A different kind of NBA trading card is making the rounds, one that the players would hardly want kept in their children's shoeboxes. The front of Benoit Benjamin's card says THE EMBARRASSMENT, a reference to his legendary underachieving, while Kendall Gill's calls him FANTASY ALL-STAR for his proclivity to overestimate his value. Rather than celebrate Shaquille O'Neal's rim-wrecking power, his card reads PLAYIN' FOR THE CAMERA. And Charles Barkley (above) is labeled, with obvious irony, MR. NICE GUY.
The line of cards is called Skinnies, in reference to the player analysis provided on the back of each card. ("Rony speaks four different languages," reads the skinny on Rony Seikaly. "Too bad he doesn't understand 'pass' in any of them.") Skinnies is the brainchild of First Amendment Publishing, a Northport, N.Y.-based company that got into the trading-card business only because of the constitutional issues raised by a local ban on another company's serial-killer cards two years ago. To challenge the law, First Amendment produced a set of cards, similar to the serial-killer set, called Sex Maniacs. "I'd never let my own child buy those cards." says Joe Mauro, a publishing attorney and one of the founders of the company, "but it was necessary for the protection of the First Amendment."
Bad taste isn't an issue with the NBA cards—well, Christian Laettner (above) would beg to differ—and Mauro doesn't expect any legal difficulties, either. The cards, drawn by several caricaturists, show players in generic uniforms with no reference to the NBA. Reaction from the league has been tepid. "We are reviewing the situation to see if there will be any legal action," said one spokesman.
Here's our skinny on the cards—they're funny and, much of the time, on target. Grin and bear 'em, NBA.