Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Basketball Project? Walt Wesley & Stu Lantz

Modern baseball and hockey card sets just haven't done much for me in recent years.  Though they're the two sports I actually follow most closely, I don't think the monopolies that Topps has on baseball or Upper Deck has on hockey are good for collectors of either sport.  I still enjoy collecting older cards for both sports, but just can't get excited about much of the newer stuff, with a few admitted exceptions.

Thinking back on it, one of the things that was most enjoyable to me about collecting as a kid in the early '90s was the fact that the teams, players, jerseys, photos and even card designs themselves were so foreign to me that it was kind of adventurous.  We didn't have the internet, so cards were the way that I learned about so many of the players from my youth.  I saw the design of a card set when I first got my grubby kid hands on the cards themselves spilling from a wax pack, not in a preview image posted online by the manufacturer six months before release date.

In an attempt to recapture just a sliver of that feeling I suppose, I decided recently that I'd try collecting a vintage basketball set.  I've never collected basketball cards in earnest at any point in my life, and I don't intend to start now other than this small project.  I also don't follow NBA basketball at all really.  Never have, and don't think I have the time or desire to start anytime soon.  I'm hoping that's what will make this project fun though, as nearly every single player and team will be completely foreign to me, just like when I was pulling cards out of '89-90 OPC hockey at the kitchen table back in the day.

The set I decided on ended up being 1971-72 Topps.  There were three main reasons for this.  First, I really wanted to go '70s, and preferably early '70s, just to enhance that strangeness factor I mentioned above.  Next, I love the design, some similarities to the '71-72 hockey set I adore so much.  Glorious bright colors and interesting facial hair abound!  Finally, the set weighs in at a relatively scant 233 cards, which doesn't seem all that overwhelming.

The first card I grabbed was Cleveland Cavaliers center Walt Wesley, on COMC back on February 22nd, for 60 cents.  With that purchase, a project was born.

I'm of course aware of the Cleveland Cavaliers, if you're a sports fan in general it would have been nearly impossible to ignore Lebron James over the past 10-15 years.  Through this card and the reading it inspired me to do though, I learned that the Cavaliers joined the NBA via expansion in 1970.

Cleveland took the 6'11" center in the expansion draft that year, and he went on to have some notable games with the club.  Walt wasn't particularly known for his scoring, but he put up 36 and 50-point games that first season.  All of that while wearing shorts of a length that I'm fairly certain is illegal these days anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line...

The backs certainly don't waste any real estate, with a healthy bio (where career stats are short enough to support one), vitals, a cartoon, and an easy-to-read card number.  While the card fronts are the star of the show, this isn't half bad.

Here's the other card I grabbed to kick this project off, guard Stu Lantz of the Houston Rockets.  It just so happens that the first two cards I landed are from franchises that are still around today, so I didn't hit a home run with my "foreign to me" premise this first time out, but I'm still intrigued.  I did learn that the Rockets had just moved to Houston from San Diego the year prior to this card's release, and I can certainly say I've never heard of the San Diego Rockets before.

It turns out Lantz is better known for his color commentary work than for his playing career.  I did not realize this, but he's apparently been the color commentator for the Lakers radio broadcasts since 1987!  I wonder if he still has those same sideburns?

So, there you have it, two cards from the '71-72 Topps basketball set.  Will this project go cold on the back burner as a few others have over the history of this blog, or will this give me enough totally random variety to keep me interested for a while?  Hopefully it's the latter, but I guess time will tell.

Have you ever collected something that's completely outside your normal collecting wheelhouse so to speak?  If so I'd love to hear what, and why, in the comments!  Thanks as always for stopping by...

1971-72 Topps Basketball Progress - 2 / 233 (1%)

7 comments:

Mark Hoylr said...

This is a great set. First hoop set I did as a kid. I should have some dupes

Billy Kingsley said...

Ooh, finally some stuff I can send to you! Time to dig into my dupes boxes! This is the oldest basketball set you can hope to complete without having to drop $100 or more on a single card. I did, in 2004. I won't spoil it but you are going to learn some cool stuff over the course of this project...one hint I will give you...try and pick up the Nate Tiny Archibald card sooner than later. He has a form of cancer that is untreatable and the card prices will go up when the cancer wins.

Billy Kingsley said...

Oh, to answer your question, yes, hockey for me. I had zero knowledge going in but everything I can learn is like gold to me. Now it's mostly taken over my life. Every day, is hockey day.

CaptKirk42 said...

Cool set to pursue. I should try it sometime. I still need to get all of the Bullets (in Baltimore then) from that Set.

Fuji said...

Considering I collect almost everything related to cardboard, I'm not sure if there's anything that qualifies for outside of my collecting wheelhouse. That being said... I've thought about collecting the 1972-73 basketball set, since I already own the Dr. J rookie card.

gregory said...

Whoa, I've been thinking about putting together an '80s or '70s football set for the same reason. (Like you, I'm a baseball and hockey guy.) It's a really cool idea. Looking forward to more vintage basketball posts here!

Commishbob said...

I saw Stu Lantz play for the Rockets back when they first came from San Diego and played on the U of Houston campus. Good times. I had forgotten that he was doing radio.

Collecting outside my wheelhouse? Sure, two things come to mind. I have quite a few Olympic pins (inexpensive ones) despite the fact that the Olympics hold little interest for me now that boxing and wrestling are minor parts of the Summer Games and hockey is now just a pro exhibition event. The other thing pertains to me collecting the set of state quarters that the mint did over several years. I know nothing about coin collecting other than the quarters were pretty cool. I'm collecting the national park quarters now, too.

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