Most of them aren’t worth much of anything today but to anyone who either grew up in the late 1980s or early 90s, they conjure up great memories. Basketball cards were back on the market but despite having Michael Jordan’s first mainstream card, Fleer wasn’t really delivering what the NBA wanted. Its generic action shots and uninspiring backs weren’t really all that attractive to kids.
Commissioner David Stern was looking for more. It was a new era. The league was looking to attract more young fans and viewers. In the end, the league itself got involved in making trading cards. In 1988, Hoops was born with Skybox to follow. New brands ushered in new stars in new ways. Some of the cards were totally off the wall and caused old school collectors to recoil.
The stories behind it all also tell the tale of a league that was still a relatively mom and pop operation. Pete Croatta, himself a young collector at the time but now a freelance writer, tracked down former executives from the card companies and the league as well as a former player or two in this fun piece for Vice Sports.