The 1996 NBA Draft class brought one of the richest and most accomplished rookie crops in history. Collectors and fans alike know many of them by a single name- Kobe, Iverson, Nash and more. Naturally, the many 1996-97 basketball products produced were loaded with these great rookies… and also the many league wide stars you would expect to see.
One of the more interesting insert sets of the year was produced by Skybox in their short lived Z-Force product.
Randomly inserted in Series 2 retail packs at a rate of one in every 36 packs, the 10-card Little Big Men set highlighted the smaller statured superstars of the game.
The card fronts offer a die cut, silver foil skyline in the background with an in-action image of the smaller baller player on the front. The Skybox Z-Force logo is placed in one of the four corners in a different foil as is the player’s name and the Little Big Men logo.
The card backs feature the same die cut design but in reverse, of course, with the same skyline in a different shade and another action shot of the player. The player’s name and a small paragraph about what makes this small player so big is found near the top of the card.
Card number one features one of the better point guards of the era in then Portland Trailblazers point God Kenny Anderson. The former Georgia Tech standout is shown laying the ball in at the rim.
The second card features Atlanta Hawks point guard Mookie Blaylock, pictured in his red and black Atlanta Hawks gear, dribbling towards the rim. Blalock, maybe most lethal as a defender, led the league with 2.7 steals per game.
One of the undersized titans in the game, the NBA smallest player standing just 5’3″, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues is featured up next. Muggsy is shown in his super cool Charlotte Hornets white pinstriped uni (one of my favorites of the era) dribbling past a defender.
Cleveland Cavaliers All Star point guard Terrell Brandon is featured next. Brandon had a nice run with multiple All Star game appearances for the Cavs in the late1990s.
Halfway through the set collectors will find a rookie year card of Philadelphia 76ers iconic point guard Allen Iverson. AI is seen racing down the floor dribbling the rock in his classic Answer 1 Reebok kicks. Pound for pound, Iverson may be the greatest little big man of all time. Even as a Nike guy, these sneaks are some of my favorite of all time. AI captured the Rookie of the Year Award, averaged nearly 24 points per game and was well on his way to becoming a superstar and cultural icon.
One of the better court generals of his era, San Antonio Spurs point guard Avery Johnson is featured at card number six. Johnson, who later became a head coach in the league, showed great leadership abilities throughout his career on the hardwood.
One of the more spectacular and underrated point guards of his era, Phoenix Suns Kevin Johnson is featured next. KJ was known for attacking the rim with reckless abandon and is one of the more exciting point guards of the time. He is featured going hard to the hole on the card front.
At the eighth spot in the set you will find a second rookie in Minnesota Timberwolves star Stefan Marbury. Another Georgia Tech stand out, Marbury teamed with Kevin Garnett to form one of the better more dynamic duos of the era. “Starbury” is seen laying the ball at the rim on this card.
“The Glove” is the next to last card in the Little Big Men set. Seattle Supersonics guard Gary Payton is pictured dribbling the ball up near his head ferociously pushing forward down the court. Payton, now a Hall of Famer, was as known much for his defensive prowess as he was on the offensive side of the floor, which made him a round ball legend. His Hall of Fame level trash talk was not to be trifled with, either.
The final card in the set features Los Angeles Lakers point guard Nick Van Exel. “Nick the Quick” set the tone for The Lake Show in the late 90s and is best known for his ferocious style of play and his shadow boxing on his way backup the court after a made bucket.
As far as market value the majority of these Little Big Men can be found for a small amount of money not garnering more than 10 bucks each in raw form. The Iverson rookie year card might cost you a little more than 20 bucks raw. You can usually find at least a couple dozen here on eBay.
Overall, this is a fun, eye catching insert set offsets Z- Force’s Big Man on Court released in the very same product, by showcasing the physically shorter stars that dominate the game in the their own right.