A good documentary is always compelling, especially in the days of binge-watching, and the fact that people all over the world have been (for the most part) staying home. Online streaming services have definitely had waves of success with documentaries, as they are often the talk of social media when a new one drops. Besides maybe Netflix’s Tiger King, no documentary has been talked about more in the last few months than ESPN’s The Last Dance. The documentary showcases the “glory years” of the Chicago Bulls and basketball icon, Michael Jordan; when they won six world championships in the 1990s. Through it all, Michael Jordan had achieved a larger than life status. Today, collecting shoes from his brand, “Air Jordan” is seemingly the only thing hotter than collecting Hot Wheels — well, I’m sure there are other things, but we’ll go with that.
Since this is a Hot Wheels site, of course, we are going to look at the time the two incepted. The year was 1999 and Mattel had a partnership with the NBA to produce vehicles and figures. Matchbox had an NBA line comprised of solely one casting, the Dodge Viper GTS, with the intent to release one in the color/graphics for every NBA team. Hot Wheels had intended on doing the same with their line of Hot Wheels Pro Shows.
The Pro Show Team Packs included a #Pro Shows Team Bus and two figures that are about an inch or so tall. As you can see, the team bus carries some resemblance to the Hot Wheels #Volkswagen Drag Bus and even flips open so you can store your figures. Only Hot Wheels can get away with taking a luxury charter bus and converting it into a vehicle that’s suitable for the drag strip — or so they thought…
Ultimately the line was canceled before all 29 teams could find their way onto the sides. This was even despite of Hot Wheels front-loading the line with the more popular teams at the time which included the Lakers, Pistons, Spurs, Knicks, and the 1998 NBA Champions: Chicago Bulls. It’s always unfortunate when a line like this can’t be completed as I am sure there are people that would have loved to have these in every NBA team — especially the ones they are fans of.
Combined non-racing sports — like anything that uses a ball — with diecast has proven to fail at retail over the years, and I’m sure this was a hard one to swallow at Mattel during this time. Clearly, they went all-in on the NBA license, and I’m sure it wasn’t cheap. That and the fact that this new deluxe tool had to be created for exclusive use drove the price-point to $5.99 at the time — at least according to the Kmart sticker that is still adhered to mine. There really wasn’t any Hot Wheels diecast in that price-point range at that time as premium models sold for half that. Pricepoint had to be a huge deterrent for both consumers, and for the retailers to carry. The packaging is huge and also took up a lot of peg space. Add in that this wasn’t the only bulky, high-priced NBA Hot Wheels on the shelf at the time, as the Radical Rides — which were 1:43 scale cartoon vehicles with NBA players coming out of the roof Rat Fink style — were a huge flop.
The #Pro Shows Team Bus was by far the best thing to come out of the partnership between Hot Wheels and the NBA. That probably isn’t saying much to the majority of Hot Wheels collectors but it does represent the one time the two brands did intercept. The bus itself is a tad eccentric, but is it really that much more than the VW Bus? It may be gimmicky, but the vehicle does include a basketball hoop on the back for the players to perceivably play pickup games during stops between the airport and arena … on the dragstrip. When folded down it does act as part of the rear spoiler so that has to count for something, right? Either way, we also got miniature “Hot Wheels figures” of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in their Chicago Bulls uniforms. I mean, that is pretty cool. Given that the Red Line Club has now produced mini-figures of Magnus Walker and Akira Nakai, it would be interesting to see just how many licensed people have been produced.
As it stands, we will probably never see a partnership between Hot Wheels and the NBA again. These vehicles live in a part of Hot Wheels lore that is rarely talked about. Many of the vehicles can still be found in their original packaging on eBay for less than they originally cost at retail (shipping excluded). I never really found out how many were actually released, so I compiled a list of the ones I have found online for your convenience:
Hot Wheels Pro Show Team Packs
- Chicago Bulls (#23 Michael Jordan & #33 Scottie Pippen)
- Los Angeles Lakers (#8 Kobe Bryant & #34 Shaquille O’Neal)
- Los Angeles Lakers (#8 Kobe Bryant & #41 Glen Rice)
- Houston Rockets (#4 Charles Barkley & #34 Hakeem Olajuwon)
- New York Knicks (#33 Patrick Ewing & #2 Larry Johnson)
- Boston Celtics (#5 Ron Mercer & #8 Antoine Walker)
- Utah Jazz (#32 Karl Malone & #12 John Stockton)
- Utah Jazz (#32 Karl Malone & #14 Jeff Hornacek)
- Detroit Pistons (#33 Grant Hill & #42 Jerry Stackhouse)
- New Jersey Nets (#33 Stephon Marbury & #44 Keith Van Horn)
- Indiana Pacers (#31 Reggie Miller & #45 Rik Smits)
- San Antonio Spurs (#21 Tim Duncan & #50 David Robinson)
- Philadelphia 76ers (#42 Theo Ratliff & #3 Allen Iverson)