Champion Pro Cut Jerseys – Examples of Fakes (Tracy McGrady – Toronto Raptors)…

Let’s take a look at some fake Champion Pro-Cut jerseys, in particular several Toronto Raptors Tracy McGrady rookie jerseys. With the popularity of the Raptors skyrocketing over the past few years, capped off by their championship this year, Raptors 1990s Champion jerseys have been in high demand. And with high demand, come higher prices, and higher prices lead to counterfeits. One of the popular fakes on Ebay is the Tracy McGrady Toronto Raptors Rookie jersey. McGrady was selected straight out of high school by the Toronto Raptors with the ninth overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft. So the first thing to note is that during McGrady’s rookie season of 1997-1998, Nike was the exclusive uniform supplier for the Raptors. Champion could only produce Raptor replica jerseys starting in 1997-1998; they could not produce Raptors Authentic or Pro Cut jerseys. Therefore, any Champion Pro Cut Tracy McGrady jersey is a fake. Below is a game used McGrady rookie jersey from Nike for reference:

Tracy McGrady Nike Game Used Toronto Raptors Jersey 1997-1998

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Champion Pro Cut Jerseys – Avoiding Fakes

Again, let me preface this post by saying that I do not collect Champion Pro-Cut jerseys. Counterfeiting is way too rampant since the price-points are so high. As mentioned in my previous post, there are two types of fakes/counterfeits, 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. The following will help you start deciphering between real and fake Pro-Cuts.

Jock Tags & Sizing

The jersey should be to the exact measurements and specifications of the player for the particular season that it was produced. I always use Michael Jordan as an example since his jersey size is the most well known. A Pro-Cut Michael Jordan Bulls jersey from the 1990s should be sized at 46 with body length +3.

1996-1997 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Jock Tags

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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.

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Drazen “Petro” Petrovic – 25 Years Ago….


Drazen Petrovic NJ Nets Blue

25 years ago today on June 7, 1993 Drazen Petrovic was killed in a tragic automobile accident at the age of 28. Already a legend in Europe, Petrovic joined the Portland Trailblazers for the 1989-1990 season at the age of 25 (the Blazers had selected him in the 1986 draft and owned his rights). He was coming off his best NBA season with the New Jersey Nets in 1992-1993, and entering the prime of his career. He was one of the league’s best shooting guards, but yet was very underrated during his short four-year tenure in the NBA. The criticism of the league at the time was that they weren’t promoting the new wave of European talent, and at the time of his death Petrovic was contemplating returning to Europe to play. The Nets retired his jersey in 1993, and history has come to respect how great of a player Petrovic was. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2002. His Champion jersey is one of the rarest and highly collectible.


6-9-18 Drazen Petrovic Car Accident

Champion Pro Cut Michael Jordan 50th Anniversary Commemorative Rookie Jersey – Holy Grail

12-3-96 Jordan NBA 50th Anniversary Jersey

Chicago-area department store Carson’s ran this advertisement on December 3, 1996 to promote Champion’s retro line of NBA 50th Anniversary jerseys. The focal point of the ad is the Limited Edition Pro Cut Michael Jordan 50th Anniversary Commemorative Rookie Jersey. It’s the only authentic jersey that Champion released for the NBA 50th Anniversary collection. It was limited to 200 and available only by phone order from Carsons. This is the “Holy Grail” of Jordan jerseys. I’ve only seen two come up for auction on Ebay in my nearly 20 years of collecting.

The photo of the jersey in the ad is actually not the official size that Champion produced. Note the jock tag is a size 46 in the ad. That was Jordan’s standard size throughout most of his career (Size 46 with Body Length +3). But in his rookie season, Jordan started with a size 42 and then switched to a Size 44 with Body Length +4…

Michael Jordan Game Used Chicago Bulls Rookie Rawlings Jersey


So Champion actually produced these to the exact rookie season specs. Below is a photo of the jersey. Note that it’s not double-tagged. It has the jock tag, Size 44. On the interior hem is the additional tag indicating Body Length +4…


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Procut NBA 50th Anniversary Authentic Jersey

jordan inside

NBA 50th Anniversary 1996-1997 – NBA at 50 Champion Jerseys (Part 1)

During the 1996-1997 season the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary. The NBA’s goal was to spotlight the history of the league and the early superstars and teams. Unlike the NFL and MLB where young fans were familiar with old-time stars of those leagues, the NBA had notoriously been bad at promoting its history and former legends. The league had experienced a boom in popularity during the 1980s (Larry Bird & Magic Johnson) and the 1990s (Michael Jordan and the Bulls), but those current superstars overshadowed stars of the past. During the 80s and early 90s the league was focused on the future and growing into a global brand, and thus never took time to reflect on its past. As a result, kids like myself in the mid-90s had no clue who Bill Russell, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Pistol Pete Maravich or George Gervin were and didn’t even know about the ABA. The NBA’s 50th Anniversary gave the league the perfect opportunity to tell its story and finally give past superstars their due.

