Topps Inks Oden to Basketball Card Deal

He still doesn’t know where he’ll be playing in his rookie year but Ohio State’s affable big man has signed a $3 million endorsement deal with Topps.

Greg Oden will be the face of Topps basketball next season. The Indiana native who spent his freshman season at Ohio State before turning pro, agreed to partner with the Topps Company on Tuesday.

It’s Oden’s first endorsement deal and it comes not long after Kevin Durant signed with Upper Deck. The early entries are expected to be the first two selections in June’s NBA draft.

"I look forward to business partnerships with industry leading corporations and Topps is one of those companies,” said Oden. “I can’t wait to see my first Topps Rookie Card”

The agreement grants Topps exclusive rights within the NBA trading card category for autographed cards, memorabilia cards, licensed memorabilia and the use of Oden on packaging and advertising. 2007-08 Topps Basketball marks the 50th Anniversary of the first Topps Basketball set and will feature Oden and the legendary Boston Celtics, Bill Russell as its primary pitchmen. Topps Basketball will be available nationwide in mid-August.

In addition, the deal includes joint marketing and branding efforts including the creation of Oden’s official website.

"We are very excited to have one of the NBA’s new stars on our team," said Warren Friss, Vice President– General Manager, Topps Sports. "We believe Greg has a great future in the NBA ahead of him and we want to be his partner every step of the way."

Oden, the prospective first overall pick in this June’s NBA Draft, was twice named Gatorade National High School Player of the Year while attending Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, IN (Oden and LeBron James are the only two boys basketball players to receive the honor twice). During his first and only year at The Ohio State University, the 7-foot Center led the Buckeyes to the 2007 National Championship Title Game while garnering AP All-American First Team honors.

“Greg and Topps compliment each other well,” said Mike Conley, Sr. of BDA Sports Management. “Greg is a special young man with a successful career ahead of him and Topps is a class organization with a true vision for this partnership.”

Oden joins Dwyane Wade and baseball players David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Ryan Howard and the late Mickey Mantle as Topps exclusives.

Oden’s first card with Topps will include Hall of Famer Bill Russell in a commemoration of the company’s first basketball set 50 years ago in which Russell appeared as a young Celtics player.

{mosimage}"Certainly there’s been a lot of comparisons to Bill Russell, which we don’t run away from," Bill Sanders, a vice president for BDA Sports Management, which represents Oden told the Associated Press.

"I think that Greg has got a lot of that in him, but he’s also got other skills in him that people don’t necessarily associate with Bill Russell. Certainly he’s honored to be mentioned in that kind of company. I think one of his goals is to accomplish a little bit of what Bill Russell did."

Oden spent Sunday at the Indianapolis 500. A popular player and student at OSU, he spent hours signing autographs for fans during the season.

Want to hear from Topps’ new man? Here’s Oden on Oden.