Issue 7: When Basketball Cards Turn Weird

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I used to collect basketball cards when I was growing up. Well, maybe “collect” isn’t a great term, since I certainly wasn’t pursuing rare, uncut gems (similar to how Adam Sandler does in the movie Uncut Gems, except in my case, I was after basketball cards, not valuable diamonds). Rather, I would simply buy a pack of cards and see what goodies it contained.

While other people might be seeking that rare Michael Jordan, Zion Williamson, or CJ McCollum card, I was always drawn to the bizarre, outside the box masterpieces.

Even if you’ve never held a basketball card in your hand, I hope you can appreciate the weirdness of these five.

Wesley Person is Underwater

Wesley Person Basketball Card Underwater

My collection did get up to a pretty sizable amount — I’d estimate it peaked around 2,000 to 3,000 cards. But this is one I owned that has always stuck with me. What in the world is going on here?

No professional basketball game has ever been played underwater. There were a few NCAA games played on aircraft carriers, which has the potential of a ball bouncing into the sea. But still, that’s nothing like this.

How intense do you think this photoshoot was? Did they have to do dozens of takes or did Person nail this on the first try? Did the ball ever slip out of his hands and shoot up to the surface? Did Person and Steve Nash suggest their underwater and hockey basketball cards or did someone else come up with that idea?

So many questions, and we may never have the answers.

Anfernee Hardaway Creating a Penny

Anfernee Hardaway Penny Magician Basketball Card

In his prime, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was one of the smoothest players on the court. And he was perhaps even more smooth off of it with his Lil’ Penny commercials, starring Chris Rock as a mini action figure that hung out with Big Penny.

There are plenty of cards where Penny is making a nice play on the court. However, there’s only one where he’s a disembodied magician turning a basketball into a penny.

Thank you, Fleer, for giving us a spectacular work of art here.

Elliot Perry Living Up to His Nickname

Elliot Perry Socks Bathtub Fleer Basketball Card

As you’ll see, Upper Deck is a frequent member of this list. Their 90s cards, in particular — which you can still get at a reasonable price — really embraced some of the “off the court” activities of the featured players.

Elliot Perry was a fine guard in his day. He spent more than a decade in the NBA and now owns a part of the Memphis Grizzlies.

But his most recognizable feature? His tall knee socks, which he wore in every game. The footwear was so prevalent, Perry’s nickname was simply “Socks.”

Perry bounced around the league quite a bit, playing for eight teams in all. At the start of the 1996-97 season, he moved from Phoenix to Milwaukee. And how did he celebrate?

By hopping into a bathtub full of socks. I can’t imagine anything better.

Fly, Martin Müürsepp, Fly

Martin Muursepp Miami Heat Dunk Card

Former NBA player and now Estonian coach Martin Müürsepp holds the distinction of being the only NBA player whose name has back-to-back umlauts (those dots over the u’s). Alas, that was one of the highlights of his NBA career.

Müürsepp only spent two seasons in the league, splitting time between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. In fact, he played a mere 10 games for Miami, so this card is something of a collector’s item.

The pose also looks a little less silly when Aaron Gordon does the same thing during the dunk contest.

The Entire Charlotte Hornets Roster in Space

Charlotte Hornets in Space NBA Hoops Basketball Card

In the early 90s, basketball cards still weren’t really a big deal. Baseball cards were outselling them 1,000 to 1, and the basketball card industry as a whole was only making about $500,000 per year.

Luckily, the folks at Skybox and NBA Hoops knew just what to do: put players and coaches in bizarre settings, looking goofy as all getup.

There are a lot of gems in that link. The Los Angeles Lakers have a Weekend at Bernie‘s star in their photo. The Denver Nuggets appear to be doing a Wolf of Wall Street impression.

But it’s the Charlotte Hornets that are truly out of this world. Look at them all soaring through the sky! My favorite is Muggsy Bogues in the bottom right, who was clearly just prepping for his future role in Space Jam.

Speaking of Muggsy, here’s another great card of him with Kevin Garnett, who’s only 20 inches taller.

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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