Charlotte Hornets superstar LaMelo Ball, and his family, are known for off-the-wall antics and unconventional media stunts to generate PR and buzz around the popular NBA hooper. However, the latest rumor swirling around Ball, who just wrapped up his rookie season in the NBA, has many memorabilia collectors doing a double-take on a new set of collectible cards to make sure they indeed have a legit version of Ball’s John Hancock.
The drama is all centered around the release of Panini’s 20-21 National Treasures NBA Basketball set, which features the first on-card pro autographs for many of the league’s hot rookies, including Ball, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and James Wiseman.
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A box of National Treasures cards ain’t cheap, as it retails from Panini for just over $3,700 … and is sold on the secondary market for as much as $4,500 per box. It’s well-known among card collectors that the authentic rookie autographed, many featuring jersey-worn patches from the stars, are regularly sold for astronomical prices that can reach into the hundreds of thousands – or even millions of dollars for a truly authentic RPA (rookie patch autograph).
The Controversy Over Melo’s Auto
Throughout the past NBA season, 19-year-old LaMelo Ball’s rookie cards have been the holy grail that every card collector hopes to hit when ripping open a new pack of cards. His signature has already been resold on eBay for hundreds and thousands of dollars, with expectations that it will only get more valuable as his NBA career goes on.
Naturally, collectors were excited to pull one of Melo’s coveted RPA cards from the Panini’s new National Treasures box, but after the first cards were revealed online many began to point out there was something off with Melo’s autograph.
We sure that’s LaMelos? I’ve heard rumors it’s Mikal Bridges, and it certainly looks like it could be.
— Jaws (@Sjon412) August 10, 2021
“It appears that Lamelo has changed his auto,” one fan noted on Twitter after the first cards were posted online revealing an “MB” signature instead of Melo’s usual script.
“This is sad … this is not lamelo ball auto … watch out everyone !!” another card collector warned on social media.
Many fans did some research and are now claiming the signature is that of fellow NBA star Miles Bridges, who also plays on the Charlotte Hornets and is BFFs with Melo.
The Experts Weigh In
With National Treasures just debuting and LaMelo Ball being the hot seller of the box, having a possibly fraudulent signature out is a huge deal. In the wake of the controversy, many collectors and professionals in the card business are giving their take on the change in Ball’s signature and the authenticity of the cards.
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“For those of you speculating on [LaMelo] auto here are the facts! He changed his autograph and this is the new version of it.” Mike, the CEO of PullWax wrote on Instagram.
For their part, Panini has not yet addressed the issue over LaMelo’s auto, which could give more credence to it being legit.
Miles Bridges Speaks
Although LaMelo Ball has not yet spoken on the new autograph yet, his buddy Miles Bridges has broken his silence and is making it clear that he is not the one who signed Melo’s cards.
“Me and Dip go the same signature!” Bridges wrote on Instagram, adding that he adds a “#0” on his autographs.
Many fans and collectors are still raising an eyebrow at the suspect cards, but the boxes are National Treasures are still sold out from most distributors and selling like hotcakes on the secondary market.
Either way … they do look amazing!
This is important information with everyone up in arms about the LaMelo Ball NT autos today https://t.co/xKVCKPZ3YV
— Austin (@EastHillCards) August 11, 2021