I’m a big fan of this Panini release and fell it was really the only set this year that looked very good across the board. I may sound like a broken record, but Panini’s sets won’t reach the level achieved by other major manufacturers such as Topps and Upper Deck until they stop designing their base and inserts cards with autograph and patch space in mind. I liked Panini/Donruss a lot more when they were just the company with all of the numbered parallels.
When I saw that these boxes had dropped in price again, I had to jump on them with a little bit of extra cash that I had. A couple of mouse clicks later and two boxes were on their way to me. After opening them, my feeling are a little mixed about the contents of the boxes, but I still love the set. How could I not love a set that has so many Celtics in it?
The first box was heavy on Celtics starting with Red Auerbach. He was an innovator in the game and looked past race when many others in the sport still weren’t willing to do so. Red was around for 16 of the team’s 17 NBA Championships; nine as head coach and seven more as a team executive.
Next up is the player that was most responsible for much of Auerbach’s success. Russell won 11 titles during his career with an amazing 8 of those coming consecutively. When it came time for Red Auerbach to retire as Celtics head coach, he named Russell player-coach, the first African-American coach in the NBA. Things were tough for Russell during his playing days due to racism and he seemed to carry the hurt from that with him for a long time. These days, he’s a lot more outgoing and can often be seen at NBA events and on NBA programming.
Next up is one of the inserts in this set and my favorite thing about this set. This year, the 1960 and 1992 USA Basketball Teams was inducted into the Hopps Hall of Fame. Panini wisely jumped all over this and made that team a major focus of this Hall of Fame set. This is one of the few cards that Panini did design with room for a swatch that doesn’t look bad in the base card style. USA jersey numbers are pretty meaningless, but they’re showcased over a basketball in the space where you will sometimes find a jersey swatch.
These’s one jersey card per box and while most of these cards are going to be single color swatches, you’ve got a shot at some very cool swatches. Panini has acquired USA Basketball jerseys to include in this product. I would think that the cost of this would be huge and that these jerseys wouldn’t be readily available, but here they are. “The enclosed swatch is guaranteed by Panini America, Inc.” Of course, I don’t think it says anywhere that these are actually from Olympic game worn jerseys, so who knows where these cards actually came from, but I guess that’s the risk that you take with any relics cards these days. This Scotty Pippen card is unfortunately one that I already have which is disappointing.
Now we’ll get to the reason that these boxes can possibly be such a great buy. You get two on-card autographs from Hall of Fame players per box. Yes, there are much larger print runs on the players who you may not have heard of unless you are a fan of the particular team that the athlete played for, but there is a chance at some really great autographs in this product.
Willie Worsley is pictured in his Texas Western uniform and the card back speaks of his part in winning the 1966 National Championship over the favorite Kentucky. This is a good example of a card that may only appeal to alums of Texas Western. There are 850 copies of this card available.
Next up is Joe Dumars who played with the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons. He wasn’t a thug like Bill Laimbeer or a trash talker like Isiah Thomas, he just scored and paired up with Isiah to be one of the all-time great backcourts. Dumars has also had a very successful career off of the court as President of Operations for the Detroit Pistons. This is definitely a cool card to pull and since Dumars is a more popular player, this card is only numbered to 399 copies. That’s the only downside to this product and the main reason that the price has dropped so much. There are too many players whose cards aren’t going to draw much interest on the secondary market and you’re paying at least $20 for those autograph cards even at these discounted prices. You could probably put together a pretty good collection of these autographs just from sticking to those selling for less than $10 on eBay.
Box two’s insert was a High Praise card of Phil Jackson. Let me start off by saying that I can’t stand Phil Jackson. He’s arrogant and has been lucky enough to coach the past two best players of their generation. Yeah, Red Auerbach had a lot of talent playing for him as well, but he never went and took a new job where players the caliber of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were playing. He’s got the record for all time NBA Championships as a head coach though and it is what it is. Even if Red hadn’t handed over the reigns when he did, he’d most likely only have eleven championships and be tied with Jackson. Mr. Triangle is the record holder though.
I’ll finish things off on a positive note with the Dream Team insert of Larry Legend. Bird just might be the best pure shooter of all time. Everyone always wants to compare him and Jordan, but it’s apples and oranges. Jordan could finish at the hoop like no other and has a better defender, but if I needed someone to hit a long jumper then I’m picking Bird. Overall, even as a diehard Celtics fan, you have to give the nod to Jordan.
Both of the signatures in the second box were ones that I had gotten in my first box that I opened a while back. Very shitty collation on Panini’s behalf. So, now I have duplicates of Harry Gallatin (numbered to 699) and Pat Summitt (numbered to 599). The only saving grace is that the Summitt has been a pretty popular card due to her lack of licensed autographs out there. This card here is one of the great reasons why this set exists. Where else are you going to get a certified autograph of Summitt? She’s a coaching legend and there’s nothing out there for her. So, by selling this redemption card on eBay, I’ll have some funds to either pick up another box or some singles from the set.
After these two boxes, I’m not sure where I stand on this set. I’d love to bust a case of it, but I don’t think that I’ll ever have the funds for that. I’m wary of purchasing single boxes again and getting more duplicates. Along with my duplicates of the Pippen jersey card and the two autographs, I also have a duplicate in the base set and another in the black parallel set. That’s too risky of a chance to take in my opinion. I will take singles and boxes in trade for any cards I post here that you might be interested in though. <grin>