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Sports Guru: Basketball Floorboards a Slam Dunk

Featured in Autograph January 2009

Bob McAdoo.

Wood flooring sections are the new index card of modern day basketball collecting. For the past several years, roundball fans have been buying up blocks of floorboards at their local Home Depot and carving them up into 6×6 inch tiles; perfect for your favorite player’s autograph. They work effectively for theme pieces and are convenient for both in-person and through-the-mail opportunities.

I still miss the classic days of the autograph hobby, and there are some indications that the autograph community is going retro. Back in the day, a full ink signature on a snow white index card looked spectacular and was a true unadulterated autograph. But in the past 20 years or so, it’s no longer good enough to own just a signature. It has to be on a glossy 8×10 photograph, on a ball, even on a sneaker. The use of index cards has waned, since players refuse to sign them—identity theft has made players wary to sign their signature where it can be easily duplicated. In the last few years, signed cuts have become all the rage with insert cards. Often they are simply a signed index card that has been cut out and mounted inside a card. Because there’s such high demand for the cards, there is also high demand for the index cards used to create them.

Dell Curry.

Where am I going with this? The signed floorboard is similar to the old index card—it’s just a plain piece of wood that displays an autograph. No sports company produces them (yet), they are available at most home improvement stores and only your imagination can limit you as to how you display them. Some collectors have fashioned them into tables, some use them for bar tops, others just snap them back together and decorate an entire wall.

There are a few ins and outs to the floorboard game. Take a seat on the bench for a minute and I will instruct you on how to properly amass your own floorboard collection.

The tiles I use are called “Classic Parquet” and are packaged in a block of 10 square feet; each square-foot board can be broken into four equal sections. So a $15-$20 package of floorboards gives you 40 convenient 6-by-6-inch pieces. Some collectors prefer to keep an entire square-foot board as one piece and get a team to sign it. I do the majority of my floorboard collecting through the mail, so my first plan of attack is to split them up.

Splitting the Wood

Jim Boeheim.

It’s a bit tricky to get the floorboards to separate correctly. Remember, it’s cheap wood and you have to have patience. I broke my fair share of boards in the first box I purchased. The boards are tongue and groove, so when split correctly, and assuming that the signature is facing the same way on each of the boards, the sections can be snapped back together which makes for an awesome display.

First you need to break out the wife’s powerful hairdryer without her knowing. Turn that bad boy up to its most powerful, hottest setting. You are now ready to heat up the dried glue that holds the four sections together. It takes about five minutes to heat the glue effectively. Once it’s hot, use an exacto knife or screwdriver to peel the glue from the crack. It will usually come out in a few long pieces. Once all the glue is out, try to split the pieces apart—first in half, then in half again. You almost need to pull it apart with your hands and keep working it until what remains from the glue gives up. Don’t bend the board at the crack—the tongue and groove wood will break. After wiggling it back and forth, and applying the hairdryer over and over, it will come loose. Sometimes it splits right away, other times it takes forever. For the real stubborn pieces, place half on a flat table and the other half hanging over the edge. This will allow you to wiggle the one half without the other half breaking.

Mailing Them Out

Jerry Tarkanian.

I have received more than 50 floorboards back in the mail. When sending them out I use two standard large yellow envelopes and about $2 worth of stamps on each envelope. Some collectors prefer using the bubble envelopes—I go with the cheaper flat ones. Black or blue Sharpie look great on the boards and stand out well. I did send a black bold paint pen in my request to John Wooden to see how it would look. It came out decent, but the paint tends to smear if it’s not dry and the signature was almost too bold for the size of the item. Go with the standard Sharpie.

Who to send to?

Stephen Curry.

NBA ballers are notoriously tough signers. They are paid such a ridiculous amount of money that many are spoiled and not real fan friendly. There are always exceptions to the rule, but of the four major sports I would say the NBA autographs are the toughest to obtain. But there are still plenty of opportunities in the wide world of basketball.

Legends. My advice is to start with the legends. Many appreciate their fans and respect the game. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden is a must for any basketball collection. He’s 98-years-young and is starting to slow down—so if you haven’t received Wooden’s sweet signature yet—time is not on your side. Of all my basketball autographs, my Wooden autographs are the most cherished. There are also many Hall of Famers that are happy to sign. Bob McAdoo added his “NBA M.V.P. 1975 Hall of Fame 2000” inscription to his signature.

Detlef Schrempf.

Foreign Players. Some of the overseas players in the NBA are great signers, the best current NBA star being Dirk Nowitzki. Foreign players of the past, such as Detlef Schrempf, are also great signers.

Coaches. Whether its college or the NBA—coaches are almost always willing to respond to autograph requests. Two recent autographs I received via the mail are longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and UNLV legend Jerry Tarkanian.

NCAA Hoops. There’s nothing like March Madness to get the college fans all fired up. Before they are pros, they have to play at least one year of NCAA ball. Last year when Stephen Curry was lighting up the floor with the Davidson Wildcats, I mailed a floorboard to him in care of their Athletic Department. I also mailed one to his old man, Dell Curry. It looks like sharp shooting runs in the family, and father and son both returned a signed floorboard to the Talbot Sports Wall of Fame.