By the time the 1992-93 basketball season tipped off, Upper Deck was pushing the envelope in product design, technology and innovation. From the use of foil, gold, high quality photography, serial numbering and even holographic images, the company was breaking new ground.
In a season that showcased a great rookie crop including once in a lifetime talent Shaquille O’Neal along with Hall of Fame center Alonzo Mourning, one of the greatest college players of all time in Duke’s Christian Laettner and others, anticipation was running high for basketball card releases.
One of the more interesting products was the 1992-93 Upper Deck MVP Holograms set.
The 38-card set consisted of the Upper Deck team’s selection of the most valuable player on each of the NBA’s 27 teams as well as nine rookies hand picked by UD as future MVPs that could become their team’s go-to guy in the future.
A total of 138,000 individually numbered sets were produced and sold through hobby dealers and selected retail outlets with distribution taking place during the NBA playoffs.
The set was contained in a blue and silver box with a large UD hologram in the center.
The card fronts display a full color action cut out shot of the player with a holographic action photo inserted in the backdrop of the card. The other piece of the background design offers a number of varying shapes including triangles, diamonds and more. The black and gray geometrical shapes are complimented by bleeding team colors on the right hand side of the card. The words Upper Deck are scrolled from top to bottom on the left hand side and the player’s name in foil and the words Team MVP are found in a lower corner of the card.
The card backs are pretty bland, as they feature the players name and again the words Team MVP, the Upper Deck logo and card number in the upper corners. The vast majority of the back of the card is taken up by black text that highlights what makes the player featured on the card such a valuable player.
The underlying colors are team related and there is a generic basketball in the backdrop with the NBA logo on the team logo in the bottom two corners of the card.
The set is in numerical order by the NBA team city name, so the first card features Atlanta Hawks superstar Dominique Wilkins. Next up you’ll find Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics followed by “Grandmama”–Charlotte’s Larry Johnson.
The fourth card in the set is devoted to “C” and that can only mean a certain Chicago Bulls player who was in the prime of his spectacular career. The Jordan card itself is pretty spectacular as the foreground features the full color image of MJ releasing an acrobatic layup at the hoop while the holographic image in the background shows him ready to throw down one of his signature dunks.
The fifth card in the set features Cleveland Cavalier sharpshooter Mark Price while the sixth card finds Dallas Mavericks all times steals leader Derek Harper featured.
Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo is the seventh player featured in the set. The second year star is coming off his previous season as the NBA Rookie of the Year award winner.
The Detroit Pistons Hall of Fame point guard and leader of the Bad Boys, Isiah Thomas is featured at the eighth card in the set. Zeke is seen dribbling the ball intently in the foreground and the hologram shows him laying in the ball at the rim.
Golden State Warriors HOFer Chris Mullin is featured at card nine and Houston Rockets all time great center Hakeem Olajuwon is on the tenth card.
Indiana Pacers all time great shooter Reggie Miller is next up followed by Los Angeles Clippers standout Danny Manning.
The 13th card in the set features Los Angeles Lakers great James Worthy. Noticeably absent as the clear MVP of the Lake Show is Magic Johnson, who had shockingly and unexpectedly retired the previous season, leaving an unfillable hole in L.A., as noted on the card back. After that, it’s Glen Rice, Alvin Robertson, Chuck Person, Glen Derrick Coleman, Patrick Ewing, Scott Skiles and Hersey Hawkins.
It’s a Round Mound of Rebound sighting as league MVP Charles Barkley his featured at the 21st card. Chuck is followed by Portland Trailblazers scoring trailblazer Clyde Drexler.
Sacramento Kings star Mitch Richmond is card #23, followed by David Robinson of the Spurs and Shawn Kemp of the Sonics (was this a great era of basketball or what?).
Utah Jazz great Karl Malone is the team MVP according to the set, over fellow all timer John Stockton. The Mailman is seen showing touch in the foreground, laying it in at the rim and showing the ferocity of delivering a dunk in the holographic background.
Washington Wizards team MVP Pervis Ellison rounds out the Team MVPs.
The final eight cards in the set showcase the aforementioned “Future MVPs” and include San Antonio Spurs shooter Lloyd Daniels, followed by Milwaukee Bucks guard Todd Day and Washington Bullets solid forward Tom Gugliotta. Robert Horry, Christian Laettner, Harold Miner, then two young titans of the post, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal. Sacramento Kings high socked scoring rook Walt Williams rounds out the set.
There’s also an unnumbered checklist which features a very 1990s design and logo on the front with the full list of players on the back and the actual serial number at the bottom of the card.
The set is common enough that it’s not heavily graded. PSA, for instance, has graded only about 1,200 cards with 42 10s recorded (nearly all of them not surprisingly, Jordan or O’Neal). That means it hasn’t been a profitable set to grade. It’s all good news for collectors who just prefer to collect it. Complete boxed sets can usually be found on eBay for around $60 or less while those without the box are even cheaper.
Raw cards of most players can be found for a few bucks apiece while the Jordan and Shaq cards at least command an Andrew Jackson on occasion.
PSA graded 9 Jordan’s bring north of a $100, even up to $150. You will definitely add a few zeroes if you’re trying to track down a PSA 10 copy of His Airness.
Although not an overly valuable set generally speaking, MVP Holograms was a unique offering by Upper Deck, produced on the heels of a game changing rookie in Shaq, the 1992 Dream Team and Michael Jordan at the height of his powers. UD was pushing the envelope and looking for any avenue to feature its technology and the hugely popular players of the time.