An old friend of Michael Jordan is looking to cash-in on all the memorabilia he’s collected from the hall-of-fame player over the years, but for a good cause. Meet Bill Schmidt, the retired VP of Marketing of Gatorade who’s been sitting on a small fortune’s worth of Michael Jordan game-worn sneakers, jerseys, and other collectibles that were gifted to him by MJ over a span of a decade.
“I turn 70 at the end of the year and I'm in good health, knock on wood. If something happens to me, I don't know what they are going to do with this stuff,” Schmidt told Sole Collector. “Somebody else can enjoy it. It would afford me the opportunity to take care of some other people and other causes as opposed to donating the shoes or whatever. They'll probably benefit more from the financial side of things.”
Schmidt was the man responsible for signing Jordan to his Gatorade deal in 1991. Remember the “Be Like Mike” campaign? That was him.
“He was great. Literally, he was fantastic. He loved the brand, loved the people, loved what we did, and he was the centerpiece of Gatorade without question.”
The retired exec says that he and Jordan developed a close relationship during Schmidt’s tenure at Gatorade, as they both connected on being athletes (Schmidt was an a track-and-field Olympian, winning a bronze medal in the 1972 Summer Olympics).
The relationship yielded plenty of swag for Schmidt, too, as he was around Jordan a lot during campaign shoots and other key moments of his hall-of-fame career.
“Nike would send shoes in and I'd also get him to sign some things,” Schmidt said. “Then I'd go give them away to charity.”
Now retired and not wanting for money, Schmidt is looking to make an even bigger impact with the Michael Jordan memorabilia he’s amassed over the years. Working with Steiner Sports, a recommendation from Jordan’s former agent David Falk, Schmidt consigned most of his large collection for auction.
Items in the lot include jerseys, original player samples of the Air Jordan 10, game-worn Jordan baseball cleats from MJ’s time with the Birmingham Barons, and even quirkier items like Jordan’s autographed seat cover from the 1992 NBA Finals and an autographed ticket to the Space Jam VIP party.
“I joked with MJ and said, ‘Listen, if this thing gets nominated for an Academy Award I'm going, right?’ He goes, ‘Yeah. You'll be there.’” Schmidt recalled, adding that he also has an autographed original script from Jordan at his home somewhere.
Schmidt is unsure about how much he’ll make from the auction or which charity he plans on donating the money to, but he does have a few ideas.
“I'm involved in our church here locally and I've participated in a variety of sports, but youth sports is important to me. I'm sure there won't be a shortage of charities to pick out,” he said. “I grew up in a real small town of about 8,000 people in Pennsylvania. I talked to the mayor there last week, and there’s a bunch of things I could probably help him with. This money could help with some of their costs.”
But what would Jordan think of all his old belongings ending up on the auction block? Schmidt says he hasn’t spoken to Jordan in a few years, but he doubts that the player would mind. Schmidt also doesn’t mind parting with items that any basketball fan would kill to have in their man cave.
“Given they’ll generate funds that I'll have the opportunity to help pass it on as well, I know he won't have any problem with it,” Schmidt said, adding that he is keeping a handful of items for himself, like an autographed jersey and a couple cigars that he and Jordan shared. “I have stories I won't be able to tell, and those are priceless.”
You can view Bill Schmidt's full collection up for auction at Steiner Sports here.