Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Upper Deck's Memorabilia Cards: Stop With Photo Shoot Ones

I’m a big fan of Upper Deck. Have been since the very first set in 1989. Still love to open packs and their cards are the best in the business. But once a year, I find something that completely confuses me. I just pulled this Joakim Noah card from Upper Deck’s “Rookie Threads” box. Take a look at it and tell me if you notice anything wrong.

To my knowledge, the Chicago Bulls have never worn yellow in their jerseys and when Yoakim Noah played in college, his Florida Gators jerseys never had a tinge of yellow in it.

So how did this piece of jersey wind up paired with Joakim Noah? Let’s take a look at the back of the card.

It says that it is a piece of jersey taken from the rookie photo shoot. Before we get into why Joakim Noah would ever put on a yellow jersey of any sort, let me just say that I detest these rookie photo shoot used items. These guys don’t even play in it and they are put in cards. The truth is that they are not even wearing these jerseys for the photo on the card. As I revealed in a report I did for ESPN in 2003these guys are told to try on and take off jerseys and that’s often what is put in the card. Let me just note that I wasn’t at this shoot so I don’t know if it happened in this case. But something is not right.

Take a look at this Corey Brewer/Joakim Noah card.  Here it becomes clear that what Noah was wearing this is clearly not a Bulls or Florida jersey and Corey Brewer is not wearing a Timberwolves jersey either.

The question is why? This photo shoot took place in August, five weeks after these guys were drafted and already knew what teams they were on. Brewer was on the Timberwolves (no red) and Noah was on the Bulls (no blue). Combine that with the fact that here you see Noah posing for a shot at the rookie photo shoot wearing a Bulls jersey.

So I went to Upper Deck with these questions and this is what I was told by spokesman Terry Melia. “The color scheme was created based on Noah’s affinity toward the Golden State Warriors throwback jersey that was used as part of the NBA Rookie Photo Shoot,” Melia wrote by e-mail. “He loved it and wore it around a while.”

Wow, now I’m really confused. Joakim Noah liked a Warriors jersey so he wore it and it was put on the card with no explanation of what it was. Just wondering, what throwback was Brewer wearing?

I thought my report on and on “Outside the Lines” would have done something to change the industry. I’m hoping that bringing this to light again will bring it a step closer to ending this stupid segment of the business. Game-used jersey cards are cool and relevant. Photo shoot used cards have to go.

Then again, I know this is all falling on deaf ears. As we speak the card companies are preparing jerseys to be worn for seconds for this weekend's NFL Rookie Photo shoot. But the card companies should look at this Noah/Brewer card and check out the price--it can't even get a 99-cent bid on eBay--and think twice about what they're doing.

Update: Upper Deck's Terry Melia just informed me that in subsequent releases, the basketball team agreed that "these types of behind-the-scenes scenarios not afforded to the collector needs to be shared (somehow) via the back of the card copy." With that, at least some of this would make sense.

Questions?  Comments?