The fears that have plagued basketball collectors and fans for the past year were finally realized when David Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the NBA regular season. Despite glimmers of hope that the two sides were burning the midnight oil to come to a last-second agreement, in reality, the owners and the players are no closer to an agreement than they were when the lockout started. Both sides seem united on their respective fronts and appear unlikely to budge on their demands. However, time and money can change things in a hurry so a lost season isn't guaranteed.
The Impact of the NBA Lockout on the Hobby
The main question for collectors at this point is how the lockout will affect basketball card production for the 2011-12 season? The prospects look very grim. Without a deal, there will be no season. Without a season, it looks like there will be no official NBA cards.
Basketball card production is a little easier to track than other sports because there are only two main producers. Panini has exclusive NBA rights and Upper Deck is always good for college-themed products. A big draw for Upper Deck is that they have exclusive autograph and memorabilia card rights to hobby heavyweights Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Currently, Panini hasn't announced any 2011-12 products and have remained tight-lipped about the situation. Upper Deck has 2011-12 SP Authentic Basketball scheduled for later this month, which will reportedly include at least two unnamed autographs from players hoping to make their NBA debut this year.
From there, the future is unknown. Assuming the worst happens, collectors will be faced with a bizarre scenario for the modern era where two different draft classes will have their official debut cards in the same year.
A silver lining can be found if you look hard enough. Card prices have dipped significantly since the NBA Finals ended. Unopened products, especially from 2010-11, have dropped tremendously. This is partly due to the weaker rookie class, but there is plenty of talent to be cultivated from that group. Now is the time to jump on players and products that could be valuable in the future.
Basketball will be back at some point. There is no question about that. And when it finally does return, be it this season or next, the values and interest should return as well. But how long will it take collectors to forgive?