‘The Last Dance” has put a step in Upper Deck’s giddy-up.
“We knew this thing could be massive,’’ Jason Masherah said.
Masherah, Upper Deck’s CEO, has been busy since ESPN aired “The Last Dance,” which highlighted Michael Jordan’s final NBA season in Chicago, when he led the Bulls to their sixth title.
Masherah, a San Marcos resident, is overseeing a market bullish on Jordan at the Carlsbad sports memorabilia company.
Upper Deck saw a significant bounce after Jordan dribbled in a documentary that collected massive ratings.
“While we knew the program would be big when we got a sneak preview, we didn’t know that there would be no other sports content on TV,’’ Masherah said. “Everyone has been watching and it’s been fantastic for us.’’
With COVID-19 basically halting live sports, the series tracking the Bulls’ 1997-98 season again elevated Jordan into the spotlight.
Jordan has a longtime endorsement deal with Upper Deck and the items he’s scribbled his name on are hot.
“As soon as the news came out about ‘The Last Dance,’ we started getting hits on our site from people wanting pieces to buy,’’ Masherah said.
Upper Deck’s collection of Jordan-signed artifacts is impressive. Upper Deck goes beyond selling signed basketballs, offering collectors Jordan’s John Hancock on pictures, jerseys, posters, shoes, handprints and more.
What is it about Air Jordan that makes people get sky high?
“Michael was so dominant and so good that any of us who grew up watching him remember that greatness,’’ Masherah said. “We are seeing his greatness again through ‘The Last Dance.’”
“There is another generation that never saw him play, but they know his brand because it is so much bigger than any other athlete. There are literally millions of people around the world wearing his name and brand on their body.”
In one episode, a fan seeks an autograph from Jordan but is quickly whisked away by a security guard.
“It’s tough for someone as big as Jordan because if he signs one, all of a sudden he has to sign a thousand things and he doesn’t have time for that,’’ Masherah said. “So typically he only signs for us because of our relationship of close to 30 years.’’
That infrequency, combined with Jordan’s popularity, has delivered a revenue spike for Upper Deck.
While the high-end items aren’t right for all, Upper Deck has the upper hand for those willing to sign off, starting at $3,500.
“If you see a great deal on a Jordan-signed piece on eBay or Facebook, run away as fast as you can from it because it’s probably not a legitimate signature,” Masherah said. “It’s hard to watch someone who always wanted an autographed piece spend $500-$1,000 and get a fake. It’s like them throwing their money away.’’
Masherah, 42, tosses shade on those too-good-to-be-true prices because they usually are.
Upper Deck guarantees that Jordan’s signature is genuine.
“You want to make sure it is authentic, that is the biggest issue,” said Masherah, who’s in his 14th year at the helm. “If you don’t have the certificate of authenticity that you can look up on our website, with the Upper Deck hologram on it, in reality it’s most likely fake.’’
The shifty Jordan had tricky moves. Masherah warns consumers not to fall for one when seeking their Jordan keepsake.
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Follow him @jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports