The 1996 NBA Draft brought an influx of all-time great talent into the league. The trading card manufacturers were expecting greatness and among the upper echelon products, Flair Showcase was a standout. There’s even a tongue-in-cheek warning label on the hobby box, stating that the product was “for serious collectors only”… at least I think it’s tongue-in-cheek.
The draft class featured Philadelphia 76ers number one overall pick Allen Iverson, Los Angeles Lakers iconic draft day acquisition Kobe Bryant, multiple time NBA MVP Steve Nash and a few other quality picks that strengthened the value of the shiny product.
The Flair Showcase Hot Shots insert set was one of the cooler (actually hotter) and aesthetically enjoyable insert sets of the time period.
Randomly inserted one in every 90 packs, Hot Shots was not very easy to piece together. The 20-card set features many of the biggest names in the game. While they’re far from plentiful, most surviving copies are in good shape and grade well. As of this time, 289 of the 474 Hot Shots cards graded by PSA rated 9 or 10.
Hot Shots on Fire
The design features a crisp action shot of the featured player coupled with a eye catching die-cut, red flaming NBA Spalding basketball as the backdrop. The words Hot Shot are written in gold foil cursive lettering in the upper left hand corner of the card and the player’s name, team and position wrap down the right hand side of the basketball.
In the lower corners there is the Flair Showcase logo, also in gold foil. With the player imagery, highly detailed basketball and the colorful flames, these cards really stood out even in a time of over the top designs and constantly evolving inserts.
The card backs offer the same fiery color from the card fronts. At the top of the back you will find the card number. Below that is a color image of the player and on the left hand side is a paragraph of often fun, entertaining and unique information about each player. For for instance, the back of Michael Jordan’s card talks about the merchandise boom when he came back from his year and a half long retirement. The back of Shaquille O’Neal’s card speaks of his budding second career as an actor. Fun stuff.
The set kicks off in fashion with Michael Jordan. The image is a full color crisp one of him in his red Bulls gear getting ready to finish a one handed touch shot at the hoop.
A very youthful Kevin Garnett is the the second card in the set. The Big Ticket is seen taking a jumper in his T-Wolves blue gear on the card front.
Toronto Raptors former Rookie of the Year point guard Damon Stoudemire is the third and maybe least worthy card looking back at the set today.
Orlando Magic point guard and NBA superstar Anfernee Hardaway is the fourth card in the offering. It’s kind of an odd picture of Penny from the side as he’s in his pinstriped blue Magic uniform getting ready to lay the ball in at the hoop.
Penny’s former teammate and and then Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal is the fifth card up in the set.
Shaq is found in his classic yellow and purple Lakers uniform ready to do damage at the rim.
The sixth and seventh cards in the set feature very successful yet very different forwards in Detroit Pistons do it all Grant Hill and Chicago Bulls force of nature and rebounding king Dennis Rodman.
Three more forwards round out the first half of the set in Seattle Supersonics dunk machine Shawn Kemp, Chicago Bulls Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen and Washington Bullets young star Juwan Howard.
Phoenix Suns playmaking point guard Jason Kidd starts the second half of the set. He is followed by Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Joe Smith and David Robinson at card no. 15.
Robinson is one of the very few cards in the set whose cranium is actually part of the die cut design of the card. He is followed by young Philadelphia 76ers super scorer and a hot shot at the time in Jerry Stackhouse.
An underrated, big, powerful defender and at the rim finisher, Antonio McDyess got his due being in this set with such superstars.
ClydeDrexler is the next card in the Hot Shot hot set. He is followed by Sonics star Gary Payton and Lakers swingman Eddie Jones, who is the final card in the set.
Aside from the lower end players such as Smith, Howard and Stoudemire, Showcase Hot Shot cards carry tremendous value. Raw star cards easily sell for $200 to $300 and up, depending on the player. When we start talking about high grade copies, we start adding zeros.
As you may expect, the Michael Jordan card carries tremendous value even ungraded. For graded near mint plus copies you will be shelling out nearly $4,000 to acquire one. Graded 9 copies are pushing five figures and if you can even find a BGS Gem or PSA 10 you’ll easily be in the down payment for a home range. There are currently 21 10s and 65 9s on PSA’s Population Report.
The set wasn’t without issues. A small amount of cards are missing the gold foil text on the card fronts. Some just flat out had the wrong player names on the front.
Occasional production issues aside, the 1996 Flair Showcase Hot Shots set is among the most memorable inserts of the era, reflected today in what hoop fans are willing to spend to add a little fire to their collections.