On June 6, 1996, during the 1995-1996 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Sonics, David Stern officially announced the “NBA at 50” celebration for the upcoming 1996-1997 season. Julius Erving was named spokesman for the campaign.

To kick-off the season-long “NBA at 50” celebration, David Stern announced the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History at a press event in New  York City on October 29, 1996. The announcement was made at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which was built on the former site of the Commodore Hotel where the original NBA charter was signed on June 6, 1946. Voters consisted of media, former players and coaches, current and former general managers and team executives. Players were chosen without regard to position and were not ranked (they were announced alphabetically and vote totals were not revealed). The final list of the 50 Greatest Players consisted of 11 current players and 16 who retired in the 1980s or 1990s. It also included 6 players who spent time in the ABA and 2 players who played in the National Basketball League (NBL), which in 1949 merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to officially form the NBA.

NBA 50 Greatest Players List

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Pau Gasol & Memphis Grizzlies Champion Jerseys…

In my last post, I looked at the active NBA players who have a Champion jersey. Champion’s last season of producing replica jerseys was 2001-2002, so anyone drafted 2001 or prior would be eligible. My list included 12 players: Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Elton Brand, Andre Miller, Jason Terry, Metta World Peace, Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Tyson Chandler and Tony Parker. Fellow Champion enthusiast Mike made a good call-out about Pau Gasol needing to be included on the list. After all, Gasol was the #3 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. But surprisingly Gasol, along with fellow 2001 draftee and current Cleveland Cavalier Richard Jefferson (#13 New Jersey Nets via Houston) are not on the list because Champion never produced a replica jersey for them. Champion Europe did produce Gasol Grizzlies jerseys, but Champion USA did not.

But the mention of Pau Gasol, and his recent signing with the Spurs, got me thinking about Memphis Grizzlies Champion Jerseys. It’s fascinating that Champion didn’t produce Gasol’s rookie jersey for the 2001-2002 season. Not only was he the #3 overall pick but he went on to win Rookie of the Year. Champion produced replica jerseys from 1991-1992 through 2001-2002, and Pau Gasol is the only Rookie of the Year during that span to not have a rookie-year Champion jersey. In addition, Champion made rookie-year jerseys for the top 5 draft picks in every draft between 1991-1992 through 2000-2001. For 2001-2002, Champion produced rookie jerseys for 7 of the top 10 picks, including the #6 pick Shane Battier….who was drafted by the Grizzlies. So Champion made a jersey for the Grizzlies #6 pick, but not their #3 pick who would go on to win ROY, two NBA titles and is a potential Hall of Famer. It gets even crazier when you look at the Memphis Grizzlies jerseys that Champion did produce for the 2001-2002 season, which you can see in the Team Gallery.

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Active NBA Players with Champion Jerseys…

Whenever an NBA veteran announces his retirement, my automatic response is to check Ebay to see the impact on the popularity/market value of his Champion jersey (sadly, I do the same when a former player dies). Kobe Bryant’s rookie-style Lakers Champion jersey started selling like crazy in the months leading up to his final game, and still remains tough to find. A couple of years ago you could purchase a Kobe rookie-style jersey for $30, now people are paying over $100. With Tim Duncan stepping away from the game a few days ago after 19 seasons,  I realized that in the not-so-distant future there will be no players left from the “Champion jersey era.” The last Champion jerseys rolled off the assembly lines during the 2001-2002 season…14 seasons ago! I thought it would be fun to look at the 11 active players that have been around long enough to have their names immortalized on the back of a nylon jersey with heat pressed letters. Before next season starts, this list will shrink. Andre Miller is currently the oldest active NBA player at age 40. Elton Brand came out of retirement this past season and could possibly be retired again but hasn’t made an official announcement. Jason Terry, Metta World Peace and  Mike Miller are currently unrestricted free agents but want to keep playing. Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter are signed through next season, and Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Tony Parker have deals that run through the 2017-2018 season. That leaves Jamal Crawford and Tyson Chandler as the last two players remaining on this list since they are currently under contract through 2018-2019. So by the 2019-2020 season, no one will be able to rock a Champion jersey in support of an active NBA player.

UPDATE: It’s important to note that there are four additional players still active in the NBA that are not included on this list: Manu Ginobili (1999 San Antonio Spurs), Pau Gasol (2001 Memphis Grizzlies via Atlanta), Richard Jefferson (2001 New Jersey Nets via Houston) and Zach Randolph (2001 Portland Trail Blazers). Champion did not produce replica jerseys for these players. In the case of Ginobili, although he was drafted in 1999 he continued to play overseas until joining the Spurs for the 2002-2003 season, at which point Champion was no longer producing jerseys.

