Work in Sports
100 points, priceless?
Chamberlain ball sells for $551,844 at auction
Posted: Friday April 28, 2000 10:56 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The ball that Wilt Chamberlain used to score a record 100 points in an NBA game proved even more valuable than anyone expected.
It sold at auction Friday for $551,844.
Leland's auction house would not say who bought the stolen ball, but both Kerry Ryman, who ran off with it 38 years ago, and the buyer are off the hook.
Ryman grabbed the ball in Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962, after congratulating Chamberlain for his remarkable feat.
The statute of limitations on the theft ran out in 1975, so Ryman, now 52, is in the clear, and so is the person who bought the ball.
"He feels so guilty about it," Josh Evans, Leland's president, said of Ryman, who scaled a fence and outran an arena security guard with his prize.
"I told him, `Who cares?' He was caught up in the moment.'
Chamberlain, who died last October, told a security guard to let Ryman keep the ball.
At first, Leland's thought the ball would sell for between $25,000 and $100,000. But soon it became apparent that range was way too low.
The final bid is the most ever paid for a basketball, and one of the highest prices ever paid for a sports item at auction, according to Leland's.
Leland's conducts its auctions by phone, fax and e-mail, and the purloined, used basketball became the hit of the lot, which included more than 700 items.
"It's the publicity," Evans said in his seventh-floor office as six of his employees answered phone calls and checked the Internet messages.
"The publicity and the feat. One-hundred points! It's a record that never will be broken. It's as if Mark McGwire hit 100 home runs."
Ted Williams' 1941 uniform -- the season in which he batted .406 -- sold for $120,097. A game-used Lou Gehrig cap went for $75,386. And the ball that Mookie Wilson hit through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a part of actor Charlie Sheen's collection, fetched $63,945.
Babe Ruth's last will and testament sold for $31,971, and his 1916 World Series award for $62,618. Prices include a 15 percent buyer's premium.
Evans said the Chamberlain ball is not the most valuable in terms of memorabilia.
"Michael Jordan's last shot before retiring. That ball is worth $1 million," Evans estimated.
Also up in the top three, according to Evans, was the ball John Havlicek deflected on an in-bound pass on the last play of the last game of the 1965 Eastern Conference finals. That preserved a Boston victory over Philadelphia and sent the Celtics on their to way the championship.
Play-by-play announcer Johnny Most's call of "Havlicek stole the ball," became part of sports history.
"Hey, a kid stole the ball," is what someone yelled when the 14-year-old boy ran out of the arena after Chamberlain's historic game. He long since stopped running, and Friday he finally gave up the ball.