19 October 2016

A Rare Romanian Giant

Some of the toughest cards to get a hold of today are inserts from the late 90's, especially when it comes to basketball releases. Maybe the baseball ones are similarly difficult, but that's not a sandbox I play in. In the late 90's I was all basketball, all the time. But I was also a teenager, and relegated to the cheap sets like your basic Fleer, Topps, Collector's Choice, and the occasional pack of Upper Deck. Things like SPx, Flair, Finest, and Chrome were out of my league. Many of the cards I coveted during that time have increased to the point where I still can't afford them, a fact that has largely stalled out my main player collection, Hakeem Olajuwon. The other 90's guys I collect weren't ever popular enough to warrant inclusion in many insert or premium set checklists, but I occasionally dig up a neat card featuring them. That is the case with today's bit of cardboard.


When it comes to basketball I've always enjoyed the extremes, focusing much of my collecting energy on the tallest and shortest players in the league. I don't know if the lumbering giant has any place in the hyper-athletic NBA of today, but in the 90's you had Shawn Bradley, Manute Bol, and Gheorghe Muresan all playing basketball at 7'6" or taller. Yao Ming kept the torch alive into the 2000's.

Ming had the best overall game of the group, with the others showing weaknesses and never reaching the superstar status he did. Muresan is my personal favorite of the bunch, probably because of his unibrow. He also probably had the best overall game between him, Bol, and Bradley. What he didn't have was longevity, as injuries shortened his career. Bol played for 10 seasons, Bradley played for 12, and Muresan only played in 6 (and the last two of those barely counted as playing). Both Bradley and Bol had better blocked shot averages, but Muresan had slightly better numbers in other categories. His peak year was probably '95-'96, with averages of 14.5 PTS, 9.6 REB, and 2.3 BLK in 29.5 minutes per game. Bradley's peak year was probably one year later, in '96-'97, with averages of 13.2 PTS, 8.4 REB, and 3.4 BLK in 31.3 minutes per game. It's hard to pinpoint a top season for Bol. He led the league in blocks per game a couple of times, but never averaged more than 4 PTS or 6 REB per game. Anyway, I was a fan of all those guys. I don't know if the NBA has a place for guys like them anymore. Serge Ibaka puts up similar statlines today, but he's a 6'10" power forward.

Getting to the actual card in the post, this is a '96-'97 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection parallel. Flair Showcase was a multi-tiered nightmare of a set, with a bunch of variations that I can't explain very well. I would link to the Cardboard Connection page on it, but apparently the owner of that website ran into some legal issues and much of the site has been taken down. What I do recall is that this was the first serially-numbered basketball parallel, which makes it kind of a big deal. These parallels are sparkly and shiny and this one is numbered # 098 / 150. Each player actually has three different cards in the set, with parallels of each one. In the upper left of the card back, you can see the designation Row 0. There were also Row 1 and Row 2 variations with identical checklists but different photos. Within each Row there were further breaks in the checklist, with different card numbers having variable rarity. All of the Legacy Collection parallels were numbered # / 150, though, so you were equally likely to pull any of them. It's just the base cards that have differing rarities. I tracked down this one for my Gheorghe Muresan player collection. I am pretty happy that I found it. If you want to try tracking down one of your own, you can hope for it to pop up on eBay, or you can buy a box of '96-'97 Flair Showcase for around $800. Legacy Collection cards average one per box, so you could hit a $1000 card like Kobe Bryant or a $12 card like Gheorghe Muresan.

6 comments:

  1. Congrats on landing that one. Even though there are technically 450 Legacy cards for each player, they are still pretty rare. I pulled my first SN card from this set, when it was new. I love SN cards and will add them to my collection whenever I can...closing in on 3000 for the NBA.

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    1. I don't often actively chase cards for my basketball collection, but when this one popped up I knew I needed to land it if I could. It seems like anything from that era is tough to find, just because they don't come up for sale that much. I like serially-numbered cards as well, even if that doesn't mean as much as it used to.

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    1. They are out there, but you have to be in the right place at the right time.

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  3. What a great card! I always sort of felt bad for the three guys mentioned in this post, mostly because it was always made into such big deal every time one of them got dunked on, especially Shawn Bradley as he seemed to get made fun of quite a bit. Personally speaking, I would much prefer to see someone go for the block and risk getting dunked on, rather than ducking out of the way, which seems to be the more modern approach.

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    1. It does seem like today's players scatter away in an effort to avoid getting posterized by a nasty dunk. I also prefer for someone to at least go for the block, but players don't want to be the guy on the wrong end of SLAM magazine's SLAMADAMONTH. Obviously you're not going to block every shot, but it seems like the expectation is that a 7'6" or 7'7" guy is a failure if he doesn't.

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