A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mashburn Mondays #5

Major life decisions happen all the time when one is in college at 19 or 20 years old.  Is the girl (or guy) you are currently with the one you want to spend the rest of you life with?  What should I major in and what kind of career path will be the result of that major?  Will it really hurt me if I take drugs or drive a little tipsy?  Each of these decisions and many others will have a huge impact on the rest of your life.  For star college basketball players one additional significant question presents itself at that age...should I leave school and go pro?  On today's Mashburn Monday, both of the players I am profiling decided to leave school early.  It can arguable whether that is ever the correct decision for any player, but I am not going to get into that debate here.  I am just going to focus on these two players in a vacuum.  So let's take a look at both Jamal Mashburn, who left after his junior year in 1993, and today's Random Cat of the Week Kelenna Azubuike, who left after his junior year in 2005, and see if the decisions were wise.

Let's take a look.

Jamal Mashburn
Total Cards Owned = 502

 1995 Upper Deck Electric Court #78

Mashburn was on the Kentucky team that lost in that god-awful Duke game that gets replayed every single year.  I could write a 20 page paper about my feelings regarding that game, but I'll spare you for now and talk about his junior year team.  The 1993 Cats squad was a #1 seed had a great chance to win it all with Mashburn's leadership.  My favorite memory of that team was in the SEC Tournament when they beat Tennessee by 70 in Allan Houston's last college game ever.  This card is a stamped parallel much like the Electric Diamond in baseball.  I don't like stamped parallels much, but the photo is great and he is against one of better defending big men of all time.

Card grade - A-

Other players on the card
Nuggets - Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo
Mavericks - Popeye Jones

 1998 Metal Universe Emeralds #83

After rolling through the SEC Tourney, Kentucky was awarded the #1 seed in the Southeast Region and continued rolling through the first four games of said region.  It was one of the most dominant regional performances ever with the closest game being a 21 point drubbing of Utah.  This set up a Final Four match up with the Fab Five of Michigan.  This card is a color parallel in the usually dull Metal Universe line.  This card would also tend to be slightly dull, except for the fantastic deer-in-the-headlights expression on Mashburn's face.  Easily one of my favorite Mashburn cards.

Card grade - A

Other players on the card

2004 Ultra #124

The Final Four game with Michigan is one of those games that deserves to be remembered more than it is.  The reason it is mostly a footnote is due to Chris Webber's time-out debacle in the final game that year.  However, that semifinal game was one of the better games that I have ever seen, despite my team coming out on the short end of the stick.  Following the overtime loss to Michigan (since vacated), Mashburn crushed the hearts of (but didn't surprise) many Kentuckians by announcing he was going pro.   The 2004 Ultra set is one of favorite sets of all time in both basketball and baseball.  I fell in love with that script name from the first time I ever saw it.

Card grade - A-

Other players on the card 
76ers - Glenn Robinson (ironically traded for Mashburn the next year)


Kelenna Azubuike
Total Cards Owned = 7

 2007 Ultra #60

Following the graduation of Erik Daniels and Gerald Fitch, Azubuike became the star of the 2004-05 Kentucky Wildcats.  He led the team to an Elite Eight double overtime loss to Michigan State (a fantastic game BTW).  Against the advice of many, including the Director of NBA Scouting Marty Blake, Azubuike decided to forgo his senior year and join the 2005 NBA Draft.  This card is a simple free throw photo, but I love it simple for the uniform.  That is one of those uniforms, like the Astros rainbows, that is so ugly it's cool.

Card grade - A-

Other players on the card

 2008 Fleer #161

He has never come out and said it, but there is a story to indicate why Azubuike went pro when he did.  In February 2005, Azubuike's father was convicted of fraud and ordered to pay several hundred thousand dollars in restitution to his victims.  Kelenna declared for the draft in April of that year.  There is not rock-solid proof that his family troubles were the reason, but it had to play a large factor in his decision.  This card has very nice color going on with both the uniform and the floor in the background. 

Card grade - B

Other players on the card
Heat - Udonis Haslem
Warriors - not sure either Andris Biedrins or Baron Davis

2008 Upper Deck First Edition Gold #56

The 2005 NBA Draft was arguably the decade's second strongest class after 2003.  Because of this, Azubuike went completely undrafted and joined the NBA's D-League.  He was signed by the Rockets, but never called up for a year and a half.  He then signed with the Warriors which turned out to be a great place for him.  He had a breakout year in 2008-09 and all was looking well until a severe knee injury stopped him in his tracks.  He rehabbed for nearly two full years before making it back to pros with the Mavericks last year.  This card is nice because it shows the red-orange Golden State uniforms that I don't even remember (but I don't follow that team closely either). 

Card grade - B+

Other players on the card
Rockets - Luther Head

Mashburn's decision was the right one even though it devastated my 16 year old self.   Had he gone a year later, he probably would have been drafted around the same spot in the 1994 Draft if not a bit lower.  I don't think you will find too many people that think Azubuike made the wise decision by going pro when he did.  Had he waited, he could have gone in the weak 2006 class and not the strong 2005 class.  You definitely can feel empathy for his family situation, but it is a shame that his father put the family in that situation to begin with.  I guess the old Biblical saying that the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son is true in this case.  Despite that, he has forged a fair pro career, although he did have to prove himself in the D-League for two years instead of getting the seasoning in college. Azubuike is currently a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers following a 2012 draft day trade with the Mavericks.

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