Mars and "Money" Jordan on Basketball Collectibles
As a fun way of looking at basketball antiques, let's look in on Michael Jordan and Spike Lee's famous "it's the shoes," bike-messenger character, Mars Blackmon.
Mars: "Yo! Money, Money, Money, Money, Money … whachya got in the bag Mike?"
Jordan: "Basketball collectibles, Mars. Just picked up a number of great purchases I made at a sports memorabilia auction."
Mars: "Basketball antiques? Yo, Mike, everybody knows basketball is the fastest growing and most exciting sport in the world. But nobody, but nobody, but nobody collects old basketball stuff. Golf, baseball, horseracing, even old fishing lures and weird gear like that … that's what them antique gurus go for. Nobody, but nobody, but nobody buys basketball collectibles.
Jordan: "That's why I am investing in the category, Mars. Venture into antique collections not yet collected, before prices go up."
Mars: "Yo, Mike, you're starting to sound like that Yogi Bear catcher dude from the Yankees. Feelin' all right? Are ya, are ya, are ya? Not thinking about playing baseball or trying to be a golf pro again?"
Jordan (laughing): "No Mars."
Mars: "So, watch ya got in the sack, my Main Man?"
Jordan (pulling two old balls out of the overstuffed bag): "These are the first basketballs, Mars. Following 1891, when the sport was invented, the first balls were soccer balls like this one here. (Jordan dribbles the soccer ball) They shot them into peach basket goals with solid bottoms. Ladders were used to retrieve made baskets. A few years later, when metal rings and cord nets were introduced, they began using rubber inner tube balls with leather coverings secured with tied laces, like this one here." (Mike shows a brown leather ball with a 6" line of laces on one side. It is worn and deflated.)
Mars: "That looks more like a medicine ball than a b-ball, Mike! How'd they dribble that ball with them laces? Wouldn't it bounce sideways? Did that basketball belong to the George Mikan fella? That first big tall superstar dude from the Minneapolis Lakers? Did it Money … did it, did it did it?"
Jordan: "Paid $75 for this basketball, Mars. If an early star like Mikan or Bob Pettit, or Russell or Bob Cousey had signed it or definitely played ball with it, I would have paid much more. Besides, way before the 1950's they were using seamless rubber and leather balls. Lace was long gone. According to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, Dr. James Naismith was under orders from Dr. Luther Gulick, head of Physical Education at the School for Christian Workers: he was given 14 days to create an indoor game that would provide an "athletic distraction" for a rowdy class through the brutal New England winter."
Mars: "Rowdy … in Springfield? Naismith's lucky he wasn't teaching in my hometown. It would take a little more than peach baskets to settle my boys down."
Jordan: Naismith's invention didn't come easily. Getting close to the deadline, he struggled to keep the class' faith. His first intention was to bring outdoor games indoors. He tried soccer and lacrosse but they didn't work out. Finally, at his wits' end, a simple phys-ed teacher developed basketball's original 13 rules and consequently, the game of basketball. It's the only major sport wholly U.S. in origin."
Mars: "Before we had all them geeks from Europe and China coming over here and messing with our sport, right Mike? They even got girls playin' pro ball now! Ain't the way it should be, is it Money?"
To Mars' great distress, his hero pulls out a huge Houston Rocket jersey worn by 7'5" Chinese rookie, Yao Ming and a #10 game-worn jersey from WNBA star, Sue Bird. He also shows a flattened 18 oz. Wheaties Cereal Box featuring 1989 world champions, Detroit Pistons (value $10), a 1951-52 Baltimore Billet home schedule matchbook cover ($35), a 1948 Foul Shooting trophy ($35), an early 20th century group shot of a basketball team holding a leather lace ball ($10), an old sign referring to a "Basketball Court" ($300) and finally, (to Mars' even greater dismay) a 1980-81 Topp's Tri-Rookie card featuring an image of Rookie, Larry Bird ($250).
Mars: "Not the Birdman money! I hate the Celtics almost as much as I hate disease! Man they were so ugly: Bird-beak (referring to Larry Bird), Herman Munster (referring to Celtic forward Kevin McHale), Chief (Robert Parish) and the Black Man with Freckles (referring to Dennis Johnson). Like that dude said on TV, if it weren't for Danny Ainge, those Celtics never would have gotten their picture taken. They would have had put all their games on the radio!"
Jordan (smiling): "Bird, Magic, Kareem, Worthy … those 1980's Celtics and Lakers were great teams, Mars. When it comes to sporting antiques, popularity rules. I am on the lookout for all categories of basketball antiques: old equipment, early jerseys, signs and billboards, basketball related advertising, board games, early magazines, cards, photos, anything that has historic, intellectual or graphic interest. Some people are even collecting old basketball shoes.
Mars: "Whew! You mean they're antiques too? Those tall leather sneakers from the really old days and old Cons (Converse All Stars) and Keds and P.F. Flyers … they're worth money?
Jordan (nodding): Even early Reeboks and Nikes."
Mars (Eyeing Jordan's sneakers): Say Money, remember those Nikes I lent you a long ways back, when you were just kind of getting started as a ballplayer? You remember … when I said, "Yo, Mars Blackmon here with my main man, Michael Jordan" and I spotted you them Nike shoes?"
Michael Jordan shakes his head in disgust, throws his bag over his shoulder and begins walking away, leaving Mars talking to himself in the parking lot.
Mars (following Jordan and pleading): "You do remember them shoes were a LOAN, Money. You know, like something that eventually gets "returned." Still got 'em, Mike, right? Doesn't ya … don't ya, don't ya, don't ya …?"