Friday, May 30, 2008

Good Ol' Inserts

I'm in a great mood today as the Lakers are the Western Conference Champions! It looks like it'll be like the old days again with a Lakers vs. Celtics finals.

Anyways, I've always been a big fan of old insert cards. Unfortunately, I only have a few inserts left from the 90s. Most of the insert cards I managed to find were the team insert cards. The early 90s versions of the team insert cards consisted of only the team logo and a short description of the team on the back. The "Hornet's Swarm" insert pictured above was the 1995 version. That particular card highlighted the play of Larry Johnson in the back.

Many of the old inserts highlighted individual performances. The card pictured is te Kiki Vandeweghe Topps 50 Point Club insert. The card highlighted his 51 point performance against the Pistons on 12/13/83. I don't see many, if any, insert cards that highlight individual performances anymore.

Another type of the classic insert cards consist of trivia questions. This particular question asks "Look closely at the photograph on the front of this card. Look again. Something's not quite right. Can you beat the buzzer?" I must say, the way they worded the problem was pretty lame. Couldn't they just have said "What is wrong with the picture?" Oh well, anyone know the answer?

And of course there's the regular insert card with some sort of funky name. This one is called Upper Deck Skylights. There's nothing special about the card. But the background does look pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who's Your Fave 5, Part 2

As long as the Barkley/D-Wade commercials keep airing the halftime show on ABC keep showing their fave 5s, I might as well keep this runaway freight train going. The following is my fave 5 active NBA players.

Some people call him boring. But I think he is the exact opposite. I believe many of his haters, most notably Laker and Suns fans, are blinded by their hate for Duncan and the Spurs. But if you put aside your disdain and pay attention to the way he plays, it's a joy to watch. His post skills are impossible to stop. While he is not in his prime anymore, he is still among the elite players in the league.

Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Chris Paul and Deron Williams. This debate will go on for the forseeable future. I tend to side with Deron Williams. I enjoy Deron's game more than Chris Paul's. Although Chris Paul has a higher ppg, Deron Williams is a better pure scorer. His lower ppg is the product of the pick and roll system of Jerry Sloan. I also believe they are both equal in terms of playmaking ability. Chris Paul has a higher apg due to the Hornet's open court style. Williams in my opinion is also a better defensive player. In a few years, I believe he will be recognized as the premier point guard in the league.

Gilbert Arenas has a unique personality. Some people find him to be annoying. I guess his sense of humor is an acquired taste. To me his quirky responses and comments to the media is a breath of fresh air in today's sports world full of talking cliche. Oh, and he's a pretty good basketball player as well.

Kevin Durant is the most skilled rookie I have personally seen. His jumpshot is already one of the best in the league. He has shown the ability to take it to the rack in spite of his skinny frame. Hopefully, Durant develop a post game and become a more offensive player. His defense is also improving tremendously. Thoughout the season, he has guarded the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. I remember a game when he made a clutch block on T-mac down the stretch. While most people would probably disagree with me, I think at the same age, his game is more advanced than both Lebron and Carmelo Anthony.

Suprise, suprise. My favorite current player is Kobe Bryant. He has the most complete offensive game in the league. When he wants to, he can be among the best defensive players in the league. If Kobe can win a ring this year, he will prove once and for all that his greatnes was not created by Shaq.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Who's Your Fave 5?

So, everyone's been telling the world who their fave 5s are on television. I figured I might as well join the fray. These are my fave 5 cards that I currently have in my possesion.

Number 5 would be my Gilbert Arenas Rookie Debut Game Used Jersey. I like the background design of the card, particularly the wooden court floor. The design gives the card a classic feel to it. Plus, Arenas is one of my favorite players in the league, but thats another fave 5 for another day.

Of all the player autos I have, Rudy Gay is probably the most prominent player. Gay just finished off a stellar sophmore season and is heading towards a career as a perennial all-star caliber player. Look for him to have a strong season next year for the Grizzlies.

This is the only auto I have that is not autographed on a sticker. Hopefully Solomon Jones will receive more playing time next year. I believe that he is a fairly capable center. In my opinion he is certainly better than Zaza Pachulia.

