Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sports Cards and Memories Presents: My History With Starting Lineups Part 3: Kenner loses it's NBA License To Mattel

One of the most devastating and critical events that first put a dent in my enthusiasm for starting lineups was when Kenner lost its NBA license. I couldn't believe that after the 1998 series, there would be no more NBA SLU's.  The 98 wasn't even anything special. It seemed like a hastily rushed set and there were no new players. There was a Kobe 2nd piece and a Magic Johnson as well, but for the most part the set wasn't too hot. I still bought em up like hot cakes (including Terrell Brandon and Vin Baker, lol) because it would be the last ever NBA Licensed Starting lineup set.
The Marbury piece from the final 98 NBA SLU Set

Basketball has always been my wheelhouse when it comes to collecting anything and that included Starting Lineup Figures. When Starting Lineups were taken away, I was crushed. Kenner tried to still make Basketball SLU's but in college uniforms (kinda like Upper Deck with cards) but it just wasn't the same. I didn't want Jason Kidd or Allen Iverson in college threads, I wanted them in the NBA uniforms.
 Just couldn't get excited about these College Basketball SLU's
Needing my NBA Basketball figure fix I had to try and rally behind the company that took over producing figures...Mattel. I wasn't really happy about it, but decided that I had no choice. The one thing Mattel had going for it? A Michael Jordan license. Now that was SOMETHING to get behind and it was very intriguing. MJ hadn't had a figure made since 1993 so sure it would be a hot figure to own right?? Ehhh, the product was lukewarm at best. I thought the figures looked cheaply made and though I bought some, it wasn't with the same enthusiasm as it was with SLU's. I know the Vince Carter rookie figure ended up being really hot, and there was some hard to find figures like Steve Francis and Larry Bird, but for the most part, I don't think Mattel's versions of SLU's were received that well. They overproduced MJ figures, churning out figure after figure and like I said, the figures themselves were just so underwhelming. Mattel would basically put out two series one in 98-99 and one in 99-00. I think it was mistake for the NBA to go with Mattel and not keep Kenner as the figure producer of the league. I mean in the long run, it wouldn't really matter because SLU's would be phased out in the early 2000's, but it definitely would've been sweet to see SLU rookie pieces of Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and Dirk. This was definitely the beginning of the end for me and SLU's.
The Mattel NBA Superstars Line....Yawn...never got into it, not even with the greatest basketball player of all time in the set 


  1. I have a few of the Mattel Jordan pieces & agree... they weren't as nice as the Kenner pieces.

    On the other hand, I'd love to get my hands on one of those Jason Kidd CAL SLU's. But they're pretty rare.

  2. I actually owned the Kidd, but had no idea how rare it was at the time and sold it for like 10 bucks, lol.

    1. I hear ya... I think we've all done something similar at some point in the hobby. Just wish I was the one paying the $10 ;-)