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Digital Subscriptions > Beckett Basketball > Basketball-Oct 19 > ALL THE WRITE MOVES

ALL THE WRITE MOVES

ZION WILLIAMSON HEADLINES AN “EPIC” 2019 NBA ROOKIE CLASS THAT HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO ELEVATE BASKETBALL CARDS TO UNHEARD-OF HEIGHTS. AND DURING PANINI AMERICA’S 2019 NBA ROOKIE PHOTO SHOOT IN AUGUST, WE CAUGHT THE BEGINNING STAGES OF THE ASCENT.

Washington Wizards rookie Admiral Schofield didn’t learn how to write cursive until May …of 2019.

That’s when, over the course of two summer weeks, the 22-year-old former Tennessee Volunteer took it upon himself to learn the age-old skill that has gradually been aged out of elementary school curriculums across the country. At Schofield’s request, his agency ordered him a few “How To” books and he diligently put in the required handwriting work behind the scenes. When the rookie arrived in New Jersey for Panini America’s 2019 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot in early August, Schofield’s new penmanship was ready for prime time – and it was among the best in the 40-member class.

The fact that Schofield essentially learned cursive just so that he could deliver an autograph anyone would be proud to own on his Panini America Rookie Cards is a testament. Not just to his commitment but to the undeniable importance of an event that is paramount to Panini America’s basketball business every year.

New Knicks teammates Ignas Brazdeikis and RJ Barrett sign their cards.

“It’s by far the most important event on our basketball calendar every year,” said David Porter, Panini America’s NBA Brand Director. “While it affords us the opportunity to capture the autographs and memorabilia that will be the focal point of our products for the entire season, it also allows us the chance to strengthen our relationships with each and every one of the players here as well as with our colleagues at the NBA and the NBPA. You simply can’t overstate how profoundly this event positively impacts our business.” Schofield’s story was but one of the highlights of the annual extravaganza that provides Panini America – the exclusive trading card manufacturer of the NBA and National Basketball Players Association for the last decade – unparalleled face time, photography time and signing time with the newest class of NBA stars. Another highlight? As it turns out, some guy named “Zion Williamson” apparently is going to be a really big deal this season. Like …really, really big.

The buzz generated by his mere presence in any room – from the signing room on Friday and Saturday at the host hotel or on Sunday inside the spacious Farleigh Dickinson University student rec center on the school’s Madison, N.J., campus – commanded attention and eye balls and audible “ooohs” and “aaahs.” You know, the same reaction Panini America garnered just one day before the 2019 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot tipped off when the company announced that it had signed Williamson to an exclusive contract for autograph trading cards. Almost instantly, collecting’s collective Internet went berserk.

But here’s the best part about Williamson: He’s really nice, really accommodating, and really understands and appreciates his place atop this rookie class in the eyes of collectors. And here’s the best part about this entire rookie class: It’s not just top heavy with the likes of Williamson, Ja Morant (who has an exclusive autograph and memorabilia deal with Panini Authentic), RJ Barrett, De’Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver, Coby White, Jaxson Hayes, Rui Hachimura and Cam Reddish. It’s deep and captivating and attractive to what just might be the largest, most eager collecting base basketball has seen in …well …maybe ever.

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Beckett Basketball October 2019,