What Does It Take to Be Like Mike? 1,264 Ticket Stubs

As the planet’s pre-eminent collector of a really particular sort of basketball memorabilia, Andrew Goldberg scans the web and works the telephones. He has spent six years tending to a spreadsheet that particulars the gadgets which can be in his possession, and he has a community of trade sources who alert him at any time when they arrive throughout one thing he might have.

The magic occurs at storage gross sales, on eBay and in dusty attics.

“I’ve enjoyed the hunt,” Goldberg mentioned. “I don’t know if anyone can dispute the claim that I may have the largest Michael Jordan ticket-stub collection in the world.”

At a time of booming curiosity in sports activities collectibles, Goldberg has discovered a distinct segment as he pursues his aim of nabbing a ticket stub from every recreation of Jordan’s Hall of Fame taking part in profession. He retains them in protecting sleeves and shops them in cardboard packing containers at his house in Palm Beach, Fla. And he is not going to cease, he mentioned, till he has all 1,264 of them.

“His level of commitment is insane,” mentioned Patrick Powell, the founding father of Booger’s Stubs, a web-based neighborhood for ticket collectors.

A 47-year-old nonprofit advisor and lifelong Chicago Bulls fan, Goldberg mentioned he liked that every ticket has a narrative and a field rating related to it, that it shared “the same air” with Jordan for a few hours, and that it’s a piece of hardwood historical past that can’t be replicated — although he does want that the ticket-tearing ushers on the previous Boston Garden would have exercised higher care with their craft.

“They wouldn’t even follow the perforations,” Goldberg mentioned. “They were notorious in the ’80s for having terrible tears in their tickets. Just terrible.”

“I just had this thought that: ‘You know what? Tickets don’t take up a lot of space,’” Goldberg mentioned. “As I’ve learned, if you have a lot of them, they do.”Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Growing up exterior of Chicago, Goldberg hooked up himself to the Bulls. He was lucky, he mentioned, that his father, Perry, had season tickets with a gaggle of associates. Whenever he accompanied his father, their pregame ritual was dinner at Greek Islands, a restaurant not removed from the world. And within the pre-Jordan period, his favourite participant was Artis Gilmore as a result of he was tall (Goldberg was tall for his age) and since they shared the identical initials.

The dynamic across the staff modified, although, when Jordan arrived in Chicago as a rookie in 1984. He was a phenomenon from the beginning, and it occurred to Goldberg that he ought to begin holding the ticket stubs from the Bulls video games he attended. He suggested his father to do the identical. Even then, Goldberg was involved about ticket-stub integrity.

“I told him not to fold them,” he mentioned.

Jordan was in full flight by the point Goldberg enrolled on the University of Illinois. Goldberg’s faculty a cappella group carried out the nationwide anthem earlier than one Bulls recreation, and he participated in a half-court shot contest at one other, taking house a 15-pound Nestle Crunch bar as a comfort prize.

On the aspect, he slowly amassed about 60 Bulls tickets that he saved in a photograph album. Then, he just about forgot about them for 25 years. It was not till 2015 that he returned to his assortment, setting out with the aim of buying a full set of ticket stubs from the Bulls’ 1995-96 season, after they went 72-10, setting an N.B.A. document for many wins in a single season that might maintain for 20 years.

Part of Goldberg’s dream was rooted in pragmatism. He had been an avid collector of sports activities playing cards and comedian books for a few years, however was bothered by the litter.

“And I just had this thought that: ‘You know what? Tickets don’t take up a lot of space,’” he mentioned. “As I’ve learned, if you have a lot of them, they do.”

Before lengthy, Goldberg determined to go large and gather all 1,264 ticket stubs from Jordan’s total profession. Included in that whole are 930 regular-season video games with the Bulls, 142 regular-season video games with the Washington Wizards, 179 playoff video games and 13 All-Star Game appearances. Goldberg has 986 of them.

He has a handful of extras that he doesn’t embody within the whole — stubs from Jordan’s three appearances within the N.B.A.’s annual slam-dunk contest and from his lone entrance within the Three-point shootout, when he set a document for futility by ending with the worst rating within the competitors’s historical past. Goldberg additionally has tickets from each of Jordan’s Olympic gold medal video games.

Among the numerous stubs which have escaped his grasp: Jordan’s 63-point tour de drive towards the Boston Celtics within the first spherical of the 1986 playoffs. Goldberg noticed one obtainable on eBay a few years in the past, however another person purchased it earlier than he might submit his bid. (Goldberg mentioned he had no means of monitoring down the client.)

Jordan scored 63 factors towards the Boston Celtics through the first spherical of the 1986 playoffs. Goldberg hasn’t been in a position to get a ticket stub from that recreation.Credit…Dick Raphael/NBAE by way of Getty Images

He can be lacking one of many potential gems of your entire batch — a ticket from Jordan’s regular-season debut in 1984. This will get deep into the ticket-collecting weeds, however the Bulls produced a number of varieties of tickets that season, Goldberg mentioned. There have been crimson ones and blue ones for season-ticket holders, a box-office model and one other from Ticketron. The crimson ticket is probably the most fascinating since crimson is the staff shade, Goldberg mentioned, and one was bought about two years in the past for $33,000. Goldberg has not seen one other obtainable for buy since. How a lot would he be keen to shell out to purchase one?

“I don’t think that I could share anything that could end up in print and stay married,” mentioned Goldberg, who has twin 1-year-old sons along with his spouse, Barbara.

Goldberg can nonetheless choose up a run-of-the-mill Jordan ticket for round $5 or $10, he mentioned. And for the document, he mentioned, his interest has basically funded itself: He bought his comedian books for about $2,000 in seed cash, and now he typically trades or sells duplicate tickets to fill holes in his assortment. (The duplicates, he mentioned, are helpful when making offers with different collectors.)

These days, the printed ticket is turning into a relic. Though many sports activities groups nonetheless produce them for season-ticket holders, the broader provide has dwindled within the digital ticket period. Now, most followers merely have a code on their cellphones that ushers scan after they enter the world.

“It’s a shame because it is an absolutely wonderful piece of history,” mentioned Al Glaser of Professional Sports Authenticator, a memorabilia authentication service. “It’s like having a game-used jersey or a game-used bat.”

The pandemic additionally was an enormous interruption for the collector crowd. The N.B.A. completed final season (and began the present one) with out followers — and with out tickets.

With tickets going digital, it could be arduous to replicate Goldberg’s effort for a more moderen star like LeBron James or Stephen Curry.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

“If anyone really wanted to get a ticket from every LeBron James game, they kind of can’t do it now,” Goldberg mentioned.

As for his personal assortment, Goldberg has discovered that publicity — like the unique story on him within the Midway Minute, a Chicago sports activities publication — typically helps. Strangers will attain out about their long-forgotten tickets to gauge whether or not he has any use for them.

“You hope people will come out of the woodwork,” mentioned Goldberg, who stays assured that he’ll full his assortment. “I just don’t know how much longer it will take.”

Once he does, he plans to strategy officers from the Basketball Hall of Fame and the United Center, the world the place the Bulls play their house video games, to see if they’d be all for displaying a number of his stubs for the viewing public.

“I think it would be a nostalgic stroll through history for a lot of people,” he mentioned.