Just a few short years after its creation, the Fleer Ultra brand had carved out a niche as a premium basketball card product within the booming hoops market.
The 1994-95 Ultra Basketball set offered a solid design, a rookie class that held two future Hall of Famers and a number of innovative, colorful inserts.
We won’t talk about the horrifically airbrushed rookies, though.
Foil, die cuts and over the top colors and fonts were becoming the norm in products and this version of Ultra delivered. Not so much with the base set but everywhere else it was a shiny slam dunk. The insert sets really sparkled and grabbed collector’s attention. And speaking of a slam dunk, one of the more memorable insert sets from the product was Jam City, a set that featured some of the most electrifying dunkers of the era. The flashy insert set was available exclusively in jumbo packs, seeded one in every seven series two packs.
Found in alphabetical order by the player’s last name, these cards were eye-catching to say the least.
The colorful card fronts offered a view of city skyscrapers from ground level with an deep orange sunset sky high above. The colorful buildings set a backdrop for the NBA’s best dunkers throwing down in the foreground. The foil Fleer Ultra logo is found at the top of the card and a special Jam City logo featuring some funky fonts and more skyscrapers is found along with the player’s name towards the bottom of the card.
The card backs feature an identical stack of buildings and skyline with a full color action shot of the player their name across the center of the card and foil and a quick paragraph noting what made this particular individual a resident of Jam City.
The first card in the set is Minnesota Bucks forward Vin Baker, who seems to be driving baseline throwing down a two-handed jam past some of the smaller buildings in the city. Baker was an underrated forward of his era, compiling a number of productive season in the league.
Detroit Pistons rookie phenom Grant Hill was the second card in the set, so this is indeed a rookie year card of Grant Hill and it has to be one of the more fun and aesthetically interesting cards of the Duke standout. Hill just threw down a two-handed jam in his alternate Pistons red uniform on the card front. Prior to injury, Hill was on pace to be one of the best players of his generation and was a huge star in 1994-95.
Houston Rockets 6’10” forward Robert Horry is featured on the third card in the insert set. Big Shot Bob appears to be ready to throw down a one-handed jam on his featured image. Known for his clutch gene and lethal shooting, this is a questionable addition the set, specially with so many other superstar dunkers in the league at the time.
Seattle Supersonics big man and one of the most prolific dunkers of the era, Shawn Kemp, is the fourth card in the offering. The Reign Man is about to rain down a two-handed jam on the card in his classic green and yellow Sonic’s fit. This was near the peak of Kemp’s dunk powers.
Dallas Mavericks forward Jamal Mashburn is the card found halfway through the set. ‘Monster Mash’ is featured in an image where he’s driving from the baseline looking to finish at the rim. The multidimensional star was an exiting player but, again, there are far more notable slam dunk studs of the era. Teaming up with Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson, the Mavs were must see TV back in the day.
Charlotte Hornets Center Alonzo Mourning is next up in the set. Zo is featured in his picture hanging from the rim just after posterizing the center from the other squad. Overshadowed by Shaq, Mourning was a ferocious defender and offensive weapon.
Another former Georgetown Hoyas Hall of Fame Center is the seventh card in the set. None other than Denver Nuggets finger waving swat machine Dikembe Mutombo, pictured in his white Nuggets number 55 uniform throwing down a two-handed jam on the other end of the court.
The design team and photographers could have picked from 1,001 different images for card number eight. It features Orlando Magic center and one of the most dominant forces and prolific dunkers in the history of the game, Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaq is in Orlando’s classic white pinstripe uniform throwing down a thunderous one-handed jam. For someone who, as the card back reads, ‘could live off dunks alone’ O’Neal is as worthy as anybody to be in this fun insert set.
His card is the only one in the set that can bring some notable cash for the best examples. PSA 10s typically fetch$350-$400 or more.
Another rookie sensation is found at card number nine in Milwaukee Bucks number one overall pick Glenn Robinson. For the first time in the set, the player on the card front doesn’t appear to be dunking as The Big Dog appears to be laying the ball in at the rim right in line with the skyscrapers on the front of his card.
The final card in the set features the most legendary dunker of the group in Dominique Wilkins. The multiple time Slam Dunk champion is featured in a legendary uniform but not the one that fans and collectors see in their mind’s eye. At this point in this career, Dominique was playing sparingly for the Boston Celtics. This featured in his home white Celtics number 12 Jersey among the skyscrapers and high rises in the background of his card.
This set will break no records as far as pop reports, auction values or anything of that nature, although some gem mint copies of the bigger stars in the set will set you back a few Benjamins. What it does offer is a time capsule to an era when cartoonish and over the top design work was used in inserts to grab collector’s attention in a space where things became more and more over the top by the minute. This fun set is still visually appealing to this day and both singles and the complete 10-card set can be yours for just a few dollars in raw form.
About Tony Reid
From the time he was a little kid, Tony has been a huge sports fan. If he could play sports, watch sports and talk about sports it was a great day. From as early as he was drawn to sports, Tony was drawn to collecting sports cards. Not much has changed over the years. He collects RCs of star players in baseball, basketball and football. He also has a soft spot for first autographs of MMA stars. If you want to talk to Tony about the greatness of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey, Jr. you can reach him at [email protected] and @OffCenterTR on social media.