The NBA announced yesterday that it had finalized an exclusive deal with Panini Group to become the sole league licensee for trading cards and stickers through at least the 2011-12 season. The Italian company has never produced cards for any of the major American sports, but is known to the hobby thanks to its sports stickers and entertainment trading cards.
Both Topps and Upper Deck were in the final years of their contracts with the NBA, so it wasn't a huge surprise that some changes would be in the works. Still, few would have predicted the league would throw its support behind a company outside of the current group of manufacturers.
A desire to start from scratch and Panini's global reach are two of the motivations expressed by the NBA in an exclusive interview with Beckett.com. The folks at Beckett also got a reaction from Topps, while Upper Deck has released its own statement on the situation.
The NBA becomes the second major American sports league this decade to opt for a single licensee for sports cards, following the NHL's similar agreement with Upper Deck a few years ago. Panini's product mix is expected to include 15-20 basketball card brands per season.