Wellington designer puts Air Jordan's specialty seat on eBay

Staff Writer

A chair designed to fit Michael Jordan's buns just right could soon go to the highest bidder on eBay.

Wellington resident Neal Taslitz plans to sell a custom-made chair in which "His Airness" parked himself while watching game tapes at the Chicago Bulls' training center in Deerfield, Ill., during the 1990s.

The starting bid: $200,000.

"There are a lot of chairs that sell [for] much more than that that were used by kings and queens of various countries," Taslitz said. "Michael [Jordan] certainly qualifies as one of the kings of the world of sports."

The chair will be on the auction block for 10 days beginning at 11 p.m. Thursday.

Taslitz, a lawyer, designed Jordan's ergonomically correct chair after the basketball legend injured his back. During the 1990s, Taslitz developed a business selling furniture for people with bad backs. He suffered debilitating back pain himself from spending 12-hour days in a stiff, wingback chair.

His company BackCare Corp. became a hit, and Taslitz became a nationally recognized expert in pairing people with furniture fit perfectly for them.

He counseled companies on repetitive stress injuries; he advocated for worker-friendly office space.

"The majority who had low-back pain either were very tall or very short and couldn't fit in regular seating," Taslitz said. "It's like wearing the wrong-size shoe, especially if you're sitting for a long period of time."

Creating a chair for Jordan's derriere was an honor, since Taslitz was a huge Bulls fan. Before cable television became so widespread, Taslitz remembers using binoculars to watch the games on a TV in a building across from his.

Then came the back injury. Jordan, known for his gravity-defying, acrobatic feats, injured his back doing a reverse lay-up in a 1996 playoff game against the Miami Heat.

Fans flooded the team with backache cures.

"Michael in Chicago was the hero of everyone, and they wanted to help him," Taslitz said.

The Bulls won the 1996 championship, but after the season Taslitz offered his expertise.

Team trainer Chip Schaefer accepted and invited Taslitz to the Bulls' training center.

Schaefer wanted to customize the players' bench because he saw how uncomfortable they looked in regular-size chairs with their knees nearly touching their chests.

But financing and NBA rules wouldn't allow such a drastic change. Taslitz's chairs were the next option.

"We got a few for the video room," said Schaefer, who is now the Los Angeles Lakers' director of athletic performance.

Taslitz fondly remembers the first time he entered the Bulls inner sanctum.

"Phil Jackson was there. He sat in the chair and got in a lotus position," Taslitz said. "I was fitting the chair to him. He said, `I can almost sit in this chair and meditate.' He gave the final approval to do it."

Taslitz designed the oversized chairs, which incorporate the same motion as a rocking chair for Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jackson and Luc Longley.

The chairs were worth about $800, but Taslitz refused to take any money from the team. He just had one request: Give him the chairs whenever the championship team splits up.

That happened after the Bulls' sixth championship in 1998, so Taslitz picked up the chairs.

"That was sort of a sad day," he said.

Since then, the chairs have been stuck in storage. Jordan's exit from the game took away Taslitz's excitement for basketball. But that old feeling has come back as he watches a young Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat soar through the playoffs.

It made him think of the chairs.

Taslitz hired an eBay consultant to help position Jordan's former seat. Wellington resident Daryl Thompson, who has auctioned more than 2,000 items on eBay for herself and others, devised a selling strategy. The first priority was getting fantastic pictures with her digital camera, then came the writing.

"I always believe in a really good description," she said. "I'm going to sell the chair but I'm also going to sell [Taslitz] because he has the experience in ergonomics and design and also sports."

Thompson sat in the chair designed for the 6-foot-6 Jordan. Her legs dangled like a child's in an adult chair.

"I could sit there and imagine all the things he did," she said.

Taslitz came up with the $200,000 starting bid after finding chairs of royalty often sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Plus, many admirers have paid top dollar to walk in his shoes. Jordan's game shoes and his rookie card often go for thousands on eBay, Thompson said.

Now, admirers will have a chance to sit in his chair.

Chicago news anchor Warner Saunders, who covered the Jordan dynasty, thinks it will go quickly to a Chicago Bulls fan.

"The fact his butt was planted in that chair, it's enough for them to buy," said Saunders, who sits in one of Taslitz's chairs at the anchor desk. "The king has had some taint to his name, but he's still king."

Angel Streeter can be reached at astreeter@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6643.

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