This UD Hardcourt auto of David Lee was the first auto I pulled since I restarted this hobby. The fact that this doubles as a rookie card makes the card even more appealing. With new run and gun coach Mike D'Antoni at the helm, Lee should be able to get plenty of tranistion buckets and rebounds. I think he could function as a poor man's Shawn Marion.

My favorite card in my collection is the 2006-07 Fleer Ultra Dual Game Used Jersey of Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter. There are several reasons why I like this card. First, it has game used jerseys of two of the top swingmen in the league. Second, the card is serial numbered to 100, which is pretty decent. Last but not least, I pulled this card after purchasing just 3 packs of Fleer Ultra, making this card that much sweeter.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Wish I Could Draw Like That

First Row, From Left: Robert Parish, Sean Elliot, Glen Rice.
Second Row, From Left: Dennis Scott, Ricky Pierce, Johnny Dawkins.

In 1992, Upper Deck released a set of cards called The Collector's Choice. In this set, a man by the name of Alan Studt drew and colored pictures of a number of players from each team in the league. I have in my possesion only six of these cards. My favorite one is the Robert Parish drawing. Even though these cards aren't "valuable" in terms of monetary value, they're still very cool to look at imo.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Little History Lesson on the Cal State Fullerton Titans Men's Basketball Program

Since Bruce Bowen, a former Cal State Fullerton Titan, is currently playing the the Western Conference Finals, I thought I might give a brief history of the greatness of our basketball program.

Cal State Fullerton, my University, has had a "rich" history of basketball tradition. The team plays in Titan Gym, aka HTG(Historic Titan Gym). The gym, er, I mean arena, has a capacity of 4,000. The program's first major moment of glory came in 1978 when the Cal State Fullerton Titans, led by former NBA player Greg Bunch, qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. At that time, the tournament consisted of a 32 team field. In the first game, the Titans managed to upset New Mexico, one of the nation's top offensive teams. After that remarkable upset, the Titans earned the nickname "Cal State Who?" In the sweet sixteen, the Titans had to face USF, led by Bill Cartwright. And fittingly, the Titans managed to pull of another huge upset. At that point Southern California was going crazy with Titan fever. Unfortunately, all runs come to an end. Fullerton lost by 3 to Arkansas in the Elite Eight, with the game ending with a controversial no-call in favor of Arkansas.

During the 80s, a player named Leon Wood transferred from Arizona to CSUF. He is widely recognized as the greatest individual player to ever put on the Titan uniform. In 1984, he was named to the All-American team as a guard. The other guard was Michael Jordan. Wood went on to win the gold medal later that year and was drafted 10th in the NBA Draft. He played 6 years in the league and is now currently a referee in the NBA.

During the late 80s and early 90s, Fullerton saw the arrival of the likes of Cedric Ceballos and Bruce Bowen. Ceballos was part of a Fullerton team that managed to upset then top seeded UNLV, who were led by Stacy Augmon. Bowen did not play at Fullerton with Ceballos. He was a good player but did not put up the stats of Ceballos. Unfortunately, neither of them led their teams to March Madness.

During the 90s and early 2000s the Fullerton program went completely downhill. But towards the mid 2000s the Titan program began to see an upswing. First, the program was able to produce another NBA player in Pape Sow. The 2004-05 team, led by Ralphy Holmes, was able to qualify for the NIT and defeat Oregon State.

Since the NIT run, the Titans have produced several 20+ win seasons. Bobby Brown, the mainstay of the Titan program during the last few years, was a projected 2nd round pick during the 2007 draft. That may be a blessing in disguise as his time overseas may help polish his skills and a team will probably pick him up sometime down the road. Below is vid highlight of his career high 47 points. BTW, attendance has been up since the video was made haha.

This past season, my beloved Titans finally qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since that unlikely run in 1978. The team was led by Big West co-player of the year Scott Cutley, Frank Robinson, and Josh Akognon. Unfortunately, they were knocked out in the first round by Wisconsin. Akognon is currently testing the NBA draft waters. He has yet to hire an agent so he is still eligible for his senior year.

