Italian Company Panini To Be NBA’s Sole Trading Card Licensee

The NBA has trimmed its trading-card roster to a single licensee, and it’s a name not very familiar to stateside collectors: Panini. The Italian sports collectibles company has signed a four-year deal giving it exclusive global trading card, collectible stickers, and sticker-album rights. With the deal, the league ends long relationships with Upper Deck, a 17-year NBA licensee and Topps, which produced its first NBA cards in ’57. Officially, the Panini contract takes effect October 1. However, NBA Senior VP/Global Merchandising Sal LaRocca said the league is working with its other licensees to help Panini get rookie cards to market sometime late this summer.