The NBA got more than 35 of its top rookies to take a day off from their rookie camps to get photographed for their first NBA-licensed trading cards. It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.
The nine-hour event on Aug. 14 in Tarrytown, N.Y., was a great way for the NBA stars of the future to meet the media and have a lot of fun in the process. Most of the NBA rookies were once collectors and they wanted to make the most of the experience, especially since they may never see these same players again in one place.
The event is really important to the two NBA trading card licensees, Topps and Upper Deck, who use the photos to create a variety of themes ranging from action photos to themed backgrounds.
“Every year the card companies pick the stations,” said Lisa Goldberg, NBA senior director of trading cards and memorabilia. “This year they got some great action shots and there were brick backgrounds. Fans can look forward to getting some cool trading cards for the beginning of the season.”
With Topps handing out a supply of each rookie’s first cards, trading and interactivity among the players soon followed.
“Now that I am going to be on cards I will get more into it,” said Quincy Doby of the Sacramento Kings, who was the 19th overall pick. “Hopefully, I will trade with some of the guys here, get their cards and autographs, and have a good time.”
Dallas Mavericks guard Maurice Ager, who averaged nearly 20 points per game in his senior year at Michigan State, is another player who was a collector.
“I still got cards stashed away somewhere at home,” he said. “Everybody tried to get the Michael Jordan card. I have a lot. Jason Kidd rookie cards, Shaq, Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill.”
Players are very aware of each other’s contracts. Former Duke star J.J. Redick, who was selected 11th overall by the Orlando Magic, was one of those players and he did mention his Topps exclusive while he was at the Upper Deck booth. After a few laughs, he really opened up.
“I was a collector growing up,” said the 11th overall pick. “I’m doing these poses where I’m flying through the air and cocking it back like I am dunking it hard. First of all, if I get a dunk it’s going to be a squeaker. I’m barely going to get it over the rim. The classic one should see me shooting and I would like to incorporate some runners and some floaters in there. Yeah, that would be nice.”
This event is part of the process of these young players learning to become pros. Maurice Clarett’s woes were a topic, for instance, with players stating this was a good lesson for them to learn, to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Jordan Farmar (drafted 26th overall) said the money he got paid from both card companies really came in handy, and even if he gets a huge NBA contract some day, he said he’s fairly frugal and will save most of his money except for a “crib and a few good cars.”
Farmar had some pictures taken with his younger sister, Shoshana.
“Looking at cards growing up you would see all of the guys and big names like Upper Deck and having your own card in there, when you open the pack up and I remember baseball cards having a stick of gum in there and I looked forward to that,” Farmar said. “And now maybe my little sister can open one up and look forward to seeing me in there.”
The Upper Deck booth was groovin’ with some tunes, and players like Knicks pick Renaldo Balkman (20th overall) were bustin’ some moves before UD started to snap some poses of the forward.
“The NBA rookie photo shoot is a great opportunity for us to get all of the top guys,” Upper Deck’s Don Williams said. “This is really our first chance to get them for the collectors. We had three of our top guys show up in LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2 overall selected by Portland), Tyrus Thomas (No. 4 overall selected by Chicago), and Rudy Gay (drafted No. 8 by Houston, traded to Memphis), they were great and collectors have a lot to look forward to.”
The NBA showed off NBA Live ’07 from EA Sports. The game had the rookies in there and they had the chance to play against the other prospects. Seeing themselves in the game was certainly a thrill.
As is the case at any photo shoot event, there are some players that don’t make it for one reason or another. The most notable was Toronto Raptors prospect and first overall pick Andrea Bargnani. He had a prior commitment.
The day before the shoot, a lucky hobby shop owner got a chance to have two of the top 10 prospects at her store to sign autographs and greet her customers. It was Gay, who the locals knew from UConn, and Randy Foye (Boston picked him seventh), who played his college ball at Villanova.
“The customers were very happy to see these young guys,” said Jenn McClaren, the general manager of American Legends. “They were sweet, friendly with the kids, and the customers were ecstatic. We had over 100 people. The NBA was quite pleased and we were, too.”
The photo shoot helps the card companies expedite the rookie cards of these future greats and collectors can expect to start seeing them in sets. This year the NBA started a few new programs.
“I would say it was very successful,” Goldberg said. “It was the first time we had two of the prospects at a local hobby shop. The turnout at the hobby shop was incredible. We also had contest winners on hand from a Target promotion and the same hobby shop, and kids from Top of the Class, a promotion from Topps with kids that had a good report card. All of the contest winners couldn’t have raved more.”