Champion Gold Jerseys…

Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Champion Gold Jersey and Shorts
From 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.

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Champion Replica Jerseys – Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls

This is a follow-up to my previous post about using the jock tag, NBA logo and collar label to determine the exact year that Champion released a particular jersey. Often times, you can pinpoint the year a jersey was produced by obvious aesthetic traits like the color, graphics/logo, and font of the player name. Or you can use simple logic based on team rosters and players that might have only played for a particular team for one season. But there are teams like the Bulls that didn’t change their jerseys the entire time that Champion produced replica jerseys from  1991-1992 through 2001-2002, and there are players like Michael Jordan who played for the same team for many years. So if you are a hardcore collector and want a Michael Jordan jersey from a particular year, how can you decipher between the thousands and thousands of red Michael Jordan Bulls road jerseys that exist? Using the information provided in my previous post, let’s look at the Michael Jordan Bulls jerseys released between 1991-1992 and 1997-1998 and how I’m able to determine the exact year each jersey was produced by Champion.


jordan champion jerseysAt first glance, there are two versions that stand out as different and thus are easy to date…the 1991-1992 jersey and the 1994-1995 jersey.  But the other five jerseys all look identical, but if you look at the label in the collar, the NBA logo and the jock tag, you can decipher the exact year Champion printed each jersey.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1991-1992 with Tags

The 1991-1992 Bulls road jerseys have the player’s name in white font. So the 1991-1992 first-issue Michael Jordan jersey from Champion is easy to identify just by looking at Jordan’s name on the back of the jersey. However, you can still look at the jock tag and NBA logo patch. As you can see, the jock tag has the “100% Nylon” label attached to it. This was only done on jerseys produced in 1991-1992, and as a result, there is no label sewn into the interior torso hemline with information about fabric content. And you can see that the NBA logo is an iron-on felt patch and not a sewn on embroidered patch. This was the case for Champion jerseys produced from 1991-1992 through 1994-1995. Also there is no collar label, which weren’t sewn into collars until 1995-1996.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1992-1993 with Tags

In 1992-1993, the Bulls switched the nameplate font on their road jerseys from solid white to black with white outline. So from 1992-1993 onward, all Jordan jerseys have the same font for the name on the back of the jersey, so you can no longer pinpoint the year of production based on this characteristic. Therefore, you have to look at the jock tag, NBA logo and collar label. Champion did not sew labels into the collars of jerseys produced from 1991-1992 through 1994-1995. So the absence of a label in the collar most likely signifies that jersey was produced sometime between 1991-1992 and 1994-1995. However, the label in the collar was often cut off by kids since it was kind of irritating when wearing the jersey. So you need to look at the jock tag and NBA logo patch to further verify it is indeed from this timeframe. As you can see on the jock tag, it says “Made in U.S.A.” which means it was most likely produced between 1991-1992 and 1994-1995, since in 1995-1996 Champion moved production to Mexico and thus removed “Made in U.S.A.” from the jock tags. Furthermore, by looking at the NBA logo, you can see it is the iron-on felt patch and not sewn on embroidered patch, which means it was produced between 1991-1992 and 1994-1995. Finally, instead of sewing a label into the collar with information about fabric content and washing instructions, Champion sewed a label into the interior side hemline (left side of torso). They did this for all jerseys produced from 1992-1993 through 1994-1995. You can see this jersey has all the characteristics and be accurately labeled a 1992-1993 Jordan Bulls jersey.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1994-1995

Jordan’s 1994-1995 jersey is completely obvious. On March 19, 1995 Jordan returned to basketball after his stint in minor league baseball following his father’s murder in August 1993. Upon his return Jordan wore #45, which was his high school basketball and baseball  jersey number as well as the number he wore playing minor league baseball. Jordan didn’t want to wear #23 upon his return (the Bulls had also retired it) because that was the last number his father had seen him play basketball in, and he wanted a new beginning. However, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Orlando Magic, Nick Anderson stole the ball from Jordan late in the game which led to Horace Grant’s game winning basket for the Magic. For Game 2, Jordan reverted back to #23 and kept that number for the remainder of the playoff series against the Magic (5 games). The Bulls lost in 6 games to the Magic, and at the conclusion of the series the Bulls were fined $100,000 ($20,000 per game) for Jordan switching his jersey number from #45 to #23 without league approval. So Jordan wore #45 for only 22 games, but Champion produced at least 240,000 Jordan jerseys with the #45 (this would include road red and  home white). These jerseys were still made in the USA, so the jock tag contains the text “Made in U.S.A.”. And these were the first jerseys made by Champion that had the embroidered NBA patch sewn onto the jersey (although some did still have the iron-on felt logo). The interior torso hemline still had the fabric content label with washing instructions. And there were no collar labels.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1995-1996 with Tags