Well there you go, a "brief" history of our men's basketball program. Bruce Bowen is the only active Titan in the NBA and his play makes all Titans proud(well, sort of haha). I wish Bowen well, except when playing the Lakers.

On a side note, there will be box and pack breaks coming soon as my semester just ended.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whoops... Excuse Me Mr. Haslem

Haha I thought the photograph Topps chose for this Udonis Haslem base card was rather interesting. Instead of showing a picture depicting Haslem's moment of glory, they instead opted to show collectors a picture of Haslem being in an awkward position.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where Are They Now: Mychal Thompson

This edition of "Where Are They Now" features the former Blazer, Spur, and Laker Mychal Thompson. He currently works as the radio color commentator for the Lakers. He is also a co-host of the Loose Cannons radio show on AM 570, the Lakers flagship station. Mychal Thompson is notorious for his laid back Bohemian demeanor and his play on words style of humor. For example, before Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers, Thompson would call him Pau "Gasoft" as a reference to his lack of physical play. Mychal Thompson was the star player of his Minnesota Golden Golphers basketball team. He was the top pick of the 1978 NBA draft after being selected by the Portland Trailblazers. After a successful tenure with the Blazers, Thompson spent a short time with the Spurs. Afterwards, he was traded to the Lakers, where he became an integral part of the Laker championship teams of the 1980s.

Here is a classic exchange between Mychal Thompson and the legendary Chick Hearn.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lebron James Rookie Box Set

In order to prepare for the big Cavs vs. Celtics Game 7, I decided to show a bit of the Lebron James rookie box set I purchased. It only cost about 8 bucks so I figured what the heck. There are a total of 30 cards in the set. Each card has photos of him before he ever played a single NBA regular season game. The photos consist of his high school games, photo shoots, and summer league games. While the Celtics are heavily favored in this game, LBJ should never be counted out. Last year Lebron carried his team past the Pistons. I'm going to make sure I don't miss this game just in case Lebron pulls off another historical performance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shiny Cards: A Former Novelty

Back in the day, these shiny Topps Chrome, Topps Finest, Bowman's Chrome cards were considered a novelty when they first came out. Collectors have never seen cards that were, well, so damn shiny. I sure didn't when I first started this hobby. I remember I was around 10 years old when I pulled my first ultra shiny card. It was a Jeff Hornacek Topps Finest card. Too bad that card, along with hundreds of other cards i collected as a kid, is lost in oblivion somewhere. But hey, I still have a few of the shiny chrome/finest cards from the 90s. The card pictured above is the 1997-98 Dan Majerle Topps Chrome.

Here's another one of them "shiny" cards. This is the 1996-97 Gheorghe Muresan Topps Finest card. As you can see, Topps placed a protective coating to protect the card. It's still there after more than 11 years. As far as I know, Topps does not put the "protective coating" over their chrome/finest cards anymore. I think that is one of the reasons, albeit a small reason, why these "shiny" cards are not as novel as they used to be. The protective coating gave the cards a sense of importance to them. Also, Topps Chrome and Finest comes out every year with tons of base cards, so the sheer quantity of these shiny base cards are probably the main reason of the downfall of their uniqueness. Plus, with the popularity of game used jersey cards, pulling these "shiny" cards just isn't that exhilarating for hobbyists anymore.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where Are They Now: Mark Hendrickson

This is the inaugural post to the "Where Are They Now" series of entries. Every so often, I will publish a post about former NBA players and give updates of their lives after their NBA careers. The featured player for the inaugural post of this series is Mark Hendrickson. Yes, he is THE Mark Hendrickson, the big league pitcher. He is currently a starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins. But before his days in the MLB, he was a standout basketball player. He was the star player on his high school basketball team. In college, he starred in both basketball and baseball at Washington State University. He was good enough a basketball player in college that he was selected to the all Pac-10 conference team twice. After graduation, Hendrickson was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1996 NBA Draft. For the next couple of years, Hendrickson bounced around the league playing limited minutes for various teams. Frustrated by his lack of consistent playing time, he decided to concentrate soley on baseball. He also had to work his way up in baseball, starting out in the minor leagues. Eventually, he worked his way up to the big leagues as a reliever and is now a starting pitcher for the Marlins.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Long Time No See

