Sunday, February 14, 2016

NBA 20th Anniversary Countdown #1- My all time favorite set!

Here it is, the big one...the set I like the most. I did a little research and determined that there are 653 main sets in NBA history. To be the best you have to be pretty darn good and I think this set is.

But first, a little review. Each set name is clickable to take you to that post, by the way. My #20-#2 favorite sets...

Why I like it: Everything. I thought long and hard about what to say about this set, and I couldn't come up with something that accurately described it than "everything". The memories are there. The design. The many, many memories I have of this set coupled with the design that I think is the best ever in card history propel this set to #1.

Set size/Completion:  300 cards, of which I have 283, or 94.3%. I really want to complete the set (naturally!) but I don't want to force it by going out and buying all the missing cards. Weird, perhaps, but getting them through my normal course of card acquisition is much more thrilling- if slower. I do have a wantlist posted though if any reader wants to help out.

Everything about this design just screams perfection to me, from the full bleed photos that were better than anything else Ultra had ever used before, to the holofoil name and bar plus Ultra logo, to the team-color coded shadow behind the name...even the font of the name just looks so good to me.

Just because I like the design so much, I'm going to post more than one base card. I have tried not to make these posts too long but I hope you'll indulge me for my favorite set.

I could show lots more...and I don't even have all that many scanned yet. Unfortunately I only got to post 18 scans to the Database as other people did the rest. I will probably over-wright some of them some day but I'm in no hurry.

I have so many memories of this set from when it was new...memories of the cards themselves and random oddities like the time we were walking through the mall at a card show, and found a partial pack half buried in one of the planters, with some cards missing. Unfortunately whoever did that was a jerk and bent the cards they didn't want, right in half. At least one of those cards remains in my collection as I have not been able to replace it yet, although I did replace several of them.
Backs of the cards featured two photos- neither of which was a repeat of the front- with one of them part of the colored background. Eastern conference teams got blue, while Western Conference teams got red. Full stats were superimposed over the images.

Because this is my favorite set, I'll show all the subsets as well as the inserts.
On the Block and Ultra Effort were in Series 1...

...while Rookie Encore and Play of the Game were in Series 2. Play of the Game was slightly Short-Printed but not to the levels of '98 Greats would be a year later.

Seeing this just makes me happy, happier than any other set, and that propels it to #1.

There were 13 insert sets and two parallels.

Gold Medallion was used for the full set for the first time, although as Gold Medallions go it's fairly weak. In fact, they were so non-descript that in Series 2 they actually put Gold Medallion Edition on the front of the card. I never had any trouble telling them apart, as the gold foil is clearly different than the normal silver foil, let alone the G in the card number on the back, but then again, I actually care about the cards, not just how much they can be sold for, unlike most Beckett readers.

Platinum Medallion made it's debut! I was not lucky enough to pull any, but I did acquire the Rik Smits card and a John Stockton subset as a single. These are actually fairly rare even today, and still expensive enough that I have not gotten any more. They are quite clear to make out that they are different...but they are labeled on Series 2 cardfronts as well. While the Gold Medallion is my #2 favorite parallel concept after refractors, Platinum Medallions are my favorite 2nd Level Parallel concept of all time. After this season, when serially numbered cards were very rare, the Platinum Medallions were numbered to 100 or less copies each season for the remainder of the Ultra run. There are several seasons (1997-98, 1999-00 through 2002-03) where I don't have a single one in my collection. There is a possibility they may not have been made for every year, but I've seen some online for some of the years.
There were 13 inserts, and I do not have all of them represented in my collection, or scanned.
 All-Rookie. These are embossed. A copy of this card is one of the ones I found bent in half in that pack. I eventually replaced it, forgot I replaced it, and replaced it again. Oops!
 Board Game
 Full Court Trap. For some reason I can never remember the name of this insert- I always call it "Full Court Press", which is a much more common term in basketball. It's etched. There is a Gold version as well, where the background is a yellowish color instead of various colors.
 Give & Take, a mirror foil card.
Scoring Kings. There is also a Gold version of this set but I don't have any.
 Rising Stars, which features a canvas texture

And there you have it! 20 years ago today, I received my first NBA basketball cards as a gift from my mom for Valentine's day. Later that night I found the Knicks-Hornets game on TV and it was the first game I ever watched. Thousands of games, and more than 82,000 different cards later- the NBA plays a larger role in my life than it ever has before. It's even surpassed NASCAR as my favorite sport, a position I once thought was unassailable. As a special treat, tonight is the 2015-16 NBA All-Star game, so a night of excellent basketball action is guaranteed.

Two fun facts- it took me 4 solid days to type up these posts. A lot longer than I thought, I expected to have them typed up in a matter of a couple of hours, not 4 days.
I posted 192 scans (and one photograph) over these 20 posts. Normally I copy a photo I want to post to Cardboard History to a "blog" folder, post it, then delete it, but this time I decided not to do that.

Thanks for reading along on my journey down memory lane and a look at my top 20 favorite sets- as well as my most ambitious blog posting project yet. Stay tuned for a post later this week that shows my six LEAST favorite sets!


  1. Congratulations on finishing this very ambitious endeavor of yours. I can't believe it only took you 4 days to put it together, it would have taken me probably a month to do this kind of series.

    1. Thanks! If my health situation was different it would have taken me much longer to write all these, but I have ample time to write on here.

  2. This was an incredible journey! I am going to miss these now. :(

    1. Me too. I might do another countdown in the next couple of years, after all 2018 marks my 30th year collecting cards.

  3. As a long time basketball card collector I really enjoyed your list,thanks for making the list.