Grand Rapids, Michigan born Chris Kaman attended Tri-Unity Christian School in Wyoming, MI where the versatile center dominated on the hardwood.
Kaman stayed in his home state and spent three years at Central Michigan University, where, in 2003, he led the Chippewas to a MAC Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance, including a first round win. He was named the MAC Player of the Year, First Team All MAC and MAC Tournament MVP in that magical 2003 season. The guy they called “Caveman” declared for the 2003 NBA Draft and was selected sixth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.
He spent eight productive seasons with the Clippers, recording a career high 12.7 rebounds per game in 2007-08 and a career high 18.5 points per game in the 2010 season, leading to an NBA All Star game appearance in 2010.
After spending one season with the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers respectively, Kaman finished his career playing parts of two years with the Portland Trailblazers before retiring after the 2015-16 season.
Kaman is both an avid outdoorsman and a successful businessman. As we wrote about here last week, he’s now co-owner of Man Cave Sports Cards and Collectibles in Greenville, Michigan.
We sat down for a more in depth conversation about his Michael Jordan card collection, LeBron snubbing him for an autograph, his thoughts on hobby shop ownership and more.
Tony Reid–You were a card collector as a kid and a Michael Jordan fan. What did the collection look like back then and did you manage to hold on to any of your childhood cards?
Chris Kaman-I kept all of my Jordan stuff. I still think he is the best player to ever play the game. I like Kobe stuff. I like LeBron stuff. I am more of a player collector versus a set builder. I still have a lot of those cards and I have added to it since I started back into collecting.
TR–After a 13-year NBA career, do you have a man cave at home where you have items from your playing days displayed?
CK– I have all of my stuff- my jerseys, shoes and I was able to play in an All Star game, so I have that jersey. I have a man cave of my stuff. I have plenty of stuff to go around and I am happy to share it at the shop (Man Cave Sports Card and Memorabilia). It is just a lot of cool pieces that people can see.
TR–You have just under 1,500 cards in the database. Being a collector as a kid, do you remember finally seeing yourself on a card for the first time and what that meant to you?
CK-I remember it very vividly. When you get drafted they get all of the players in the same place in upstate New York. I think it was the Knicks practice facility. They had a card for every one of us from draft night. It was the quintessential team hat and ball under your arm with your suit on.
There was a card for every player. That was the first time I saw a card of mine. Every player got a set of everyone else’s cards. Everybody walked around and got autographs except LeBron James wouldn’t sign cards for anyone. I don’t know if he had the Upper Deck deal in place or what. They were Topps cards. Nobody could get one of him and it was like ‘What the heck, Bron?’ I think he had the Upper Deck deal. I don’t know that. Its just speculation.
TR-How special is it to share the hobby with your kids as they get a bit older and appreciate it more?
CK-A lot of dads work hard, work twelve hour days or are gone traveling. For me, I do a lot of traveling so I am not home all the time. When I am home it is really important to make that connection. I think it’s important for fathers and sons. You see a lot of dads struggle to be dads in this world and not knowing how to handle it. That is a way to break the ice, having something that you both can appreciate. It’s a lot of work and it’s a challenge. My kids are 7, 5, and 4. We have something in common. It works well. For a while it was a lost hobby. You don’t see a lot of young kids collecting like you used to. It’s come back around with these unique cards and items out there.
TR–What is your favorite card of yourself and what is your favorite card in the shop right now?
CK-I don’t know what my favorite card of myself would be. My old man, who passed a few years ago, had collected a bunch of my cards. My mom held them and gave them to me after he passed. I have only seen a few of them. There are so many! It’s funny you asked me about that. I asked Nate and Dan (his business partners in the card shop) to help me out with a project. I wanted to get one of every one of my cards. Dan went online and really got after it and now I have a four row box of all my cards! I haven’t had a chance to go through all of them.
There are some cool cards in there. If I had to pick a favorite it would be that first one I got of myself. In my PC, I would say my 1986-87 Fleer Jordan RC. It’s a PSA 7 that a friend of mine gave me awhile back. I just won’t sell it because he gave it to me.
It’s a clean card. It looks nice. It’s probably the one I would keep. I have a full 1986 Fleer Basketball set I bought earlier this year. There are some cool cards but we are here buying and selling cards so I don’t have anything I am really partial to other than that Jordan.