BASKETBALL GREATS VARY FROM GRACIOUS TO DOWNRIGHT RUDE

Like any sport, basketball has its good guys and its bad guys when it comes to signing autographs.

Longtime autograph collector Roger Christensen considered basketball as his favorite sport. He was lucky in being closely associated with a couple of professional teams working as an official statistician for the former San Diego Clippers (now Los Angeles Clippers) and serving as guest ball boy for the San Francisco Warriors (now Golden State Warriors). In these capacities, he had courtside and locker room access to some of the greatest hoop stars of all-time.

He says he has more than 8,000 signed basketball items including photos, gum cards, programs, 3×5 cards, letters, first day covers.

And after years of collecting, he has his list of the most courteous and most willing-to-sign players.

The all-time greats include Jerry West, World B. Free, Julius (Dr. J) Erving, Jamal Wilkes and late superstar Pete Maravich. Other real nice guys are Darryl Dawkins, Norm Nixon, Michael Cooper, Swen Nader, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, Adrian Dantley and Robert Reid. The late Lucius Allen was another who was always gracious to his fans.

The classiest guy in sports, in his opinion, is Dr. J. He was always nice to everybody and would sign for everybody who asked – and at any time.

To help his collection, he bought at quite reasonable prices several thousand 8×10 glossy photos which teams send out to the media (and generally will not sell to the general public unless they can get an outrageous markup). He set up a folder with the photos and other items he wanted to get signed for every active player. When the teams would come to town, he would take the folders with him and use his credentials to get access to them.

Most players are real good about signing, he says, but then there are a few who should be part of the “Biggest Jerks in the Sports World” list. Some are real superstars and I am sure idols of thousands of fans. But when you meet them in person and are subjected to their snubs, insults and rudeness, you tend to want to call them just plain jerks. These include Bob Lanier, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Shumate, Ray Williams, Freddie Brown and Dave Cowens.

Can you get autographs from players by writing them in care of their teams? After all, there are thousands of fans out there who do not live in the metropolitan areas and never have the chance to see their heroes play in person, to say nothing of getting close enough to ask for an autograph before or after games. Mail can usually pile up so it takes time – especially for the superstars – to go through the letters and requests. Some players like Swen Nader would sit at a table and faithfully sign anything. The same was true of Kermit Washington, Kevin Kunnert, Phil Smith and Jamal Wilkes. On the other hand, superstar Walt Frazier would set his bags down, gather up his mail and promptly dump every single envelope in a trash can.

So you see, it helps collectors, who anxiously await answers to their requests for autographed items, to learn the personal characteristics of their heroes. Once they do, they might save not only wasted postage but they might decide there are other athletes much more deserving of their time, energy and admiration.

Of course after retirement from the sport, some of these so-called jerks may become great signers so don’t give up.

You can find their contact information in the V.I.P. Address Book or online at the V.I.P. Lookup Database File. Both can be found by going to www.vipaddress.com.

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