I was cleaning out my closet when I stumbled upon a box of old cards I used to collect when I was a kid. While they weren't my "favorites" back when I was 9 years old, I realized that there are some very interesting cards and familiar faces in that box. Most of the cards in that box are from the late 80s to late 90s. Many of the card brands in the box are now defunct or shelved by their parent companies. The card pictured above is the 1997-98 Dennis Scott Metal Universe card. I remember as a kid that Metal Universe was my favorite brand of card. It was a brand of the Skybox International company, which was aquired by Fleer during the mid 90s. As far as Dennis Scott is concerned, I remember most clearly his Orlando Magic days. His 3 point shooting ability made him a valuable contributor to those mid 90s Magic teams. He was extremely good at making opposing teams pay when they focused all their defensive attention of Shaq and Penny. I also remembered Scott missing 4 straight free throws in a playoff game, but I can't recall against who.

This is the 1992-93 Skybox Matt Geiger rookie card. I don't remember watching Geiger when I started watching the NBA during the mid 90s. But I do remember him during his Sixer days. He was a decent rebounder and had a respectable midrange shot. He was one of the big bodies that the Sixers threw at Shaq during the 2001 NBA Finals. His efforts were obviously in vain. Geiger is also known as the only player to be busted and punished for violating the NBA's steroids policy.

NBA Hoops. This brand to me symbolizes the old school basketball cards of the late 80s and early 90s. The card pictured above is the 1989-90 Mark Jackson Nba Hoops card. He is currently second among the all time career assist leaders. I mostly remember him for his Indiana Pacer days when he played alongside Reggie Miller. Jackson was one of the best post up point guards I have ever seen. Although Jackson did not look that an overpowering point guard, his back to the basket ability and strength often catches the defender off guard. His post game was so dangerous that Phil Jackson decided to put Scottie Pippen on Jackson during one of their playoff series in an attempt to neutralize him. While his basketball skills were undeniable, I must admit his broadcasting abilities leaves more to be desired.

While I was digging through some of my old cards, I found this little gem, a 1996 UD Collector's Choice Barry Sanders card. Sanders was undoubtedly one of the greatest running backs of all time. In his short nine year career, he came close to breaking several rushing records, including Walter Payton's career rushing mark.

Friday, May 9, 2008

2006-07 Topps Hobby Box Break

I purchased a 2006-07 Topps Hobby Box awhile back but I never had the chance to post it up here, so here it is. The base cards of this set is nothing special. They have the standard picture with the name on the bottom. All basecards have a white border around the photo. I've always thought that Topps cards have superior photography when compared to UD cards, and this is no different. This box has a lot of base cards, 12 per pack. Thus, you'll get a lot of duplicates if you purchase this box.

The rookie cards look exactly like the base cards. The only difference is that Topps stamped the upper left corner of the card with the "Rookie Cards" logo. Topps also decided to put some parallel cards in their base and rookie card set. Parallel cards are basically cards are variations of the original version of the cards. Most card sets have different colors for parallel cards, such as silver, gold, platinum, etc.... I pulled a gold parallel Tyrus Thomas rookie card. All gold parallels are serial numbered to 500. I dislike parallel cards because it gives card companies an excuse to slap on a serial number to any of their cards, which imho demeans the value of serial numbered cards. I actually pulled a total of 5 Tyrus Thomas rookie cards from this box.

There are a TON of insert cards in this set. According to Topps, there are 23 insert cards per box. I remember back in the day pulling insert cards was a special occurence. The multitude of inserts in this set shows how far the status of insert cards have fallen since the memo cards started becoming popular. The card pictured above is a Kobe Bryant Hobby Box insert card. It sort of has that "holographic" design. That form of design reminds me of the old Metal Universe cards. I used to love Metal Universe cards as a kid. Now, not so much.

This is another insert card called Own The Game. There are 28 Own the Game cards and I pulled a Lebron James insert. You can never go wrong with a Lebron James card since his value is second to noone in this hobby.

