March Madness. Fill out your bracket, watch the games, and keep your fingers crossed. There's not much else you can do. But this year, you're in for something special. The Sewer Den has three basketball-inspired TMNT items that are a merchandising slam dunk. Let's start the clock…
SLAM DUNKIN' DON
Slam Dunkin' Don hit store shelves during the Michael Jordan madness. Representing the number 23, Don wanted to be like Mike. The red jersey is another shout out to Jordan's memorable moves while he was rockin' his Chicago Bulls uniform - short shorts and all.
The sneakers have some 90's soul. High tops equipped with air pump action was a sure way to sell this product to kids. Everyone wanted those air pump sneakers. They were extremely cool…and expensive. So for a lot of kids, this toy was the next best thing.
Along with Slam Dunkin' Don's awesome accessories, he comes packaged with some hoop-shooting skills. Place the ball in his green grasp, pull back those Turtle arms, and watch Don fire a shot into the sky. Air-ball or swish - the choice is yours. But, why is he named Slam Dunkin' Don when he shoots the ball rather than dunking it? I guess Jump Shot Don doesn't roll off the tongue.
This MVP (Mutant Valuable Player according to the packaging) has a mug that only a mother could love. His goofy smile wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for those gaudy, green goggles. Michael Jordan didn't bring this onto the court, so I'm not sure why Slam Dunkin' Don did. Maybe the goggles improve his eyesight, giving him the ability to sink three-pointers like a champ?
MINI MUTANTS - DONATELLO'S BASKETBALL PLAYSET
Years later, Slam Dunkin' Don came out of retirement and made a comeback. Gone were his arms, legs, and body. All that remained was his head. But, inside that noggin was a world of fun.
Mini Mutants were new to the Ninja Turtles merchandising scene back in 1994. These small, handheld playsets gave kids new opportunities to toy with their favorite green machines. Just much smaller. Much, much smaller.
Enter Mini Mutants - Donatello's Basketball Playset. Before jumping inside, notice our MVP's appearance. With the passing years, Don decided to reinvent his look for his big comeback. The goggles are gone! Instead, he opted for the much more practical headband. Super vision was sidelined for the sake of mopping up some head sweat. But, his goofy vibe remains intact. Whatever silliness was lost with the googles, returns in tenfold with his tongue wildly popping out. It's funny and even a little weird (considering it is sticking out from his teeth).
Also, the dude has a band aid chilling on his nose! You might be asking - that's a band aid??? Sadly, yes. The company wouldn't splurge a few more pennies to paint the band aid a different color from Don's face. So, kids were left with this creepy Turtle-skin, colored band aid.
Beyond Don's awesome exterior is a basketball wonderland within. Although small, it's hoop-shooting adventure from the start.
Like any basketball team, the Turtles have themselves a solid locker room. Created mostly with the use of stickers, this place is filled with the usual necessities. Weights, laundry, and lockers - it's all here.
Hit the showers!
Take a trip lower on the playset and there is a full court. A sewer manhole appropriately marks center court. This manhole is also connected to the wacky tongue on the exterior of the playset. Place a ball on the manhole, give a flick of the finger on Donatello's tongue, and you'll launch shots towards the small basket above the court.
It's a fun idea and I give the creators credit for putting up some effort to make the playset interactive, but it loses its appeal real quick. There's only so many shots you can take before asking yourself, "now what?"
But, if you did want this game to last long into the night, have no fear, there's a scoreboard to help keep track. Foot versus the Turtles - the usual rivalry.
After all these years, it's remarkable I managed to hold onto the "action figures" that were included. They are so incredibly tiny I'm shocked they never slipped through the cracks during the years of growing up or even when my parents moved. But, there's not much to these guys. We get three of the four mini-Turtles (and all three are goggle-equipped!). Donatello is absent from the group, I suppose because we are in his head..? Leonardo steals his spotlight too - nabbing Michael Jordan's iconic number 23.
I always found the Mini Mutants Playsets to be a rip off. They were priced higher than the normal action figures, but you didn't even get more bang for your buck. Although they were imaginative, the Mini Mutants were just too, well, mini. The figures were so incredibly tiny, you couldn't really do too much with them. Prop them up somewhere inside the playset and call it day. Their replay value just wasn't too high. After a session or two, the toys became uninteresting. Just look at the size comparison of Slam Dunkin' Don and these Mini Mutant figures. How far could this concept go?
Still, big or small, TMNT merchandise is always the best kind of merchandise. So, like all things Turtle-related, I snatched these off store shelves and kept the stock over at Playmates riding high.
LAUNDRY BASKETBALL HOOP
It might not be regulation height, but it sure is awesome. Big and bold, right at the top - TMNT DUNK.
This backboard means business, and that business is laundry. With a net that hangs approximately 30" from the hoop, that gives some serious opportunities to swish a few balled up socks or a pair of dirty drawers. Doing your chores was never this fun.
Take a good look at the Turtles. They aren't trying to evoke their inner Michael Jordan this time around. Instead, they're just being their usual, goony selves.
Instead of throwing around a fancy basketball or decking themselves from head to toe in the latest fashion trends (of the 1990's), the Turtles are just having a good ol' time (without goggles!). In what appears to be a pillow fight with laundry, the green machines are laughing and full of smiles.
Slam Dunkin' Don is Dunk'N Donatello when it comes to laundry (a slight difference from his action figure). Why not brand him the same throughout the TMNT basketball universe?
Leonardo and Raphael embrace their basketball nicknames with ease. They're pretty run of the mill, but fit the overall tone in the legendary category of basketball-laundry merchandise.
Michelangelo, on the other hand, has the worst basketball nickname ever. Magical Michelangelo? He's involved in laundry and basketball, not wizardry. Maybe it's suppose to be a reference to Magic Johnson? But, that's a stretch.
Hidden beneath the hoop, there's a warning. No hanging, swinging, or pulling on rim. Weight capacity 10 lbs. Man, they really sucked the fun out of that one, didn't they? You know every kid has tried to dunk on this thing. Heck, I've tried dunking on it as an adult. Also, the weight capacity is on the low end - 10 pounds isn't much. My heart tells me this hoop can probably hold triple that weight. But, the warning lists that the maximum weight is 10 pounds just to scare kids. This way, they stay on track and keep doing their laundry. TMNT chore propaganda at its best.
The backboard is marked with copyright date of 1988. That seems almost too old to be true. How could this thing possibly have survived all these years without breaking? The countless dunks with dirty clothes should've put this hoop in the trash long ago. Truly, an MVP in quality.
And that's the buzzer! Three basketball items from The Sewer Den. Nuttin' but net.