerseys. Authentic jerseys were “like the Pros, but in your size.” Authentic jerseys were made in the USA from 1991-1992 through 1999-2000. In 2000-2001 & 2001-2002 they were made in Korea.

Pro-Cut jerseys are made to the exact measurements and specifications of the athlete. These are exactly what the player would wear on the court. They are not game-used or team-issued, they are made for retail.   They were produced by Champion starting in the 1993-1994 season as part of the limited edition NBA Commemorative Collection. Production was limited to only superstar players (approx 14 during any given season), and they retailed in specialty stores for $250 to $350. Pro-Cuts weren’t available at department stores or event national chains like Foot Locker or Champs. They were considered more memorabilia for collectors and not fashion, as they were usually used for autographs. As a result, they were typically only sold at team pro stores, the NBA store (which opened in 1998), Champion’s flagship specialty store at Garden State Plaza Mall,  and through some catalogs. Sizes were to the players’ exact measurements, so sizes could range anywhere from 40 to 54 with added length. Pr0-Cuts were always made in the USA.

Jock Tags

1996-1997 Pro Cut Tag Sixers

Pro-Cut jerseys are double-tagged. They have the traditional Champion logo jock tag with the chest size and a second tag that states the team name, year/season and is stamped with the additional length of the jersey. It’s this second tag that makes Pro-Cuts easily identifiable from Authentics. That tag makes Champion Pro-Cut In-Seam Tagall the difference. For instance, a Michael Jordan Pro-Cut will sell for $1,000, whereas a Jordan Authentic will sell for around $250. The tag displaying the team/year/length changed design from year-to-year.

 

In addition to the jock tags, a Pro-Cut jersey should also contain small tags on the interior hemline that state the fabric content as well as the extra body length.

 

Sizing

Pro-Cut jerseys are made to the exact measurements and specifications of the player. So whereas Authentic jerseys were produced in four sizes (40, 44, 48 and 52), Pro-Cut jerseys were produced in sizes 42 (Mugsy Bogues), 44, 46 (Michael Jordan), 48, 50, 52, 54 and 56 (Shaquille O’Neal). Remember, these numbers reflect chest size:

  • 40 (20″ chest) = M
  • 42 (21″ chest) = M
  • 44 (22″ chest) = L
  • 46 (23″ chest) = L
  • 48 (24″ chest) = XL
  • 50 (25″ chest) = XL
  • 52 (26″ chest) = XXL
  • 54 (27″ chest) = XXL
  • 56 (28″ chest) = XXXL

Lengths of jerseys increase about 1″ for each increase in chest size:

  • 40 = 28″ length
  • 42 = 29″ length
  • 44 = 30″ length
  • 46 = 31″ length
  • 48 = 32″ length
  • 50 = 33″ length
  • 52 = 34″ length
  • 54 = 35″ length
  • 56 = 36″ length

manute_bol_muggsy_bogues_bulletsThis is where extra length factors in to compensate for the varying body sizes of NBA players. Let’s take Manute Bol for example. He was 7’7…so you would immediately think a XXL (54) jersey. But remember his stick-figure physique weighed in at only 200lbs. He would be swimming in a size 54. So he actually wore the same chest size as 5’3 Muggsy Bogues (smallest player in NBA history). But whereas Muggsy had to take length off of his jersey, Manute Bol had 6″ added to the length of his jersey (Body Length +6). This extra length would be indicated on the double-tag. Meanwhile, Shaquille O’Neal tipped the scales at over 300lbs, so you would expect him to be a size 54, which he was (with +4 length).

Remember, a legit Pro-Cut jersey is made to the exact measurements of the player during that particular season. If it’s not made to the exact specs, it’s a fraud. For instance, Michael Jordan was a size 46 with +3 length throughout his championship runs with the Bulls in the 90s. So if you see a Jordan Pro-Cut jersey in a size 48 with +4 length, it’s not legit.