Clutch City is another insert card. Yeah, I know, there are A LOT of insert cards in this set. This is the Yao Ming Clutch City insert card. Unfortunately, Yao has never really been able to stay healthy enough in order to show whether or not he is clutch enough during the playoffs.

There are relic versions of every type of insert card. This here is the Chauncey Billups Clutch City Game Used jersey card. Billups is questionable for Game 4 against the Magic. If he ends up missing the game, it provides the Magic a perfect opportunity to tie up the series.

This is the highlight of my box break. After opening pack after pack, I realized that I pulled an auto. Unfortunately, it was a Solomon Jones Rookie Photo Shoot auto. The good news is that it is not a stickered auto. All of the autos I own are stickered. The last time I checked, the beckett value of this particular card was somewhere between 25-35 dollars. Not bad but I looked up the same card for Adam Morrison and JJ Redick and their cards were worth in the low hundreds. Hopefully Jones gets more playing time next season.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kobe Bryant, Your 2007-2008 MVP

Congrats to Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers for getting his first MVP award. While the MVP race was very close down the strectch between Kobe and Chris Paul, I believe that Kobe's team record and his "lifetime achievement" ultimately pushed him over the edge. Unlike some of his detractors, I do believe that Kobe deserves the MVP based on his performance THIS YEAR alone. But, I also believe that Chris Paul was certainly deserving as well, thus if he would have won I would have no complaints whatsoever. Here are his stats for this season:

PPG: 28.3
FG%: .459
3pt%: .361
FT&: .840
RPG: 6.3
APG: 5.4
SPG: 1.8
BPG: 0.5

While his stats aren't quite as impressive as his previous years, his leadership ability has improved tremendously. He is more trusting of his teammates hitting opens shots that in years past. That is the main reason, to me, why he deserves to be the MVP. Others may argue that Kevin Garnett and Lebron James should have won the MVP. While KG did play on the team with the league's best record, he did play in the Eastern Conference. What would the Lakers, Hornets, or Spurs records be if they were in the Eastern Conference? Some argue that Lebron James should win it simply because they believe that he is the best player in the league. I don't think that criteria should be used, since Michael Jordan would have won the MVP at least 10 times. Plus, the debate of whether or not if Lebron is better than Kobe is a totally different debate, a topic I broke down in a previous post here. Lebron James also put up some of the most historically impressive stats. But based on the statistical criteria, Kobe should have won it the last couple of years. For the past 20 years, no MVP was awarded to a player who played on a team that won less than 50 games. Are the writers going to break that trend and all of a sudden award the MVP to Lebron? I would definitely like to hear some of your opinions of the results of the MVP voting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some Recent Purchases Part 3

Here is the 2005-06 Topps Bowman Paul Pierce game used jersey card. Since this card has 2 pieces of game worn jersey on it, the card is serial numbered 055/249. Not bad at all. Pierce is probably the second best small forward in the league behind Lebron James. I remember watching him play the year he and Antoine Walker took the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. At that point I perceived him as a top 5 player in the league. Unfortunately for him, the Celtics went downhill. But now his team is a competitor again, so good for him.

This card only has 1 piece of jersey, therefore this card is not serial numbered. Every time I watch Carmelo play, I come away impressed with his offensive talents. His offensive fundamentals is as good as any player in the league. He has a great post game and a deadly jab step. There is no need to say anything about his jumper. What he lacks though is basketball IQ. The guy has the knack of missing the open man. It is incredible to watch sometimes how he ignores the open man and takes a shot against three defenders. That is what separates him from the likes of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. He simply does not have the ability, or the motivation, to create for others.

This card isn't the best looking card in the world. But the vendor I went to was running out of cards fast and Amare was one of the more attractive options remaining. Man, I really have to get my hands on some patches. Thus far, all of my jersey cards are 1 solid color. I've always envied people who pulled cards with the nba logo patch.

