January 08, 2015

NBA History, Sans Michael Jordan

What if you had to present the history of the NBA without mentioning Michael Jordan? Fans of basketball know that to even suggest something so ludicrous is, well, ludicrous. And yet, if you're Panini, you have an exclusive license to produce official NBA cards and the sport's number-one-all-time star is under contract with a competitor.

It's unfortunate, to say the least. For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, Panini produced a very cool throwback set called Past & Present, featuring stars and rookies of today with Hall of Famers and stars from the past. Yes, there were other big—really big, in a few cases—stars missing from the checklists, but none bigger than Michael Jordan. 

Yes, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, all are represented. Even a few nice rookies, including the unibrowed rebound monster Anthony Davis. But it's not like you don't notice. It's obvious Jordan's not on the checklist.

Despite his absence, Past & Present is the kind of set I would create if I worked at a card company. Vintage look and feel to the base set, a nice mix of designs and a diverse checklist (of course I would've found a way to include cards of Dan Issel, Dave Cowens, Earl Monroe, Rudy Tomjanovich, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Johnson, Gus Williams, Kevin McHale, and, oh, I don't know, Charles Barkley). 

Another highlight is that, much like Topps's football and baseball Archives products, both years of Past & Present are relatively inexpensive to collect. Packs and boxes are still available on discount wholesale websites, and hand-collated sets can be found on eBay (if you search long enough). Another similarity to Topps Archives? One of the 2012-13 chase sets is comprised of autographs of obscure, retired players as well as current stars. Guys like Rick Fox, J.R. Rider, and even a recently deceased former player (Ray Williams).

All in all, nice cards—great designs and an excellent mix of old and new stars. And if you can get past the fact that Jordan isn't walking through that door, you've got yourself a winner.


Billy Kingsley said...

Honestly, I'm not sad at all that Michael Jordan wasn't included. Yes, he may be the greatest of all time, but he's very well represented in cards. Upper Deck, when they had the NBA license, issued more cards of him than current players, it seemed. There's more to NBA history than MJ, and I'm glad to see some of the other people getting representation.

What frustrated me most about Past & Present, at least the 2012-13 set, is the collation. I did a hobby box, and more than half the cards were duplicates, in the exact same order, pack after pack. For example I ended up with 5 copies of more than one card, not even counting the examples I already got out of retail, which were also in the exact same order.

Ben Henry said...

Billy, great points. I bought a couple boxes of 2011-12 and only got a handful of dupes. I also bought a number of "value packs" (rack packs) of 2012-13 and the collation was definitely a problem. Also: I found very few inserts in my rack packs, so mostly past and not a lot of present.

Billy Kingsley said...

I really need to get my hands on a box of the 2011-12 set. I was away from the sport during that season (just starting to get back, but I hadn't gotten back into the cards yet) I only have 3 base cards from the set. I did a handful of Rack packs from the 2012-13 set myself and I don't think I pulled a single insert.

Ben Henry said...

Billy, if you're up for trading, I have a ton of dupes from 2011-12. Email me if you're interested.