1996-1997 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Jock Tags

Pro-Cut vs Team Issued vs Game Worn

Pro-Cut jerseys are produced for retail, with the target audience being collectors who want a piece of memorabilia of their favorite player at a reasonable price point (usually these jerseys are autographed).  Pro-Cut jerseys never see the inside of the locker room, and the player never touches it let alone puts it on his back.

Team Issued or Game Issued jerseys are basically Pro-Cut jerseys that do indeed make it into the equipment/locker room, but never see in-game use. Players are issued multiples of each style of jersey, and may or may not use them. Unused jerseys sometimes make it into the marketplace through equipment managers or team staff. Normally these are priced exactly as Pro-Cut jerseys because they are hard to authenticate, and since they weren’t ever worn by the player, there is no added value.

Game Worn jerseys are exactly what the name implies, the jersey was worn by the player during a game. These are obviously highly collectible and there is a significant premium attached, not only because the player wore the jersey, but also due to the level of authentication needed to verify the jersey is legit. Only buy Game Worn jerseys through legit auction houses with proper paperwork, as the Game Worn market has the most counterfeit since the returns are so high.

14 thoughts on “Champion Pro Cut Jerseys – Overview…

  • July 9, 2019 at 10:32 pm
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    Dude! Glad to see you’re still throwing some posts up. Huge fan of your page. My collection has grown quickly since I first came across your catalog. One question I do have though, do you have any of the catalog photos for the other teams that aren’t listed? (Warriors, Suns, Timberwolves, Supersonics and Wizards)

    Reply
  • October 2, 2019 at 8:29 pm
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    As a huge Champion football collector, i know my way around a Champion jersey pretty well. My hometown team wore champion fron 87-96 so ive gotten to know all the different champion jock tags as well as football styles. I know enough about basketball to be able to tell whats a knockoff (pretty simple as you have done an excellent job of covering) and the difference between replica, authentic, and pro cut. What has me confused however is a 92-93 suns issued that i own. Its 110% legit, sublimated, size 48 and double tagged. The weird part is this. It has ‘production 50’ stamped above the +3 legenth on the designed and tailored tag (which i assume means limited to 50) but its void of the nba logo up top. Would this have been the case for all 50? Was this an error that may have shown up at a champion outlet? They did get pro jerseys from time to time. It also is void of the commerative 3rd jock tag. Again, i stress its the real deal… but an odd ball for sure! Thoughts? Thanks!

    Reply
    • August 7, 2020 at 11:16 am
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      I would have to see the jersey and player (Majerle?). I’m not aware of a limited edition jersey that Champion would have issued for 1992-1993. Also, it should always have the NBA logo. Might have been a prototype that made it’s way to the public somehow

      Reply
  • March 25, 2020 at 1:37 pm
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    Hey!
    I have two jerseys from Charles Barkley and Grant Hill from seasons 1994-1996.
    Somebody told me that they are pro cut replicas. Maybe you can tell me where I can sell them or how worth they are.

    Best regards
    Niels

    Reply
    • August 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm
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      If they are Pro-Cut they’ll have dual tags and the measurements will be same as Barkley and Hill wore. Or you could have Authentics. I would need more info. But if they are pro-cut, you would have to validate that all the specs match up to make sure they are legit. You can sell them on Ebay easily

      Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 6:06 am
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    Do you have any any information on when Champion changed the quality of their Authentic Jerseys?

    I have an early Larry Johnson Hornets and an early Shawn Kemp Sonics that are identical in quality to the Pro Cuts but without the double tag and extra length and available in different sizes.

    On the flip side, I’ve also had later authentic’s (around 1996 onwards) including a Jordan Gold Logo Bulls, Iverson Sixers, Hardaway Magic that are lower in quality with the neck trim and arm trim sewn on top of the main body of the jersey, also some of these lower quality Authentic’s can be found double tagged like a Pro Cut? Allen Iverson Sixers jersey’s are good examples of this and can be found regularly in different sizes on eBay.

