Friday, April 20, 2012

#0052: 1991 NBA Trading Cards

Ahh, the world of sport in the 90s. In retrospect, it was likely the highlight of my otherwise dismal existence as a fan of far too many lackluster franchises. The Blue Jays would become back to back World Series champs. The BC Lions would claim their third Grey Cup. The Raptors and Grizzlies would premiere on the courts. The Canucks and Titans would each end a season in the championship game.

And what now? The Jays haven't been back in the playoffs since, the Grizzlies skipped town, and the Titans started the millennium by falling a yard short. The Canucks continue to collapse in the Finals, causing riots in downtown Vancouver, so at least nothing has changed there. Happy face.

I cannot say I was following the NBA with any interest in the year of 1991, because I was three, and there was a distinct lack of Ninja Turtles and Thomas the Tank Engine on the courts. Despite this, I somehow managed to acquire, and maintain for over 20 years, various NBA trading cards. For roughly half of those years, I kept them under the presumed pretense that they would have any value. Today, I now know the exact extent of that value: $1.49 each. Not quite as lofty as I'd hoped.

Because of my lacking 90s NBA knowledge, I can't say most of these cards arouse any form of nostalgia within me. Indeed, the most amusing thing about them is looking at all of the silly old logos and dated haircuts.

But, like all trading cards, these players held hope and promise when these photos were taken. Some truly believed they could be the next Wilt Chamberlain. Others would prove to be as atrocious as Bryant Reeves (my perennial NBA whipping boy). In fact, armed with the power of the future, let's see how these bad boys panned out, shall we?

Charles Oakley, New York Knicks, drafted 1985
We start with a familiar face; Charles Oakley would later go on to be a mean-ass mofo for Toronto, a reputation that has kept him beloved in the eyes of us Raptor fans. While the young whelps McGrady and Carter were starting to zip around the court, Charles Oakley was just a big, grouchy old man who liked to rough people up. He was like a lovable drunk uncle, only less traumatizing. He played in the NBA for 20 seasons, with the height of his success occurring in 1994.

Negele Knight, Phoenix Suns, drafted 1990
Here we move onto (iPhone wanted me to say 'move into', which I feel is a little creepy) a man who played six NBA seasons, ending with one year as a Raptor. Toronto is a bit like the elephant graveyard of basketball players; their careers either die there, or they flee from the baying hyenas. Charles Oakley is Mufasa. As you might have surmised from the lack of relevant Negele Knight information, he would not turn out to be a prolific player. His best year was 1994, when he averaged 9.3 points per game. My best year was also 1994, when I played lots of Donkey Kong Country.

Antoine Carr, Sacramento Kings, drafted 1983
This one's a little cheeky, because Antoine was already old by the year of 1991, so we already know he had a good run. The dude is only thirteen years younger than my dad, man. Now NBA players are younger than I am. This makes me feel old. This no doubt makes Antoine Carr feel very old. He bounced around the pro courts for sixteen years, his last NBA stint with the Vancouver Grizzlies. So apparently Toronto isn't the only Canadian city that can claim old, worn out basketball players. The magic of Naismith, says I.

Marcus Liberty, Denver Nuggets, drafted 1990
Without any prior knowledge to base my opinion on, I assumed Marcus Liberty to have had a short career. I state this, simply because I don't like his face. He looks pretty dopey, and has a flat-top hairstyle that couldn't possible escape the early 90s. Surely enough, he would only last in the NBA to 1994. To his credit however, he continued to play professionally around the world until 2002. His card bio states that 'his size and rebounding capabilities make him a complete package for any style offense'. They read a little bit like a résumé, actually.

John Stockton, Utah Jazz, drafted 1984
He was kinda okay. He had a better haircut than Marcus Liberty, at least.

Rex Chapman, Charlotte Hornets, drafted 1988
The Hornets' first ever signing, Rex Chapman had a 12-year career, and ended up being a fan favorite in a few of the stops along the way. I used to like the Charlotte Hornets, because we owned a stuffed bee plush that was pretty damned cool. Nowadays, the Charlotte Hornet image has been relegated only to the caps of hundreds of posers brandishing it because it's 'retro'. I seriously hate these goddamn fools who wear these hats with no affinity towards the franchise they're wearing. Unless someone had the balls to pull out a Decatur Staleys hat. Now that would be retro. And almost 100 years old, so probably also very smelly.

Rod Strickland, San Antonio Spurs, drafted 1988
For seventeen years, Strickland would hit the courts, which unfortunately closes out my prior theory that any of these guys turned out to be major busts. The second-last season of Strickland's career was in, you guessed it, Toronto. He would later be involved with basketball operations for the University of Kentucky. There's a picture of him during that UK stint, and he actually looks better there than he did in 1991. I'm actually under the impression that African-American men don't age. Have you seen Eddie Murphy lately? He looks like a million bucks.

Kevin Johnson, Phoenix Suns, drafted 1987
As you can plainly see, this one was not from the same series as the other cards. I'm fairly certain it came from a cereal box, and it's still in it's original packaging. This makes it seem more mystical than it actually is. Johnson played very successfully for the Suns for twelve years. More importantly however, he is the mayor of Sacramento. Whatever argument you held prior to this, it is now null and void. Mayor of Sacramento, man. Just look at that cheeky grin he had back in 1991, I guess he knew it was coming.

"Ripcord" Jose' Hardball
Not a basketball player. Not a card from 1991. Not a real person. But he does have the ability to hyper-extend his left leg, which allows him to cover the entire infield while keeping his foot on first base. Me personally, I thought this sounded like cheating, but later it occurred to me that Kevin Johnson is the mayor of Sacramento. So I didn't pursue the matter further.

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