In 1995-1996, Champion started producing jerseys in Mexico. As a result they removed “Made in U.S.A.” from the jock tag. In addition, they now sewed a small white label into the collar that reads “Assembled in Mexico of US Components. Contents on Reverse.” And for all jerseys in 1995-1996 and onward, Champion used an embroidered NBA logo patch that was sewn onto the jersey (they no longer used the felt iron-on NBA logo patch). As you can see, this jersey has all of these characteristics and therefore can accurately be labeled a 1995-1996 Jordan Bulls jersey.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1996-1997 with Tags

In 1996-1997, Champion updated the label that was sewn into the collar. It was now a larger blue label with the Champion logo that reads “Authentic Athletic Apparel. Assembled in Mexico of US Components. Fiber Content on Reverse.” Again, the jock tag no longer contained the text “Made in U.S.A.” and the NBA logo is an embroidered patch sewn onto the jersey. This jersey has all of these characteristics and can accurately be labeled a 1996-1997 Jordan Bulls jersey.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1997-1998 with Tags

In 1997-1998, Champion once again updated the label that was sewn into the collar. The label now read “Authentic Athletic Apparel. Made in Mexico. Fiber Content on Reverse”. And once again, the jock tag doesn’t contain the text “Made in U.S.A.” and the NBA embroidered logo patch is sewn onto the jersey. This jersey has all of these characteristics and can accurately be labeled a 1997-1997 Jordan Bulls jersey.


Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls Road Jersey 1998-1999 with Tags

The Bulls ended their 1997-1998 season by wrapping up their second three-peat and winning their 6th championship by defeating the Jazz in Game Six of the NBA finals on June 14, 1998. The euphoria only lasted a week, because on June 21, 1998 Phil Jackson didn’t resign with the Bulls and walked away from coaching (Tim Floyd would replace Jackson). Many saw Jackson’s departure as an omen that  free agent superstars Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman would follow in Jackson’s footsteps and leave Chicago. But on July 1, 1998 the NBA lock-out began and wouldn’t be resolved until January 20, 1999, so all player negotiations and roster moves were put on hold. When the 1998-1999 NBA season (reduced to a 50 game schedule due to the lockout) officially began on February 5, 1999 the Bulls roster had been decimated by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Jerry Krause. On January 13, 1999 Jordan announced his second retirement from the NBA. On January 21, 1999 (the first day teams were able to make roster moves) Dennis Rodman was released and Steve Kerr was traded to the Spurs for Chuck Person and a 1st round pick in 2000. The next day on January 22, 1999 Scottie Pippen was traded to the Rockets for Roy Rogers and a 2nd round pick in 2000, and Luc Longley was traded to the Suns (that trade did lead to a 1999 1st round draft pick which netted the Bulls Ron Artest/Meta World Peace). The Bulls finished the strike-shortened season 13-37. To put that into perspective, during the Bulls second three-peat from 1995-1996 through 1997-1998 they only lost 43 regular season games (203-43)

While Jordan never played a game for the Bulls during the 1998-1999 season, Champion still produced his jersey. In order to continue producing and marketing Jordan’s jersey, Champion had to strike a licensing deal with Jordan and the NBA. At the time, licensees like Champion could only use Jordan’s name and likeness for 70 days after his retirement (until March 24, 1999). The 70 day deadline was part of a group licensing agreement between the league and the NBA Players Association as was designed to give licensees time to sell their existing inventory of a player’s merchandise after his retirement. Back in 1999 the throwback jersey craze was in it’s infancy, so when a player retired demand for his uniform dried up. Prior to Jordan, Champion had only signed extension deals with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to continue producing their jerseys after retirement.  But by the March 24, 1999 deadline, Champion reached an agreement to continue producing and selling Jordan jerseys until the end of the 1998-1999 season.

In 1998-1999, Champion once again updated the label that was sewn into the collar (this label would remain the same through 2001-2002 when Champion stopped producing replica jerseys). The collar label now had the size of the jersey and read “Authentic Athletic Apparel. Made in Mexico.” And once again, the jock tag doesn’t contain the text “Made in U.S.A.” and the NBA embroidered logo patch is sewn onto the jersey. This jersey has all of these characteristics and can accurately be labeled a 1998-1999 Jordan Bulls jersey.

The 1998-1999 season marked the final year that Champion produced Jordan’s Bulls jerseys. From 1991 through 1999 Champion sold on average 300,000 Jordan jerseys in the United States annually. It was by far Champion’s best selling jersey and most widely produced.