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Nothin' But Net: Signed Basketballs are the Ultimate Collectibles

They take up a lot of space, but signed basketballs are the supreme choice for basketball fans. Amogn the players currently signing are Robert Parish and Muggsy Bogues.

Signed basketballs are one of my favorite items to collect. I have received several through-the-mail successes and have also purchased a few from dealers. The roundball is also a great item to bring along to an in-person signing.

Collecting in the basketball niche offers many great options, as the wooden floorboard is another one of my preferred items. No longer available at Home Depot, Lowes, etc., since they discontinued the brick of 12 sq.-ft. boards – I got lucky this week and found an unopened pack as one of our local thrift stores. Still in shrink wrap, I had to pay $13 for it, but it gives me 40 more chances to score some great autographs.

Over the years, I have used a few different markers when getting basketballs signed, from black and blue Sharpies, to silver, gold and black paint pens. I have found that black Decocolor paint pens work the best, giving you a solid bold black signature that will last forever without fading or smearing, as long as you handle it correctly. The gold or silver also work well – just be careful with the smearing.

Magic man
A few years ago, L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson launched a clothing and sneaker line dubbed “Magic32.” There were also Magic32 full size basketballs for sale at the in-store promotional appearances that Magic made throughout the U.S. As you can imagine, Magic’s signature has always been in demand with the way he played the game and his winning personality. All you had to do was purchase an item at the store, and Magic would sign it free of charge. Unfortunately, Magic wasn’t doing any appearances in my neck of the woods, but I had to have one of those balls.

Lakers purple and yellow, the balls had a glossy finish and were emblazoned with the Magic32 logo. I watched the online auctions for weeks and ended up nailing one for about half the going price. The trick was searching on Magic32 instead of Magic Johnson autograph. There were not many collectors searching those keywords, and not many sellers were using those keywords to list. But there were a few, and I now had my ball. For the glossy finish balls, the black Sharpie looks best – the paint pen would run or smear on a glossy surface.

The Chief responds
One of the guys on the other side of the ball when Magic’s Lakers were going toe-to-toe with Larry Bird’s Celtics was Robert “The Chief” Parish. Within the past year, collectors began reporting successes through-the-mail for Parish.

We sent out a full-size ball and waited. About a month later, the postman brought it safely back signed across one of the panels in black. For a while there was some debate as to whether or not these were the real deal or were signed by someone else, but I am convinced they are probably real after looking at several authentic examples and comparing them to the examples that are coming back in the mail.

Parish is a four-time NBA champion, winning three with Larry and the Celtics. He played until he was 43 years old and still holds the record for most games played, at 1,611 games.

Sacramento jams for Jimmer
After a crazy draft day that saw BYU’s Jimmer sporting a Milwaukee Bucks hat, a three-team trade finally landed Jimmer in Sacramento.

After nearly packing up and leaving town, the Sacramento Kings managed to hang around for another season, assuming there is a season. What they need is an attraction and someone that can put more people in the seats. Jimmer is definitely going to create a buzz in town, whether you think he can play in the NBA or not.

But they are going to want to see him play, not ride the pine. Do I think he can play with the big boys in the Association? I do. He’s not as small as people think, standing 6’2”. And it’s hard to defend a guy that can shoot from anywhere on the court. He’s going to need to improve his defense, but I think he’s going to gain another legion of fans in California. There’s just something magical about Jimmer, and I have bought in. How you could watch the tournament in March and not like the kid?

When Jimmer was announced for a Sacramento mall appearance with two other rookies landed in the draft, the fans went ballistic. Jimmer has still been returning fan mail sent to BYU, but I’m guessing that window is closed and the workers handling the mail from the Kings will soon be pissed.
Jimmer signed a mini basketball through the mail a few months ago.

Little man legend
There have been several little guys who have made a statement in the NBA. Spud, Muggsy, and even today’s Nate Robinson come to mind.

But Muggsy Bogues has always been my favorite, and I think he was still the best among the short guys. At 5’3”, he wasn’t just an anomaly – he made an impact and played day in and day out to help his team. I met him at a charity event several years ago, and it was the only time I posed with a NBA guy that was shorter than me (I’m 5’6”). It was a pleasure to meet Bogues, and he signed several items for me, including a black basketball penned in silver.

Hanging with Hurley
A few summers ago, Duke legend Bobby Hurley came to town to run a basketball skills camp for youths. He was a very good teacher, and I picked up some great coaching tips and techniques. Hurley still holds the NCAA all-time assists record with 1,076, and he won back-to-back championships with Duke in 1991-92. He played in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings but suffered injuries in a serious car accident his rookie season. He came back and played a few more years, but he was never the same.

After the camp, Hurley signed a ball for me in silver paint pen. Recently, collectors have had good luck with him through the mail.

Dirk update
Well, three weeks after winning Finals MVP and taking home the NBA championship, Nowitzki is back signing his fan mail. I opened my mailbox to find two different envelopes from the Mavericks, each sent a few days apart. He signed both newsstand Sports Illustrated issues in under a month.

Has there ever been a Finals MVP who signs his fan mail three weeks after winning it all? I doubt it. Dirk is unbelievable, both on the court and off.

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