Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Which Finest is Finest?

I've been working on the chrome style cards that I scanned back in 2018, and as I have been working on them I keep having the thought..."Which Finest is finest?", and I knew I had to explore it in a post. In this post, I will do a countdown of the NBA Finest sets, starting with my least favorite and moving to my favorite. This is entirely subjective- based on my personal likes and dislikes and also a bit of nostalgia factored in as well. 

The Finest brand was produced in the NBA from the 1993-94 season through 2000-01 and then again from 2002-03 to 2007-08, 14 years. 

#14. 2006-07 Finest

This set looks like an eyeball, and frankly it's disturbing. The other colors of the Refractor borders don't help it much. 

#13. 2007-08 Finest

Of all the Finest sets this is the one I have the least of. It's ranked low because of that and the fact that the design just isn't all that good. My collection is limited to a single base card (this one) and a single Refractor. 

#12. 1998-99 Finest
I've never really warmed up to this set, and I don't really know why. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, it just doesn't do much for me. This is the thickest Finest set- when I'm handling them, I keep checking to make sure I didn't pick up two cards by mistake, they are that thick. Because of the thickness they are one of the few Finest sets that doesn't curve. Series 1 had the player names in Chrome while series 2 had them in white. 

#11. 1993-94 Finest

The first Finest set, this one is held back by the fact that many of them have turned green, as you can see this one is doing as well. This is one of the more colorful sets and without the greening would probably rank much higher- at least by two or three spots. 

#10. 1995-96 Finest

This was likely the first Finest set I ever saw, but it's one of the weaker Finest sets, and one of the weaker releases of 1995-96 as a whole as well. The background of each card is clipboard style drawing that comes in a variety of colors- green, red, blue and purple. For a time, the Kevin Garnett card from this set was my most wanted card, but I eventually secured one. This example shown actually in an uncorrected error, or UER. His name was Predrag, not Pedrag. He was also the only rookie to get the blue border of veterans instead of the orange border for rookies. 

#9. 2005-06 Finest
A very blue set, all base cards had the blue background. That's not just team colored, although it does match the T-Wolves of the era well. The set has a few colored Refractor parallels which are really nice, the Green being my favorite (no surprise). I only have a handful of cards from this set, I did only one pack of it when new. 

#8. 2000-01 Finest
The only Finest set to NOT have a Refractor parallel, the 2000-01 set ranks as highly as it does because it's fully team color coded, something I like a lot. This set was never common in repacks, and I didn't get a single rookie card from my hobby box! 

#7 1994-95 Finest
Although I'm sure I saw the 1995-96 set first, this is the set I have more memories of from when I was beginning to collect, and that propelled it higher in the countdown than I expected when I was rough drafting it in my head. I still have some of the scratched up cards I traded with my 5th grade classmates to get in my collection, I have not upgraded them in all this time. All cards in the set have the gray front border and a purple back theme. At 331 cards this is the largest Finest set and was the first to feature the peelable protective coating. Some of the photography choices in this set are...bizarrely chosen, as seen here. 

#6 1996-97 Finest

1996-97 was the first of two years where there was not one Finest base design, but several. I loved that concept when it was new, and honestly, I still sort of do! Maestros, Gladiators and Apprentices were exclusive to Series 1, while Mainstays, Heirs and Foundations were in series 2 only. Sterling was in both series. Common cards have bronze borders, Uncommon silver and Rare gold. The rare cards make this set pretty much incompletable...because one of them is a Kobe rookie. When I was rough drafting this post I actually expected this set to rank higher, but looking over the scans changed my mind...if I ever revisit this list I can't say they would rank as low as 6th again. 

#5. 2002-03 Finest

The nostalgia factor absolutely plays a role here, because the design is not as good as some of the years I ranked lower...but I have so many memories of this set. The 2002-03 season holds a lot of memories for me in particular, and seeing cards from this set just makes me inherently happy to see them. That alone was enough for the set to crack the top 5. This was also the first Finest set that included redemptions for the 2003-04 rookies- meaning this set has actual XRCs in it. This was also the first Finest set to have autographs and relic cards as part of the base set.

