Scenes from tonight’s Panini VIP Party (ongoing gallery)

CpNHM0SVIAA8v37.jpg-largeNow that the National Sports Collectors Convention is completed for today, the spotlight selectively turns to this year’s Panini VIP Party, which will include some big-name guests, big-name signers and some big-name cardboard.

Black boxes, Gold packs, autographs and more are the mementos of the event, but the memories are made with the interactions between the collectors and the stars.

We’ll help take you behind the rope virtually right here with a gallery of images from tonight’s event.

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Allen Iverson is latest Panini America VIP Party guest to be revealed

CpMFgUtWAAA259g.jpg-largeWho’s the newest Panini VIP Party guest? Looks like we have an answer.

Panini America revealed that new Basketball Hall of Famer and former Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson will be in attendance at tonight’s event in Atlantic City, N.J. He’s the sixth star announced for the event.

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NBA D-League record-breaker Russ Smith has plenty of cardboard

Russ-Smith-1There was big news out of the NBA Developmental League this week and it involves a player with plenty of cardboard you could want to collect.

Delaware 87ers guard Russ Smith scored a league-record 65 points in a 140-129 loss, connecting on 24 of 42 field goals and 16 of 20 free throws in the game.

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Elton Brand returns to NBA to mentor Jahlil Okafor — and perhaps spark some new Duke cardboard

Elton-Brand-Duke-AutoWay back in 1999, Elton Brand was a star center for the Duke Blue Devils — a center from tiny Peekskill, N.Y., who was about to make a big impression as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

Fast-forward to today and the former Chicago Bull is coming out of retirement to join the NBA’s worst team — the Philadelphia 76ers, owners of a 3-33 record — to help mentor another former Blue Devils star and first-round pick, Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, of course, has had issues off the court this season while also picking up the NBA game quickly. It’s a match made in Blue Devils collecting heaven.

“He’s not unlike most 20-year-olds you probably know, and he’s definitely not at all different than most of his fellow players,” Brand wrote in a piece for Sports Illustrated’s website. “… if camera phones were around when Brad Miller, Ron Artest and I were Jahlil’s age, we might’ve been banned from the league altogether, never mind suspended for a few games.”

So, what about Brand on cardboard?

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Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor already leads the league in rookie hype — and it just might be right

OkaforThis in from the Philadelphia Daily News after the NBA debut of Jahlil Okafor Wednesday night in Boston …

It is impossible to overstate the significance of Jahlil Okafor . . . though the Philadelphia region seemed mystifyingly indifferent. Think about it: The Sixers finally added a complete player.  This is Eric Lindros, Jim Thome, Donovan McNabb and Allen Iverson.

With apologies to Sir Charles, Okafor is the best real big man to hit town since Moses [Malone], rest his soul, except Moses wasn’t a savior. Jahlil Okafor brings salvation in short pants.

Okafor scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a pair of shots in his debut. Said his coach later in the story about his ability to work on the court: “That’s a hint of Tim Duncan.”

We’ll have to wait a while to see if he’s the next Timmahhh, but we can start by looking at Okafor’s early cardboard.

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