He has the most popular brother in the collectibles industry. Perhaps, in all of sports.
Larry Jordan is Michael’s older brother, one of five siblings in the Jordan gang. James is the oldest, followed by Deloris, Larry, Michael and Roslyn.
The elder Jordan has worked for the Upper Deck Co. for nine years, serving as the regional business manager.
Many in the industry know of his kinda-famous kid brother, but Larry won’t flaunt the family heritage, unless you ask. In fact, some in the industry, such as Steve James (North Carolina hobby store owner), didn’t realize the connection for months.
“And that’s how I want it, how I prefer it,” Jordan said. “I just want to be an Upper Deck employee, and that’s how I’ve tried to handle it for the past 20 years or so.
“Being Michael’s brother … I take it for what it is. I tend to keep an even keel in terms of being related.”
Jordan’s biggest assets are his communication skills, friendly personality and professional manner. Don’t think for a moment that he’s lasted nine years in the ever-fierce card market on his last name alone.
“I think I’m good with people. I love working with people. I have a serious passion for this industry and I love sports,” Jordan said. “Upper Deck is a fun place to work. I have a lot of friends at Upper Deck. I really enjoy what I do.
“When I first started, I didn’t immediately say, ‘I want to be at Upper Deck for nine years.’ But the more and more I’ve become involved in this industry, the more and more I got hooked. I have a lot of friends in this industry. It’s a fun industry, a great industry to be in.”
And, yes, Jordan does naturally talk to Jordan about the hobby, which includes exploratory discussions about attending card shows.
“I try to see what his interest would be in terms of doing some shows later on. But right now, due to his schedule, he doesn’t want to do shows,” Larry said.
What about a public autograph session sometime in the future featuring Michael Jordan?
“The only way he would ever, ever do one is through Upper Deck. He really values the relationship he has with Upper Deck,” Jordan said. “I would like to walk him into a card show someday, to show him what really goes on.”
Larry, of course, is a show veteran with many years of experience under his belt. He attended this summer’s National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, and has regularly attended SportsFest and Chicago Sun-Times shows, among others.
“Upper Deck told me early on that they never would put me in a tricky situation with regard to Michael, and they haven’t,” Larry said.
Larry is a collector, especially anything Muhammad Ali-related.
“And I will pick up a piece or two of my brother, mostly if it’s something that really catches my eye, stuff that is very cool,” Larry added.
Jordan has UDA Breaking Thru and other items of Michael, including a painted jersey piece. “That’s one of my favorite pieces; it’s really nice,” he said.
Jordan also has his brother’s rookie card, in addition to rookie cards of Ken Griffey Jr. and cards of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jordan, who still plays basketball on a regular basis near his Davidson, N.C., home, was, up until his sophomore year in high school, “probably better than Michael in basketball.”
Now, though, Larry has to settle for beating Michael in trivia. General trivia, not just sports trivia.
“I came to Upper Deck from the sportswear industry, so it was very challenging for me from the outset, the way the card products were distributed because there were no geographical boundaries, which I never could understand,” he said. “Things can turn on a dime, at a very rapid rate in the collectibles industry.
“I think we’re all faced with a huge challenge in the industry: bringing the kids back in as collectors. Even though we’re competing against each other, but more so, against other industries. And that’s the biggest challenge we have now, getting kids involved with the industry.
“I know this firsthand because I have kids (Alexis, 13, Justin 11) and they’re very interested in video games and other things, anything that includes the wow-factor, whatever is hot at the moment, such as iPods.
“It’s a huge challenge to capture kids’ attention, and hold it.”
So how does the hobby do it?
“I’m not sure; I think everyone is still searching for the answer,” he said. “Obviously we have to make better products that capture the attention of the collectors and the fans in general.”
Larry said the best thing going in the hobby nowadays is the high-end, super-premium products, “mostly because they really deliver.”
“I think everyone needs to develop products that deliver value, and continue to focus on kid-friendly programs because they are the future of the hobby,” said Jordan, who admits he does buy cards and/or memorabilia at shows, mostly on impulse, such as a Dale Earnhardt painting that he saw and bought at a recent show.
And, yes, he does buy from Upper Deck and Upper Deck Authenticated, which is just how he wants it.
“They treat me like I am any other employee, and that’s so special, so cool.”
Even though he has some amazing family lineage.