The past Saturday, I spent a few hours listening to the replay of B. Mitchel Reed’s final show on New York Area Top 40 station WMCA back in 1965. Listening to the “Beamer” is always a blast as he was one of the fastest talkers in radio or any other entertainment milieu. However, just as interesting as the great top 40 music and the excellence of BMR was hearing the full radio newscasts that were also included in the air check. The recorded show was the day before the famed march at Selma, AL, but another story talked about Bill Bradley’s sensational performance in the NCAA Final Four when he scored a record 58 points versus Wichita State in a consolation game that no longer exists. The record he broke had belonged to Oscar Robertson.
There are, of course, other famed Final Four heroes including Bill Walton going an astounding 21 for 22 versus Memphis State in 1973 or David Thompson’s high wire act the following year including a block of Walton’s shot. And perhaps the most famous Final Four showdown came with the famed Bird-Magic 1979 final which set viewing records for NCAA games then and now.
Back then, there would be a minimum 18-month lag before we would even see the first basketball card of a college star who joined the pro ranks. A good example of that is the 1980-81 Topps set, when both players showed up on a card just before the start of their second NBA season. In fact, speaking of cards that never were, would not a card featuring the 1980 Finals game six performance of Magic be one which should have been produced and would be popular to this day?
Today, players appear on basketball cards only a few months after they conclude their college career and some of those cards can even be signed or include event-worn items. Part of me wishes there would be a way for a card or a player to be featured right after an explosive NCAA March Madness performance. A player such as Steph Curry had a great run with Davidson a few years back which presaged his NBA success.
Some of those great performances are captured on the new March Madness set from Upper Deck, which is a great idea and a lot of fun, especially arriving this time of year, but it’s more of a retro set.
My challenge to any of the artists who read this column is to create “cards that never were” for players who had great NCAA Tournament. And while we cannot recreate the past to have those cards issued, perhaps with the changing landscape of major college sports, there will come a time when an NCAA performance or even a miracle shot by Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, can get quickly translated to cardboard—or at least on a digital card. One of the best sporting events we have, one that connects with just about everyone, deserves some more hobby love.