Brushes With Greatness: Meeting Martell Webster

This is part three of my series of my personal brushes with professional athletes. While Martell may not be a huge name, he is definitely worthy of discussing in my meeting with him.

It was the summer of 2008 and one of my former teachers at Portland State had recommended that I volunteer with Special Olympics Oregon at the Portland Trailblazers 3-on-3 Street Jam. She told me what they had volunteers do and she knew I played and enjoyed basketball so she made sure I knew that I would have a good time.

Well a good time I definitely had. They immediately put me on the main court, which I featured in my break and review of 2011 Panini Gold Standard basketball. They lay out the 1977 NBA Championship court the Portland Trailblazers played on out in the courtyard outside the Rose Garden and Memorial Coliseum. I was able to hang out there and score some of the best games played all tournament long where there were always a ton of spectators.

But one of my favorite spectators happened to be sitting right off the court getting ready for some TV interviews about the Special Olympics and the Make It Better foundation put on by the Trailblazers. After his TV interview a few people went up to him and asked for autographs, so I grabbed a pen and tried to find something for him to sign. When I couldn’t find anything I just went up to him and had him sign my t-shirt. I made a joke about me having to squat down a bit so he could sign my shirt since him and I are about the same height, since I’m 6’8” tall. We shared a laugh and I let the next person in line get their autograph.

But that wasn’t the end. Before the Kid’s Clinic and before the Dunk Contest, Martell came over and sat next to me before these events on the main court since I had the best seats in the house at my scorer’s table. We sat down and chat for a few minutes and we talked about a few things from his 3-point shooting skills to where in the world he bought his jeans because it’s hard finding jeans long enough for tall people like us. (He actually gave me the name of a great store!) I asked him for a picture and he had no problem having someone take a picture of us. Sadly, I didn’t shave that day and looked terrible, but it’s still a great memory.

The only negative about the meeting was that I didn’t have anything better for him to sign. I was forced to wash the shirt before the third day of me volunteering that weekend and the autograph faded. But I made sure that I found a nice certified autograph or two of him on trading cards for my collection since he was such a nice and personable guy. I was sad when he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as he probably wouldn’t be at the event again, but from what I hear, he is still doing great things for the community in Minnesota and up in his hometown of Seattle.

No Hobby Love – Trailblazers Edition

What is love?

The Portland Trailblazers were a playoff team the past few years and have a number of very good players on their team. Sure they are in a small market, but the fans here are rabid. I love picking up new Trailblazers autographs, especially of my favorite Blazer Nicolas Batum. But it seems as though the Blazers get no love in the hobby.

It’s hard finding sports cards featuring some of the smaller market teams in every sport. But due to economics, a lot of those teams don’t have much talent. The Trailblazers have a ton of talent but barely any higher end autographs or game-used cards on the market.

Everyone reading this is thinking about all the great Brandon Roy cards out there. I know, I understand, but Brandon Roy isn’t the whole team. This year I was lucky enough to see a Marcus Camby patch from Absolute on eBay but missed my chance at it. But I never see anyone other then Brandon Roy and the occasion LaMarcus Aldridge autographs floating around. What is it about the players that the card companies don’t like?

I understand Brandon Roy is a super star despite his injuries. Who else besides LeBron or Kobe could of taken over that playoff Game 3 against the Mavericks? But where is more LaMarcus, Batum, Wes Matthews, or Andre Miller? Nicolas hasn’t had an autograph in a product since Upper Deck was dropping inventory for 09-10 Upper Deck. Wes Matthews only has rookie autographs and he is probably one of the best sophomores in the league this last year. Andre Miller is probably the smartest and deceptive point guards in the league and has been around for years bringing great success. Hell, Andre Miller dropped 52 against Dallas 2 years ago. It was kind of a fluke but which point guards in the NBA can say they dropped 52 in a game?

The Lakers are a more popular team but a simple search of eBay shows several different current Lakers autographs. Lamar Odom autographs? I’m sorry, but isn’t he a backup? Sasha Vujacic? Who? Luke Walton? Does he even play anymore? Derek Fisher? Any other team and he wouldn’t have the same minutes because Kobe has a man crush on him. And finally, headcase Ron Artest?

Blazers on eBay? Roy, Aldridge, and rookie autos. Will I ever see an Andre Miller auto with a Blazers uniform on? A Wes Matthews? Marcus Camby? If I can get an autograph of Ron Artest I should be able to get an autograph of at least Wes Matthews.

Panini, I think it’s time to expand the autograph checklists a bit. Bring us closer to the game and the players and teams we love. Sure, everyone would love to pull a Kobe auto, but I’m sure others would love to pull a Nicolas Batum just as much.

Panini don’t hurt me, no more.