Not all the Foundation sets are from 1995-96, either. Four earlier sets also became Foundation Sets. Even though I began adding older cards just about instantly, only 4 of them were important enough to earn the Foundation Set moniker.
Level 1 Foundation sets: These are the ones that kicked off my lifetime passion for basketball cards, and it really is a lifetime passion, despite the break I took from 2006-12, which I now consider to be one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. I've now been collecting the NBA for 2/3rds of my life, and I have no intention of ever stopping...again. Even if my focus has more shifted to hockey and NASCAR on TV, there is nothing that can take away the sheer enjoyment of the world of NBA cards that carried me through the late 1990s and early 2000s. I may have collected one longer and I suspect I will eventually have more of the other, but the best memories, the happiest times, that's NBA. These are the sets that started it all:
1990-91 and 1994-95 Hoops are always linked together to me. Right after I began collecting, probably by the end of February 1996, I had found and opened a box of both of these sets at my local K-Mart. I no longer remember which one was first, or which series I did for each set. but they may have even been done on the very same day. I can still remember sitting on my floor opening them in 1996. Both sets ranked in my top 3 when I did my countdown of top 20 favorite NBA sets to celebrate my 20th anniversary of collecting NBA cards. I've completed both sets, although I do need some upgrades to the 1990-91 set. At 440 and 450 cards respectively, there were a lot of cards to chase. And while the 1990-91 set is one of the more common sets to come across, I didn't actually complete it until only a couple of years ago. Even though older sets, they have pretty much always been in my NBA collection and they built the foundation...perhaps even more than the 1995-96 cards, since I did actual boxes of these sets, where the 1995-96 sets were only packs at that time. (I did do boxes of both series of Fleer and Hoops, but not until the early 2000s). Sorry the 1994-95 card is to the left. I tried to make them show up side by side but couldn't figure out how, and now I can't figure out how to get it back to normal.
Second Level Foundation sets:
The first level were the ones that really got me started...the ones I basically can't remember a time without, as related to the NBA. The second level sets would have come at right around the same time, but for whatever reason didn't make as much of an impact on me.
1995-96 Stadium Club could honestly have been a level 1 set. I have a ton of memories of it, including a very clear one of opening packs in a booth at the Long John Silver's in Queensbury, NY while we waited for our food. That's not something I would do now- I wouldn't take any chances of getting grease on the cards- but I was a kid then. My favorite insert set of all time is in this set. (at some point I plan to do a countdown of my top 10 favorite insert designs) Yet for some reason I rarely think about it unless I'm looking at it. I don't know why, its a fine set. That's the only reason it's a level 2 set. I have not yet completed it.
Ultra is and always will be my favorite brand, but the 1995-96 set is not one of the better efforts. Most of the cards are way too closely cropped...so much so that sometimes the top of the player's head isn't even on the card. As I would later learn that was a problem the previous year as well, neither of which I've completed. The next year's Ultra set, from 1996-97, is my all-time favorite NBA set...this one, despite being a foundation set, would not crack my top 100 list if I had made it, I suspect. (I only did top 20). But the Foundation aspect is all about memory, not favoritsm.
1995-96 Skybox was either the 3rd or 4th set to enter my collection- I know Fleer was 1st and Hoops was second, but I can't remember the order after that 100 percent- I think Upper Deck was next followed by Skybox and Ultra, but I'm trying to think back to 1996 and I am not 100% sure anymore. Even though it was an early addition, it was never a favorite set. I completed it just last week, and I was able to complete it because of this very post. I had been thinking that I needed to work on the Foundation sets more (Intending to try and trade for the missing cards on the Database) and realized I shouldn't do that until I went through the collection I bought in 2018, mentioned above. The very first box contained the last 11 cards I needed to complete this set.
1995-96 Topps came early to my collection, but of the major, long-running sets of season, it's the one I have the least of. As of right now I only have 241 of the 291 cards, my lowest completion percentage of any of the Foundation Sets. The very first card I ever traded for was from this set. Although I've upgraded the copy, I still have the card I traded for. Even though I had already been collecting cards by 8 years at that point I didn't know anyone elso who collected non-sports or NASCAR cards, so I had no one to trade with until I began collecting the NBA...which is actually WHY my mom got me my first pack, so I would have someone to trade with!
1992-93 Fleer is also a Foundation Set, even though I'm not sure I've ever opened even a single pack! At 444 cards, it's a fairly large set, but I have completed it. My early memories of this set, however, are mostly about the Drake's promo set, which one of my friends had a bunch of...and which I tried to trade for whenever I could. As time has gone on the Drake's set has lost it's importance to me though, supplanted by the base set. That's pretty much solely due to the fact that there are so many more cards in the base set, and they use the exact same design, and more definitely equals better.
Level 3 Foundation sets: The third level of Foundation sets are important to my beginnings, but played less of a role.
Topps Gallery was the next-to-last 1995-96 release, and I believe the first set released after I began collecting the sport. I'm not a huge fan of the set- and I have a clear bad memory of it. But I have good memories as well, including finding it for sale at the comic shop for the first time. The bad memory I have? Well, the cards are all curved due to the technology used, and I didn't like that then and tried to flatten them out. The card I tried to flatten ended up bending in the middle, badly, a huge crease from side to side. I finally replaced it on COMC, but the memory can't be removed. I've never tried to flatten out a curved card since then.
1994 Action Packed Hall of Fame...which for some reason Beckett has convinced most people is a 1995 set. It's not, in any way, shape or form. One of only two Action Packed basketball sets ever, I got a box of these right around the same time I got the two older Hoops boxes...but these didn't register as much. Action Packed didn't have the modern NBA license, the set was only 38 cards, and it included college cards...all of which meant I viewed this as an invalid set for my collection. One of the things I have but don't count. In all actuality, I didn't integrate and count these as part of my NBA collection until 2011! As it turns out, Action Packed DID try to get the NBA license, but was denied. Eventually, I came to really be a fan of these. At only 38 cards, it was easy to complete. My first expired redemption card ever came from this set. I finally got the autographed card on COMC just a year or two ago. Unfortunately the gold foil on the borders has not aged well, turning colors in wide swaths on many of the cards.
While there are other 1995-96 sets, and I have memories of all of them from when they were new, they didn't register enough to become Foundation sets. Flair was too expensive, Jam Session was too tall, SP and SP Championship made my eyes hurt with the mirror foil backs, etc.
Of the 15 sets I've identified as Foundation Sets, I still need to complete 6 of them. I am going to work on that via trade, hopefully...but first I need to finish going through the collection I bought. There's still 4 large boxes-each holding at least 2000 cards- yet to be explored. I already completed one of the Foundation sets from them in the past week, so I don't want to go looking for cards I may already have.