The National Sports Collectors Convention (nsccshow.com) is an annual summer gathering of collectors/dealers who have a passion for trading cards, autographs, and any kind of memorabilia that you can think of. First formed in 1980, it is now the premier collectibles industry event that attracts a majority of the licensing agencies from around the professional sports world. The 37th “National” was held during the 1st week of August at the Atlantic City Convention Center, and next summer it will head back to the Midwest in Chicago. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel attended this year’s event and will present photo essay installments of all the college basketball merchandise he saw in person.
A lot of dealers who have college basketball memorabilia specialize in only 1 aspect, be it team jerseys, Final 4 ticket stubs, stuff specific to a school, etc. However, 1 of the most diverse collections I saw was courtesy of Hank Reizes, a retired police detective in Arizona who has a company called 99% Basketball. Hank was born in Venezuela and played basketball as a kid until he broke his arm in the 9th grade. He still loves the sport and remembers attending his very 1st pro basketball game at Madison Square Garden even though it was almost 50 years ago. He had all kinds of items from many different Hall of Famers, and here are 5 of my favorites:
1. Hall of Famer Julius Erving is still remembered as 1 of the greatest dunkers of all time, but most people have only seen video of his time in the ABA/NBA. When he played at Rucker Park in Harlem the crowd came up with nicknames for him like “Black Moses” and “Houdini”, but it eventually evolved into “Dr. J”. In 1968 Erving enrolled at the University of Massachusetts: he only played 2 seasons on the varsity but they were quite memorable, as he averaged 26.3 PPG/20.2 RPG to become 1 of a handful of players to ever average 20 & 20. He left school early to pursue a pro career, but despite these astronomical numbers he joined the ABA in 1971 as an undrafted(!) free agent with the Virginia Squires. In 1986 he earned his bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst through the University Without Walls program to fulfill a promise to his mother and he also holds an honorary doctorate from the school. This freshman photo of the Doctor and his teammates dates to 68, but is on sale for only $65.
2. This is a freshman team program that is signed by Erving, and even though he is not in the photo himself Hall of Fame signatures do not come cheap, so this 1 is listed for $350.
3. It would take a thick book to review Coach Dean Smith’s entire resume but among the highlights: 879 wins in 36 years of coaching, 35 consecutive seasons with a winning record, 27 NCAA tourneys, 11 Final Fours, and a pair of NCAA titles. 40 years ago he led team USA to a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and next spring marks the 65th anniversary of his 1952 NCAA title as a player at Kansas. Smith passed away last year at age 83, but his sartorial splendor and stunning signature lives on at a price of $150.
4. I thought I had seen almost every kind of collectible there is on the market until I was introduced to the concept of “leader discs”, which used to serve as lids to candy dishes. This rare 1 dates to 1934 and has a basketball player preparing to shoot the ball on top of an NYU pennant. Hank said he has only seen 2 of these in the past 35 years, which is why this 1 is valued at a whopping $600.
5. Last but certainly not least is an autographed Sports Illustrated cover from November of 1978 featuring Michigan State then-sophomore Earvin Johnson. Magic made quite an impact as a freshman: 17 PPG/7.9 RPG/7.4 APG, a Big 10 title, and a trip to the 1978 Elite 8 before a 52-49 loss to eventual champion Kentucky. SI was pretty prescient in its preview prognostication, as Magic finished the year with a 75-64 win over Indiana State in the title game en route to being named tourney MOP. It is a beautiful photo and a bold autograph, and it will cost you $750 to make it your own.