Brandon Jennings got too good too fast.
The Milwaukee Bucks rookie guard, who skipped college ball by playing a year in Italy to satisfy the NBA age requirement, is all-of-a-sudden the talk of the league. Through nine games, the overall 10th pick in this year's draft is averaging 24.8 points a game, thanks in part to scoring 55 against the Golden State Warriors last Saturday.
No one expected him to be this kind of star, especially after Jennings returned from Europe having averaged less than eight points a game.
The league normally takes a wait-and-see approach on rookies, which is why if you want a Jennings jersey right now from the league’s official online store, you’ll have to customize it yourself. Because of the demand, we’re told all three of his authentic jerseys will hit the site soon.
And his basketball cards are exploding. Jennings has 13 of the top 20 cards on the “Basketball Hot List” in the upcoming issue of Beckett’s Sports Card Monthly.
“That’s simply unheard of,” Beckett Media publisher Tracy Hackler said.
Since Jennings’ 55-point performance, Hackler said his best cards have more than doubled in value. Hackler said Jennings has 76 different cards, the highest priced versions being the autographed cards, which are valued at $200 or higher.
"It really speaks to how starved the basketball market is for someone, anyone, to join the big two (Kobe and LeBron) and help basketball cards appeal to more folks," Hackler said. “Kudos to those collectors who were savvy enough to invest in Jennings’ cards early. Since he has already solidified himself as a Rookie of the Year candidate, the days of his cards appearing in someone’s bargain bin are over.”
Jennings is one of seven players who have memorabilia and autograph exclusives with Panini America, which has exclusive rights to make NBA cards. Panini spokesman Scott Prusha said Jennings will appear in a print ad for the company next month.
Jennings' biggest endorsement is with Under Armour , who signed him to a multi-year deal last year. Jennings is wearing Under Armour shoes with the Bucks, just like he wore last year with his Italian team, Lottomatica Virtus Roma. While the company has used him in advertising -- he was in a running ad and he's on point-of-purchase material at major sporting goods retailers -- the company isn't directly cashing in on Jennings because it hasn't announced when it will bring a basketball shoe to market.
That doesn't bother Steve Battista, Under Armour's senior vice president of brand.
"We never base a product line on an athlete," Battista said. "At Under Armour, it's brand first and athlete second and it's going to continue to be that way. No one athlete is bigger than the brand. That being said, we pride ourselves on having authentic athletes like Brandon."
Battista said the performance of Jennings, who happened to be wearing the shoes made for the Maryland basketball team on the night he scored 55 points, won't force executives to bring a basketball shoe to the market any sooner.
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