The first true basketball figures to be produced were Kenner’s
Starting Line-up figures in 1988. These figures remain popular with fans and
collectors to this day with an active secondary market on eBay.
Some of the more popular
basketball Starting Line-up figures can sell for upwards of $100, not bad on an
initial “investment” of only $1.99!
Kenner produced hundreds of these
figures and were the first company to introduce the concept of chase figures
and “short packed” figures.
Many of the figures were also
only produced, or targeted, to specific markets and weren’t available in other
areas of the country.
In 1998, after Hasbro bought
Kenner, Mattel decided to get in on the action and acquired the license to
produce NBA figures and a several series of figures, games and toys were
Both the NBA and Mattel had high
hopes for these but perhaps the timing was wrong as although these figures were
better sculpted and painted than the Starting Line-up figures they weren’t as
popular. This was possibly due to the bad press and difficulties the NBA were
going through at the time.
In fact Mattel probably wished
that they had stuck with cards!
Then in 2001 McFarlane Toys revolutionized
the market with their Sports Picks brand of figures. These figures were the
first to specifically targeted the older and more mature fan and collector with
excellent sculpting and paintwork that created a truly life like product.
raised the bar on how action figures were produced and marketed, as well as the
expectations of collectors and fans.
McFarlane’s figures were also
instrumental in re-establishing the popularity of the 6-inch scale figure which
had been replaced by the 3 ½ inch figure after the release and popularity of
the Kenner Star Wars figures.
Upper Deck, who is the largest
manufacturer of sports collectibles and memorabilia, introduced their line of
All-Star vinyl figures in 2006, which has since included several basketball
These unique figures are produced
in very limited numbers and have become popular with collectors but these are
generally targeted at the high end of the market.