#4. 2004-05 Finest

I shouldn't like this set as much as I do, but...I really do like it a lot. There's a LOT of border here, and the gray and black areas don't have the traditional Finest chrome affect. One thing I do like about this set is that it's got the second closest to real photos you'll see on a Finest card. Most Finest sets are just a cutout of the player over a digitally created background, something I generally don't like. This set features actual photos, just with a layer of texture over them that makes them shine. Another thing I like about this set is that it's actually easy to scan...most Chrome cards are a pain in the butt to pull a good scan off of. Not this one. This was the first Finest set to feature colored parallels, and once again the Green is my favorite. This was the last Finest set I opened a box of. 

#3. 1997-98 Finest

The second and final year of multiple base designs, I actually had this ranked lower in my mental rough draft until I looked at my collection scan folder and realized this is actually the superior set to the 1996-97 release by a wide margin. There are also more designs, 10 of them this year! Finishers, Catalysts, Ballhawks, Force and Debuts are from Series 1, while Showstoppers, Defenders, Arrivals and Creators are from Series 2. Masters appears in both series. This set is exceptionally earth toned. The cards are pretty much all on the orange to brown spectrum, almost overwhelmingly so, but basketballs themselves have been on the orange to brown spectrum for generations so I guess it works. 

#2. 1999-00 Finest
I really expected this to be #1 when I was rough drafting the post, but it fell just short. This year's set has a solid design- a real photo, but with the chrome technology creating a wooden court pattern on the cards. The boxes by the team and Finest logos are color coordinated, as are the card numbers on the back, the only set I can think of that has that as a feature. This set actually has the least amount of border of any Finest set, too. It was the last to have two series, the last to have a peelable cover, the first to have serially numbered cards as part of the base set, and the last to have a real subset- a small section at the tail end of the set is set aside for the 2000 US Olympic basketball team, the only time non-NBA jerseys appear in a Finest set. 

#1. 2003-04 Finest

I just could not get past the colorful aspect of this set, when I was looking at all of them, it just won out. The large name, color coded to the team, the stripes that remind me of a race track, also team color coded, and even the player's jersey number being prominently featured...add that to the texture surrounding the name area and you just have a winner. 

Maybe I shouldn't have gone with a Celtics card for this set, which I admittedly chose because of the green, 

You really don't get the full appreciation of how colorful and vibrant this set is unless you see multiple cards from it. 

So, that's my list of which Finest is Finest. Which is your favorite?

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Black History Month Spotlight: K'Andre Miller

 Now that I've given up on the 10 card per post concept, it should be no surprise who my next spotlight falls on: Rangers Defenseman K'Andre Miller. 

One of the things that really surprised me about hockey when I got into it was that the draft picks wouldn't join the team right away. Being so used to the NBA format, where the draft pick either makes the team that season or not at all, there was quite a bit of getting used to how the NHL does it- where teams draft a player and he doesn't join the team for years. K'Andre Miller was the first Ranger player who this was a thing with for me. Yes, there were other players who had been drafted first that came to the team while I was watching, but K'Andre was the first where I saw him drafted AND understood what was going on and how the system worked.

He has since joined the team and has solidified himself as the 2nd best defenseman on the squad. Like Ryan Reeves, I have prioritized getting his cards scanned so this is my complete collection of him...so far!

2020-21 Upper Deck Dazzlers Green #DZ-129
The Dazzlers inserts from the Upper Deck Flagship of the last three years are incredible cards in hand. They don't scan as well, but even the scan looks good. Green being my favorite color leads to these being my favorite of the 4 colors available. I was lucky enough to pull this one from a pack myself.
2020-21 Upper Deck Star Rookies Box Set #15
The Star Rookie box set started in 2015-16, then disappeared for a few years, returning in 2020-21. I really like the set, as it usually gives me my first cards of a lot of the players, K'Andre was one of them, I wrote a post about this card specifically when I first got it. I wish it was more than 25 cards each year. 
2021-22 Upper Deck #124
My only base card of K'Andre, I actually pulled this one from a pack when I was in South Dakota! 
2022-23 Topps Now #154
This card is actually a sticker and comes from the Topps Now set, which I really love. This card commemorates my favorite moment of the Rangers season so far. Trailing with the game ending, K'Andre got a goal in the literal last second of the game, forcing OT, where with Rangers won on a shot by Alexis Lafreniere or Adam Fox. I don't remember who scored the game winner, but K'Andre's tying goal was very awe-inspiring. 

