I've been talking about doing a set ranking of each year in the 1990s for the NBA for a while, and that time is now. This isn't a wholly new concept- it's been done before. It's even been done by me, when I ranked my all-time favorite sets when I celebrated my 20th anniversary collecting the NBA. That was already 5 years ago, and, spoiler alert, if you jump back into my archives and reread those posts you'll likely know the "winner" of each year. I'm not going to link it like I normally would when I reference an old post so there's some newness here at least.
So why am I starting with 1994-95, instead of the logical choices of 1990-91 or 1995-96, the first season I collected? Mostly, it's because I've been working on scanning a big stack of them, so they have been on my mind, and secondly, it's near the bottom of the decade in favorites, although not last, I would say that's 1998-99. I would rank 1994-95 as my second least favorite season of the 1990s for card designs. That's not to say it's all bad...oh no, far from it. In fact, my 2nd all-time favorite set is from the 1994-95 season.
All rankings are based on my personal preference, my personal experience with the set, and the nostalgia factor that drives so much of collecting, so your results may vary. And, even though this is how I'm ranking them now, doesn't mean it's how I will always rank them.
Let's begin the countdown with set #15...
#6 Stadium Club
There are also International editions of this set, you can also collect it in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese! However, since they are the same cards just in a different language, I did not include them separately in this countdown. Nor will they be counted in the totals to come at the end of the post.
Probably the greatest small set ever, at only 121 cards, it's tied for the smallest set of the year. every card is embossed, the player, the border, and the entire back of the card as well! It was an experiment Topps never did again, which is unfortunate. The cards do tend to take damage easily...many of mine came out of the packs damaged. (I did a box) and I have to wonder if that played a role in why it was a one-and-done. The backs include a Did You Know section with interesting trivia about the players as well. One of the few sets I've actually read the backs of in full. I have the complete base set. There is a one-per pack parallel. This set had no inserts, which is unusual in the era. It's the only set of the year with no inserts. The Micheal Williams base card from this set was my #1 most wanted card from 2005-2016, when I finally got it, on COMC.
One of two sets from 1994-95 to crack my all-time Top 10, the only reason this didn't "win the year" is because my second-all-time favorite set is from the same season. This one ranked 10th back in 2016, and I would maintain that spot if I were doing that list now. I love the design of this set....the colorful foil splash with the brightly colored name just works for me. Each team has two different options, and possibly more-I have not done a study of that yet. Throw in the nostalgia factor and you have a real winner of a set. The photos are somewhat pedestrian, but the colorful splashes and names and the nostalgia factor overcome that with ease. The borders on the back are black and do chip easily, but that's not really that big a deal, as the card front is my main focus. Issued in two series for 400 cards, I have the complete set.
There is a European version that is basically the same, but includes some team logo cards only found there. Like Collector's Choice, it's not counted towards the totals.
And now...the grand finale...my #1 favorite set from 1994-95 is...
Hoops! This set is perfect...seriously, it's the only structurally perfect NBA set ever made. What makes a set Structurally Perfect? Full rosters, coaches, league leaders, a past season recap and a team logo card. That's all it takes, yet in the entire history of the NBA - roughly 700 sets - it's the only one ever made. But wait, there's more. The card back includes full career statistics, including the playoffs and college, AND has a spot for jersey number! And they even have a writeup and a color photo too. Now, if you were willing to accept any team card, not just a team logo, the 1991-92 and 1992-93 Hoops sets would also qualify. Besides being structurally perfect, it's got a great design. This is everything right with trading cards. At 450 cards, it's the largest set of the year, and I've completed it.
To complete all the base cards of 1994-95, it would require 4487 cards, and I have 4318 of them. (as of March 12th, 2021, when I wrote this) it's not outside the realm of possibility that I could complete the entire season someday. There are no "stoppers", cards that are rare or expensive, ahead of me. There are a few Jordans that could be problematic to somebody starting now, but luckily I got them all in the 1990s.
Here is the 1994-95 folder on the Cardboard History Gallery, although there's still a lot left to scan. 1994-95 collection