May 30, 2023

Diverse Minifigures Series: NBA Players

Minifigure Monday is switching gears to celebrate diversity and inclusion. The diverse minifigures series looks at minfigures and minidolls that improved diversity in the product line. Representation matters yet LEGO® has been slow to produce minifigures that represent historically marginalized groups. In recent years there has been a greater focus on diversity. A great example is Everyone is Awesome (40516). However, there is still room to improve. This series focuses on minifigures and minidolls that represent significant contributions to improving representation.

First Non-yellow Minifigures

LEGO® introduced the first minifigure in 1978. It would be another 25 years before non-yellow minifigures would appear in sets. In recognition of Black History Month, the first minifigure to be highlighted in the diverse minifigures series is actually a group of minifigures. These were the first non-yellow minifigures produced. In 2003, the Sports theme was the first to include minifigures with realistic skin tones. The NBA sub-theme had minifigures in nougat and brown (the latter was replaced with reddish brown in 2004).

Diverse Minifigures  Series: brown skin tone NBA minifigures
Photo Credit: Ley Ward

Taking a Closer look

The first NBA branded sets released in January 2003 had yellow minifigures. Some of these had the NBA logo on their torso. Interestingly, a month later LEGO® revealed the first skin tone minifigures to represent specific NBA players. LEGO® produced three polybags, each with a single NBA player (one nougat and two brown). You could find multiple players in the NBA Collectors sets (#3560 to 3567) or the NBA Ultimate Arena set (3433).

Diverse Minifigures  Series: brown skin tone NBA minifigure Shaquille O'Neal
Photo Credit: Ley Ward

The Arena set included ten minifigures. Seven of them had brown skin tones including Toronto Raptors favourite Vince Carter (#15). LEGO® also produced eight different 3-packs as part of the NBA Collectors series. Pack #2 included Shaquille O’Neal (#34) from the Los Angeles Lakers. This move towards including minifigures with realistic skin tones seemed to start a shift for LEGO®. The following year both Star Wars and Harry Potter shifted to minifigures with realistic skin tones. Unfortunately, in the years to follow there has been a limited number of black characters across LEGO® themes. Moreover, many of these have had a sad or angry facial expression. Regardless, the NBA players should be acknowledged for starting the shift.

I will highlight a few more notable black minifigures in the coming weeks. After that I will discuss other minifigures that celebrate different aspects of diversity. What minifigure would you like to see featured in the diverse minifigures series? Share your suggestions below. We’d love to hear from you!

Play well folks,


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