The company was founded back in 1906 but unless you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest or were an avid collector of basketball cards from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, chances are you’ve never heard of Franz Bread. The Portland-based baker was well known among hardcore hoops hobbyists for their annual (or almost annual) sets of Blazers cards.
Packed one per loaf of Franz Bread, the card pictured Blazers players and coaches. Some even recalled playoff games or special events from the year before.
Franz typically partnered with the hobby’s top basketball card maker at the time–Star Company at the beginning, then Fleer, Hoops and Skybox–to create the cards. They weren’t necessarily all copycats of the sets found in traditional packs, though. The Franz sets were different–completely different in some cases–and on a couple of occasions, the photos of Blazers players also included a guy on defense who was pretty popular at the time: Michael Jordan. In fact, it happened in back-to-back years.
The 1991-92 Franz Blazers set includes guys like Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams, Cliff Robinson and Danny Ainge. Terry Porter is card #13, shown in his home white uniform driving past the outstretched arm of MJ, dressed in his road red Chicago Bulls uniform.
The following year, Franz cello wrapped the individual cards to help prevent staining and once again, there’s a guest appearance by Jordan. This time it’s on a card that features Jerome Kersey battling the NBA’s top attraction. Both players have their hands on the basketball in what looks like a play in which Jordan is pulling up or the two are battling over a rebound.
Card #5 in the same set has a photo taken from the top of the backboard looking down as five players battle for position underneath. While they aren’t identified, it looks like Jordan is the player in the upper right.
The Bulls went on to beat the Blazers 4 games to 2 that year, so credit Franz for chronicling an unhappy ending to the previous season.
Franz used action photos throughout its run of sets, which began in 1984 and continued through the 1996-97 season, so you can spot some other NBA greats, too, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ( David Robinson, Kevin McHale.
Quite a few cards escaped the packaging process and a few dealers have had significant quantities of some of the sets over the years, so most of the Franz sets remain relatively inexpensive (some more than others). At least for now, that includes both the 1991-92 and 1992-93 sets that include the cards picturing Jordan.