The 1997-98 Hoops basketball product continued a nearly decade-long tradition of the company producing one of the most recognizable flagship brands in basketball. The Hoops name was familiar but the yearly designs were evolving into more modern, colorful sets.
The ’97-98 season offered a solid rookie crop including San Antonio Spurs big man and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan leading the charge with fellow rook Toronto Raptors sensational swingman Tracy McGrady.
One of the more flashy and instantly recognizable Hoops insert sets was High Voltage, a 20-card offering that featured many of the more electrifying players in the game. Printed on holofoil stock, the cards were randomly inserted in 1997-98 Hoops Series 2 hobby packs at a rate of one per box.
The card fronts feature the foil backdrop of alternating black and foil circles reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Vertigo movie poster.
There is a full color crisp image of the player featured in action, the words High Voltage are found in different sized fonts scrolling left or right toward the middle of the card underneath the player. The NBA Hoops logo and the player’s name is found in the lower corner of the card.
The card backs feature a very toned down version of the design on the front of the card with the swirls seen in a white and a light gray. The same High Voltage text and various fonts is found towards the top of the card with the card number, player’s name and a small paragraph about what makes the player in the front so electrifying.
There’s also a full color image of the player in the lower third corner of the card, the team logo, NBA logo and all important Skybox logo on the back corner.
The set is full of many young ballers and a plethora of second year sensations.
Kobe Bryant, seen getting ready to lay one in at the rim, leads off the set at card #1. A young, fresh face Kobe is seen his classic Lakers uniform and in full concentration, future Mamba, mode. In the midst of his breakout second year, the High Voltage insert is one of the better options when it comes to early Bryant cards..
The second card in the set features Kobe’s Laker teammate Eddie Jones also shown in the classic gold and purple uniform. Jones scored nearly 17 points per game in what would turn out to be his final full season in Los Angeles.
Card number three features another second year sensation in Milwaukee Bucks spectacular shooting guard Ray Allen. The future Hall of famer is seen in his Bucks road uniform. Allen played in all 82 games that year but the Bucks weren’t quite ready for contender status yet.
One of the most High Voltage players in the league at the time is found at card four. Orlando Magic superstar point guard Penny Hardaway is shown dunking the ball after driving to the hoop. Penny’s card back mentions his uncanny play making abilities and incredible skill set that made him one of the most dominating players in the league. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 19 games because of a knee injury that required surgery.
Next up at card number five is Detroit Pistons all around sensation Grant Hill. The Duke University graduate was one of the most well rounded players in the league during his relatively short run in the NBA. His card back mentions his amazing run of triple doubles, which included 13 the year prior, running his grand total to 24, already fifth highest in league history at the time.
Vancouver Grizzlies second year star Shareef Abdur-Rahim is found at card number six. SAR was one of the better, more well rounded young players in the league even drawing comparisons to Karl Malone on this particular card back. In ’97-98, he averaged 22.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Toronto Raptors big man Marcus Camby is the next card in the set. Although never a super star like he was in college at UMass, Camby was one of the more exciting big men in the league back in the late 90s for a short period of time. In ’97-98, he led the league in blocked shots at 3.7 per game.
Philadelphia 76ers icon Allen Iverson is found a card number eight. It would appear that the company used a picture from a photo shoot, Iverson is seen taking the ball to the rack, ready to throw one down in his classic cornrows and new white Sixers uniform.
Second year star of the New Jersey Nets, Kerry Kittles, is card number nine in High Voltage. K Squared averaged 17 points per game in his second season, but soon injuries would begin to take their toll. He went through four knee surgeries in five years.
Halfway through the set was a teenager that had been the talk of the league. His new massive contract was the subject of headlines but Garnett proved worthy, leading the T-Wolves to the first winning season in franchise history.
KG’s Timberwolves teammate and sophomore sensation Stephon Marbury is found a card number 11. