Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is reflecting upon five types of basketball memorabilia that I’ve collected over the years.
Although I’m still passionate about basketball, there’s nothing quite like your first foray into a new hobby or interest. When I first got hooked on hoops, I couldn’t get enough! I needed to read every magazine and learn everything I could about the NBA and its history. I eagerly devoured highlights and any full games that I was able to watch. If I saw a basketball player on a cover or poster, heard their name on the news, or simply caught mention of the word “basketball”, it grabbed my attention. I can’t imagine how much it must have bugged my parents, but they supported my interest.
Needless to say, there’s a ton of basketball and basketball-related memorabilia that one can collect. Over many years of following the sport, I’ve indulged my passion with a variety of collectibles and keepsakes. Of course, I haven’t sought to get my hands on absolutely every bit of basketball memorabilia that I can find. I’ve never been to an NBA game, so I don’t have any ticket stubs or programs, and I’m not looking to buy anyone else’s. I’ve also never been into figurines or pop vinyls, so they’re not in my collection. There are other things that I’ve enthusiastically collected though, and they represent many fond memories as a long-time hardcore hoop head.
1. Basketball Video Games
Let’s begin with an obvious example! While I’ve traded in a number of games over the years, including basketball titles, I did hold onto several of them. As the years went by and I gained some disposable income, I reacquired the games that I’d traded in, and also began expanding my collection beyond old favourites. Once I started to produce Wayback Wednesday content, I grew even more interested in collecting a much wider variety of basketball video games. It’s resulted in what I’d consider to be a fairly large collection! There are still a number of games that I don’t have, but I’ve picked up a majority of the titles that are readily available on the platforms that I actually own.
To that point, basketball video games are the memorabilia that I’m still actively collecting. Depending on what bargains I can find on consoles that I don’t yet own, I might be able to expand my collection further. Thanks to emulation and the right hardware, I can play NTSC and NTSC-J games, despite living in a PAL region. Video game collecting can be expensive though, so I’m always looking for deals, and only buying when I have the money to spare. It’s been incredibly rewarding to pick up rare titles – especially at a great price – and finally play some games for the first time. It’s certainly helped to diversify my content beyond NBA Live and NBA 2K, too!
2. Basketball Cards
Back in the 90s, I was in a very famous TV show into a very popular hobby. I feel like almost every boy my age collected basketball trading cards back then, even if they weren’t huge fans of the sport. Like most things that you could collect and trade, you hopped onto the trend. Incidentally, like most things that you could collect and trade, they were banned from my primary school because older kids were ripping off younger kids with unfair swaps! Anyway, my parents bought me some cards before I became a hardcore basketball junkie. Once my fandom was in full swing, I was saving up my loose change to buy packs, always hoping to get a cool Michael Jordan card.
I shared this ritual with my cousin when he came to stay in the school holidays. In between hitting the virtual hardwood and going outside to shoot around on my hoop, we’d trade with each other, including the right to select any card from a future pack (excluding MJ cards for me, and Shawn Kemp cards for him). We often talked about selling our collections for a fortune sometime in the future; the fact that we both still have our collections sums up how misguided that idea was! Mind you, I’m not sure that I ever truly wanted to do that. Outside of a couple of eBay purchases, I’m no longer collecting cards, but the ones I do have are nostalgic basketball memorabilia.
3. NBA Jerseys
Not long after I got my first real job, I took an interest in eBay. It wasn’t an addiction, but I did enjoy browsing for interesting items, and occasionally picking up some new collectible. Notably, I was briefly interested in collecting NBA jerseys. I had a couple of Michael Jordan jerseys growing up, and added a few more to the collection. When the Bulls made it back to the Playoffs in 2005, I celebrated my new fandom of Ben Gordon by picking up his jersey as well. Over the span of a couple of years, I also picked up Dwyane Wade and LeBron James jerseys, along with some Scottie Pippen and Larry Bird throwbacks, and even a Kevin Garnett Timberwolves retro uniform.
When I went to New York for the NBA Live 08 community event, I had a chance to visit the NBA Store. I went a little crazy, spending about $1000 AUD on my credit card; not the wisest decision, given that I’d been bumped back to casual/part time at my job! Considering that the rest of my trip was completely paid for by EA Sports, I weathered the cost, which included authentic Ben Gordon and Andrew Bogut jerseys. They’re easily the most expensive items in my jersey collection, but also some of the last that I purchased for some time. I did buy a Derrick Rose jersey, as well as a Patty Mills jersey after the 2014 NBA Finals, but I’ve since lost interest in collecting them.
4. NBA Game Tapes & DVDs
By 2002, I was already feeling nostalgic for the 90s. The Bulls weren’t doing well, Michael Jordan was back but playing for the Wizards, and both life and the league were changing as I entered my final year of high school. On top of that, because I live in Australia, I didn’t always get to watch Bulls games. I had NBA Action every week, and there was a Game of the Week on Channel Ten, but it wasn’t always a matchup I was keen on. In hindsight, I should’ve invested in more blank tapes, so that I didn’t have to record over so many games. I’m sure that I could’ve found a way to store all of those tapes so that I could enjoy those games whenever I felt like watching them.
In fact, I know I could, because I ended up doing it with VHS tapes and DVDs that I purchased! Around that time, I was put onto PonTel, a licensed distributor of NBA videos to the international market. I was able to buy so many classic games on VHS and later DVD, including ones I’d never seen before. I even managed to pick up some bootleg recordings off eBay, when that was still possible! Throw in the games that I recorded myself in later years, and I’ve got a decent collection of games up to the 2014 season. I even subscribed to PonTel’s weekly games service for a couple of seasons, so I’ve got a bunch of Baby Bulls games that I can re-watch as well.
Finally, the basketball memorabilia that I’ve collected over the years also includes basketballs themselves! As a young basketball fan, it was challenging to go past the sporting goods section of a department store and not feel tempted to buy another basketball. Sure, I already had one that I could take to school and shoot around with at home, but what if something happened to it? Wouldn’t it be better to have another one on hand? In the end, I always had a couple of basketballs that I was actively using, along with one or two in reserve. In addition to that however, I had basketballs that I never used, because I wanted to keep them in pristine condition as collectibles.
It began with a Michael Jordan basketball that I received for Christmas in 1996. My parents didn’t gift it to me with the intention of it being a collectible, but for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to use it and wear it out. And so, that basketball became memorabilia. Over the years, I picked up some other cool designs – such as a Chicago Bulls ball – that I couldn’t bear to use. They’ve become a small collection of basketballs that are strictly for show and posterity. As for basketballs that I am willing to play with, I do still have a couple, and indeed I keep one in my car. I can’t say why exactly, but if there’s ever an impromptu streetball tournament, I’ll be prepared!
What kind of basketball memorabilia is in your collection? Do you still enjoy collecting? Have your say in the comments, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.