1998-99 basketball products featured a rookie class full of future Hall of Famers and solid current and future all stars.
The flagship Topps product had all of the best of the best covered…and then some. With solid rookie cards of Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and other stars to veteran cards of Michael Jordan, a still youthful Kobe Bryant and many others, it’s definitely one worth owning.
One of the more fun and interesting inserts in flagship Topps was the East-West set.
Found once in every 36 Series 2 packs, the 20-card dual sided set showcases a superstar from the Eastern Conference on the front and what might be considered that superstar’s contemporary from the Western Conference on the back.
The cards have a bold look and feature the higher end Finest technology. The backdrop of the card features what appears to be a globe with horizontal lines streaming left to right as the card design goes from light to dark. It almost appears as though the NBA star is hosting the evening news. You will find the player’s name at the bottom of the card in white text, a small team logo as well as the Topps logo on the card front.
The first card in the set features Boston Celtics young star Antoine Walker while his mirror image from the Western Conference Memphis Grizzlies fellow young star Shareef Abdur-Rahim is featured on the back.
Card number two features the big men, as Eastern Conference star Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning is featured on the front in position to dunk while Los Angeles Lakers icon Shaquille O’Neal is found on the back in his gold Lakers gear. By 1998-99, these were two of the preeminent big men in the league, already well into developing Hall of Fame worthy resumes. Of course, Shaq Diesel was the clear cut choice but Mourning fashioned a fantastic career of his own.
The third card in the set features two of the better point guards in the league at the time with another Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway featured on the front and front and Utah Jazz iconic point guard John Stockton on the reverse. This card is an assist waiting to happen.
Next stop is one of the better tandems in the entire is the entire set when Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen represents the Eastern Conference and young superstar Kevin Garnett is found on the card back featuring the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Western Conference.
Hands down the main event, the iconic, the crème de la crème, the number one card in the set is found at card number five. The front features Michael Jordan in his road red Chicago Bulls jersey, rising up to release a jumper while the back features his heir apparent at the time, Kobe Bryant. This card has appreciated (monetarily) and been more appreciated (hobby wide) each and every year since it’s release.
The sixth card is a fun one as a features Detroit Pistons star Grant Hill representing the Eastern Conference while Michael Finley of the Dallas Mavericks represents the Western Conference. These two young stars are somewhat comparable in their play, while Hill’s star shone brighter but faded quicker, Finley had a longer but less memorable career.
Another pair of centers are found at card number seven when Atlanta Hawks big man and shot blocker extraordinaire Dikembe Mutombo represents the East Coast and one of the greatest and most iconic centers in history, Hakeem Olajuwon, represents the West.
The eighth card in the set features two second year sensations. The “Pale Rider”, Keith Van Horn, is found in his classic long, white socks posting up–of all players–Tim Duncan on the front of the card. Ironically, Duncan is also featured on the back of the card representing the West.
Van Horn went on to have a decent career while Duncan secured five NBA championships (one of them the very season this card was released) and become one of the absolute greatest players and winners in history of the game.
Card number nine is a good one for superstar guards: The Glove and The Answer. Allen Iverson is seen in his playmaker role while Payton, famous for his defense, is in his stance on the card back. The Answer led the league in scoring in 1998-99, averaging 26.8 points per game.
Halfway through the set we find another twin tower duo as New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing represents the Eastern Conference while San Antonio Spurs Hall of Fame center David Robinson represents the West. Almost an afterthought to some younger fans today, these two are unquestionably among the greatest big men not only of the era but in the history of basketball.
The 11th card in the set is a fun play as to former college teammates are found back-to-back when the Washington Wizards Juwan Howard is featured on the card front and his former Fab Five teammate Chris Weber is found on the back of the card representing the Sacramento Kings. In 1998-99, C-Webb led the league in rebounds per game, scooping 13 boards per game. This is certainly a nice pick up for any Michigan collector.
Card number 12 has Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Brevin Knight featured on the A-side while Minnesota Timberwolves young point guard sensation Stephon Marbury is featured on the back. Knight had an average career while Marbury shined bright in the States and arguably even more so when he went to play overseas and became an icon in the Far East. Not everyone has a huge statue erected, postage stamp created and even a museum in their honor as Starbury does in Beijing.
On card 13 is aging veteran Shawn Kemp representing the East while Seattle Supersonics Vin Baker is n the back of the card. One can’t help but think how out of place Kemp looks in Cleveland, while the man on the back is sporting the Sonics gear Kemp is known for rocking.
The 14th card finds long time muscle bound enforcer Anthony Mason repping the Charlotte Hornets while Minnesota Timberwolves semistar Tom Gugliotta is found laying one in the rim on the card back. Definitely one of the weaker cards in the set and no, I would not have said that to Anthony Mason’s face.
Next up is Orlando Magic point guard sensation Penny Hardway with fellow young point guard sensation Damon Stoudemire featured representing the Portland Trailblazers on the reverse.
The 16th card in the set features Boston Celtics young star Ron Mercer on the front paired up with rival Los Angeles Lakers flashy guard Eddie Jones. It’s a fun play on the Boston/LA rivalry but the names definitely don’t stack up to the all time greats in the series.
Card number 17 features two Point Gods with Washington Wizards Rod Strickland representing the East Coast on the card front and future Hall of Famer, fresh faced Jason Kidd representing the Phoenix Suns on the card back. J-Kidd and R-Strick were actually 1 and 2 in assists per game in the NBA that season with Kidd leading the league at a 10.8 clip and Strickland coming in second with 9.9 assist per game.
Next up is a card that features young 76ers forward Tim Thomas on the front and perennial SportsCenter highlight and Saturday morning NBA Inside Stuff ‘contributor’ Antonio McDyess representing the Phoenix Suns on the back.
The next to last card in the set features two power forwards in the New jersey Nets Jayson Williams, who was a rebounding machine in his day and the backside of the card features that season’s NBA Most Valuable Player, Utah Jazz powerful forward Karl Malone.
The last card in the set features two players who define the term shooting guard as Indiana Pacers icon Reggie Miller is found representing the East while Jimmy Jackson is representing the Western Conference in a uniform that many people might have forgotten he even wore, that of the Golden State Warriors.
As far as the value side of the equation, the Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant card is head and shoulders above the rest in value. A PSA 10 copy sold on eBay for over $1,200 in mid August. Another PSA 10 copy sold for over $1,500 earlier in the month. It often sells for around $500 in raw form. You can usually find several on eBay.
Most of the other cards can usually be had in ungraded form for less than $10.
There is a refractor parallel of this insert set and the Jordan/Bryant card brings very strong prices in high grade. A PSA 10 Gem Mint copy sold for nearly $7,500 back in June and even raw copies go for a few thousand bucks.
Even with the shortened season, many products in 1998-99 basketball made an impact in the hobby. This somewhat unique dual sided insert packed full of superstars carries weight and value in the hobby with the cherry on top being the Jordan Bryant card which is becoming a legendary piece in its own right.