    Reply
    • August 7, 2020 at 12:28 pm
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      You pretty much hit the nail on the head. Starting in 1996-1997 Champion started pumping out greater numbers of authentic jerseys due to a change in customer demand away from replicas and toward authentics (Mitchell and Ness was starting to come on the scene). During this season the authentics became more widely available in both retail stores and mainstream catalogs like Eastbay. In order to juice the demand, Champion set a uniform price for all authentic at $99. Prior to the 1996-1997 season the authentics had been around $130 or more, depending on the team and player. So Champion definitely compromised on quality to get a lower price point. For the initial Champion 1991-1992 authentics, they came off the same assembly line as the game-issued jerseys….and that process continued for the next several years. But during this time the authentics were very limited in players available and places where you could actually by them. They were mostly available through specialty catalogs like the NBA merchandise catalogs, Sports Illustrated Insider or Pro Team.

      Reply
  • August 19, 2020 at 12:41 pm
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    Great blog bro. Im about to buy a Tim Duncan spurs authentic champion jersey, but in your blog “NBA Jersey Licensing” i realize that champion didn’t produce authentic spurs jersey’s when Tim Duncan played yet (i think). So i don’t know if the jersey is fake or not, and your opinion would probably help me. (i’m chilean so i don’t know if what i wrote make sense or not lol)

    The jersey its the same one in this link: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/San-Antonio-Spurs-David-Robinson-Authentic-Custom-CHAMPION-Jersey-Sz-52/142893623165?epid=4022161890&hash=item21451fa77d:g:4UwAAOSwDRxbZU6k

    Reply
    • August 21, 2020 at 10:42 am
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      Thanks for checking out the site. Yes, that Duncan jersey is a fake. When Duncan entered the league in 1997-1998, Nike had the license to produce uniforms for the Spurs. Therefore, Nike produced the Spurs Authentics during Ducan’s rookie hear (and the following years until Reebok took over). Champion only made Duncan replica jerseys. The overall jersey quality also on the Ebay link is not great, and the jock tag is fake as well (number 52 is really thin, and there is a copyright above “it takes a little more to be Champion”…these are signs of a counterfeit jersey/tag).

      Reply
  • August 27, 2020 at 6:44 pm
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    I have a Jordan 94-95 season #45 red jersey Pro-Cut with all tags and markings to confirm it is the real deal. What is something like this worth?

    Reply
    • August 28, 2020 at 1:48 pm
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      Is is dual tagged? The Authentic #45s have been selling in the $500 – $750 range lately (historically around $250…but Jordan jerseys have increased significantly with The Last Dance). If it’s a true pro-cut, dual tagged and made to Jordans exact specs (size 46 +3), then maybe $1500?

      Reply
  • September 5, 2020 at 10:03 pm
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    Any idea what a 1996 Champion Jordan All Star Game Jersey would sell for now? I sold it back in 2001 for around $700 and I can’t even find another example now. I had lots of Jordan Pro-cuts back then but unfortunately sold them all 20 years ago. I had almost every one that came out. Another one I haven’t seen is the Champion Jordan Rookie Pro Cut that came out with the 50th Anniversary one. I’m just curious as to what these are worth today?

    Reply
    • September 19, 2020 at 3:56 pm
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      The All Star pro-cut would go for $1500+ assuming it was legit. Those pro-cuts were mostly sold through Overtime ProWear in Huntingdon Beach, as they weren’t typically available in any retail stores or mainstream catalogs like Eastbay (and of course no internet then). The Rookie Pro Cut 50th Anniversary addition I wrote a post about. Only 200 of those were made and exclusively for Carsons in downtown Chicago. Two years ago you could get it for $800 to $1k. But now that I let the cat out of the bag, the two I’ve seen have gone for over $3k. I’ve only seen 4 or 5 total in my life come up for auction on Ebay.

      Reply

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