Saturday, January 30, 2016

NBA 20th Anniversary Countdown #16: 1975-76 Topps

I said in post #1 that there were some things about this list that surprised me when I was creating it...and this is the biggest. The surprise in this case is that this is the only Topps flagship that made the Top 20! It is also the only vintage set to make the list. For the NBA, vintage is 1985-86 and older. (Although I must admit if I went past #20, both #21 and 22 would both have been vintage sets). This is also the only set on the list older than I am.

#16: 1975-76 Topps

Why I like it: This was the first set that was truly done right, the only thing missing to make it perfect is the lack of coach cards.

Set size/Completion: 330 cards, and I have it completed!

As you readers all know by now, I love history. I love the sport of basketball. So naturally I love vintage cards! In fact, I learned about the history of the sport by chasing down vintage cards, or even just cards a year or two older than 1995-96 when I started collecting, there is really a wealth of information crammed onto cards, and I have spent now 20 years learning as much as I possibly can. And even though I might not remember everything I read, I can always pull up my scan folder and start reading.

As I mentioned above, this is the only Topps flagship that made my Top 20, and that is the biggest surprise to me of all. The Topps flagship set was the only game around when it came to basketball for more than a decade. Issued in 1957-58, and then no NBA cards at all until 1969-70, when Topps came back. They were again the only game in town until 1981-82, when they walked away from the NBA, not to return until 1992-93. They would stay until the NBA yanked their license during the 2009-10 season.

This was, by far, Topps' best effort of the 1970s. The set went to 330 cards which is the second largest Topps flagship set ever, tied with the aforementioned 2009-10. Only 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95 were larger, at 396 cards each. This set also included more action photos than any other Topps set before it, and there were no cards that had the team names edited out. Although there are still a large number of posed photos, there are more action shots in 1975-76 than there were in all the Topps base sets that came before it- combined! This was also the last year of the ABA's existence.

The one drawback of this set is the card numbers. They can be nearly impossible to read. Printed in dark blue on a dark green box, at a small size no less, they can be tough. Take a look at this one:
 Keep in mind, the scan makes it easier to read....and that is not easy to read at all! (It's #156, by the way). On several occasions I had to find the player's name on the checklist because the card was not readable at all.

The set was the second to feature team cards. For the first time ever- and the only time in Topps history- teams got two cards. One had the team's yearly leaders, one was a checklist.
Most were staged photos....
but one NBA and one ABA team got the first ever "Floating disembodied heads" cards. Eek!
Interestingly, they didn't bother to get a new photo for the Milwaukee Bucks- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appear on the Bucks team card as well.

Unfortunately there are some players who Topps never bothered to give even a single card to, and their only appearance on cardboard is on the team cards.

Topps would not issue team cards again until 1981-82, which I would consider set #21 in this 20 set countdown. 

Most of the ABA players were staged photos- (and as you can see, not all cards were cut properly)
while most of the NBA cards were action photos- about 3/4ths of them.
although quite a few of the "action" photos are of players standing around, like so.
There were no inserts.

I completed the set on November 30th, 2002. A comic store we visited bought a collection and took in the entire set of 1975-76 and a handful of other vintage cards. It was the only time that shop ever had any basketball cards.


  1. That's not Jerry Sloan the coach, is it?

  2. I also like this set. I would have put a few more 70's sets on my list. But then again that's the decade I grew up in. Name the Lakers. Top row. Connie Hawkins, Gail Goodrich, pat Riley, stu lantz. Bottom row cazzie Russell,Happy Hairston, Zelmo Beaty, Kareem, Lucius Allen.

    1. I couldn't have done that without looking some of them up, I don't know the 70s guys as well as I do the guys I grew up with. I imagine that's the same for everybody, knowing best who they grew up with.

  3. I can't believe my favorite the 1976-77 Tall Boys, didn't make your top 20,great action shots and the backs have pro and college stats.

    1.'re not going to like one of my future posts. I loathe that set, solely for the size of it. I do have the complete set though.

  4. Were these the last major cards for the ABA teams? It's really cool to see these