I'm really not much of a basketball fan - how many of us really are these days? But oh, twenty years ago... Now THAT was a great time to follow big-league hoops. Vets like Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were passing the proverbial torch to young stars like Isaiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and some dude named Mike. In honor of this great period of NBA history, and the 2008-09 All-Star Game, let's go back exactly twenty years to the land of Fleer!
Everyone knows that Fleer released a scarce basketball set for the 1986-87 season - a set that contained some seriously desirable and expensive rookie cards. Fleer continued to print small quantities of basketball cards the following two seasons, and the three sets were complete at a mere 132 cards each. Since these wax packs contain twelve cards each, you technically have a one in eleven chance of getting any card in the set.
If you're a gambler like I am, you can't resist opening these packs because the odds ain't too shabby. Let's deal:
Charles Oakley, Knicks -- Oakley's third-year card. He went on to play a total of nineteen years in the NBA at forward and center.
Charles Barkley, 76ers -- Sir Charles was quite a forward in his day, securing a spot in the Hall of Fame in 2006. This is also his third-year card.
Mark Price, Cavaliers (rookie) -- A solid twelve-year performer, Price made four All-Star teams at the guard position.
Mark West, Suns (rookie) -- West is probably the most famous NBA player you've never heard of, managing to stay in the league an incredible seventeen years!
Sam Perkins, Mavericks -- Another seventeen-year vet of the NBA, Perkins was a teammate of Michael Jordan in college - and arguably better than Jordan in college. Not so in the NBA.
Joe Kleine, Kings (rookie) -- Kleine saw plenty of action during his fifteen-year NBA career. This is Kleine's rookie card, even though he'd started at center or forward all of three prior seasons. Oh, the unappreciated life of a Sacramento King.
Dan Schayes, Nuggets -- An eighteen-year vet of the league, it's looking like everyone in this set went on to play until the Lions finally made the Super Bowl (Ok, that's just a silly thing to say...)
Frank Brickowski, Spurs (rookie) -- I thought that perhaps our longevity streak had come to an end with the appearance of Frank, but no - this guy hung around the league for twelve years. Or so says the internet.
Dennis Rodman, Pistons (rookie) -- Yaaayyy... One of the "big" pulls of the set! Of course, owning this card ten years ago would have been a great time to sell it (for about thirty bucks). Thirty bucks would've then bought two good Beanie Babies. I'd have chosen the turkey, and cat with a black patch on his face.
Derrick McKey, Sonics (rookie) -- Derrick was a fan-favorite for many years, first in Seattle, then in Indiana. He'd hang up the shoes for good after the 2001-02 season, which he spent playing for Philly.
Joe Barry Carroll, Rockets -- Finally... A guy who played just ten seasons in the NBA... What a loser!
John Stockton, Jazz (rookie) -- Well looky here at what we just found! The fella who spent nineteen years "passing the love around Utah" (and other various NBA courts around the country). Oddly, Stockton had played a full four years with the Jazz before his rookie card was finally issued. Like the Rodman rookie, this card is easily one of the most valuable in the set.
Isaiah Thomas, Pistons (Star Sticker) -- inserted one per wax pack, the card-like stickers were always cool (and cut off-center). There were eleven Star Stickers in the set, meaning you also had a one in eleven chance of getting any player in that set, too.
Here's to the next twenty years of NBA basketball! At the rate technology is advancing, I'm sure twenty years from now I will have figured out a way to fully delete any mention of the sport from my television, internet monitor and hovercraft dashboard radio. Unless, of course, Frank Brickowski is still playing.