And, unfortunately, that's it...the entirety of my collection to date is only 4 cards. Hopefully that will change. 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Black History Month Spotlight: Ryan Reaves

 It shouldn't be too much of a surprise who I chose to highlight in this post, since I've made no secret of the fact that Ryan Reaves is one of my favorite players in the NHL. He was with the Blues when I began watching, and joined the Penguins shortly after that, but I became a big fan after he was traded to the Golden Knights...and I was ecstatic when he joined the Rangers! Unfortunately, the Rangers were less so and didn't use him very much, leading him to request a trade...but that worked out well for me as he joined the Wild, a team I watch a lot of since they already had Mats Zuccarello and Marc-Andre Fleury. 

When I originally envisioned this series I was going to highlight players when they got to 10 cards, but I reconsidered that as I have not been bringing in many cards lately, so I'm showcasing Ryan Reaves with only 9 cards in my collection. Of the 9, five are base cards, 3 are parallels and 1 is a promo. I do have another card waiting to ship at COMC  but I'm not going to have my order shipped yet, so I am sure I will have something to share for him when I update next year. 

2017-18 O-Pee-Chee #355

2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights Inaugural Season #22

2018-19 O-Pee-Chee #108

2019-20 Upper Deck #196

2020-21 Upper Deck Gold Speckled Rainbow #433
This is a card that is only available on epack but I got it from COMC. 
2021-22 O-Pee-Chee #64

2022-23 MVP #52

2022-23 MVP Ice Battles #52

2022-23 Upper Deck #122
He is one of the very few players I've scanned in full! That's not an accident, I prioritize certain players, but it is only possible because I don't have any cards of his early career, which I could have gotten before I really knew who he was. He's been in the NHL since 2007 but as you can see my oldest card of him is from his 10th season. His 2022-23 Upper Deck base card is actually my only card from the set, thanks to Chris The Collector, who kindly sent it to me. I was unable to find the set at retail and don't have the money for a hobby box at the moment, so this will likely be my only card from the set for quite a while. 

Ryan is a second-generation athlete. His father Willard played in the Canadian Football League. I do not have any cards of his father but I hopefully will pick one up on COMC or via trade at some point. I try to get a card of family members of players I like. 

Hopefully he will get a Wild card before too long. 

He may not score many goals but he brings a joy to the game and really seems to relish his role as an enforcer. One particular incident stands out to me...Tom Wilson, the player on the Capitols who purposely injured Artemi Panarin of the Rangers in the end of the 2020-21 season, didn't even register a hit the first time the Rangers played the Capitals when Ryan was on the team! 

When I was checking his Wikipedia page to see what his father's name was, I learned he also has a brother Jordan playing professional football and is a direct descendant of Bass Reeves, who is a very interesting Old West lawman and his story is well worth a read in its own right. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

Black History Month Spotlight: Updates on P.K. Subban, Jarome Iginla and Anthony Duclair

 Here's this year's installment in the now annual series updating the collection status of the players previously featured in my Black Hisotry Month Spotlights, highlighting Black players in hockey. In 2021 I wrote posts for P.K. Subban and Jarome Iginla and in 2022 I wrote one for Anthony Duclair. Now I will look and see how many cards I added to my collection of them since last year, and if they are cards I scanned, I will show them. That's not a guarantee- I can add cards much quicker than I can scan them, and dealing with arm injuries to both arms, one after the other, hasn't helped my scanning speed. 

At least year's update I had 38 cards of P.K. Subban and now I am up to 45 cards of him! 

Among the new cards I added of him are these:

2021-22 Topps Now #522

2021-22 Upper Deck #360
The only two of the new additions I got scanned. P.K. retired after the 2021-22 season so his new cards going forward will probably not be as many as previously. He now works for ESPN. 

Last year's update saw Jarome Iginla with 40 cards, and he now has 42, I only got two cards of him in the past year. I'm actually sort of surprised it was that many since I brought in even less older cards this past year than the previous year, but I'm glad I got some at least. 

1997-98 Upper Deck #24
Not pictured is the 2008-09 Ultra Gold Medallion card.  This is such a cool photo on this card too! 

I had 16 cards of Anthony Duclair in his post last year, and now I am at now at 18. 
2022-23 MVP #187

They are his base card and the Blue parallel from the factory set from the 2022-23 MVP set, and luckily both of them were scanned! I'm backlogged on writing posts and still haven't written my Christmas update yet so this is the first time the MVP factory set is appearing on Cardboard History. 

Stay tuned to find out who the next spotlight will be on for this year! Hopefully I can get more than one written, in fact.