Here is another Gilbert Arenas GU card. This one is the 2007-08 SP jersey card. Like I've mentioned before, the man is very entertaining to watch and listen to. If he returns to the Wizards next season, he needs to scale back his offensive game and become a more pass-first point guard. If he finds a way to find a happy medium in scoring and passing, he will be deadly.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Some Recent Purchases Part 2

Here are some more cards that I've recently purchased. What I have here is an Upper Deck 2007-08 SP autograph card of Rudy Gay. Too bad most of my autos are all stickers, but autos are autos. The last time I checked, the Beckett value for this card was around 12 dollars. I bought this card for 3 bucks. This was the best auto that the vendor offered. As many of you know, Rudy Gay had a breakout sophmore season and is poised to become an allstar caliber player if he isn't already. With Pau Gasol gone, I anticipate that he is going to be putting up some monster numbers next season.

This is the Upper Deck 2005-06 Trilogy Game Used Jersey card of Dwight Howard. When he first came into the league, all he could do was dunk. Now, his offensive game has improved and he's adding more into his repotoire such as a jump hook and an occasional 10ft jump shot. His rebounding numbers speak for themselves and his athleticism, for a man/manchild his size, is out of this world. If the Pistons do not double team him in their semi-finals series, they may have an upset on their hands.

This here is the Upper Deck 2005-06 Rookie Debut Game Used Warm-up jersey of Gilbert "Quality Shots" Arenas. I'm normally not a big fan of Rookie Debut cards but their set of jersey cards look pretty nice. Their toned down color gives the card a classical feel to it. As far as Arenas goes, he's definitely one of my favorite players in the league. He's got good game, although the Wizards offense certainly are more fluid when he's not playing. The main reason he's one of my favorites is his personality. He tends to speak his mind and he's not afraid of repercussions. He doesn't offer the traditionally dry "take it one game at a time" remarks to the media, ala Kobe/Lebron/MJ. The dude is just simply entertaining. Too bad he was unable to come back after sittin gout game 5. He was a good spark plug off the bench during the series. Hopefully he'll have better luck next season.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Some Recent Purchases Part 1

I have cut back my purchasing of cards significantly since I need to save some money for next semester of school. I plan on renting an apartment somewhere near school. Anyways, here are a few of the cards I recently purchased. This vendor was practically giving cards away by selling 3-4 cards for a buck.

This is a 2005-06 Upper Deck Reflections Josh Smith jersey card. Not my favorite card that I bought but he's an up and coming player. The Atlanta Hawks were on a heck of a run right now in the playoffs. But their two game winning streak ended yesterday against the Celtics. If they manage to win game 6, you never know, crazier things have happened in sports. Josh Smith has been one of the main reasons why the Hawks have made this a series. The man is a great player because of his size, length, and athleticism. Any shot close to the basket is in danger of being swatted by him. If he learns to stop settling for 3 pointers and instead take the ball to the rack, he will become a monster of a player.

This is the 2005-06 Upper Deck Sweet Shot Marvin Williams jersey card. It is serial numbered 54/125. 125... not bad. It's been said many times, but it's worth mentioning again; what were the Hawks thinking when they drafted Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams? Yes, Marvin Williams had a lot of potential and still does. But their greatest need was at point guard and up until they got Mike Bibby that was their greatest hole. Marvin is a good player with great size and athleticism. But the Hawks have way too many small forward type players. I have not watched the Hawks enough to know who should be traded among the Hawks' young small forwards. But I think they should trade Williams or Childress (Hawks fans can enlighten me on who is the better player) for a big man, pg, or first round draft picks. With all that said, I still think he has the ability to become a perennial allstar. He's a versatile player with a good shot. He, like Josh Smith, should take the ball to the rack more. Personally, if the Hawks end up trading either Williams or Childress, I think they should keep Williams. But, if the Hawks don't want them, as a Lakers fan I will welcome him with open arms.

This here is the 2007-08 Upper Deck SP Tracy McGrady game-used jersey card. I personally think this card looks pretty damn sweet. I'm a big fan of SP's card designs because imho, they look simple yet fancy at the same time. Unfortunately for T-Mac, he's never been passed the first round and it sure does not look like this will be his year. More to come later...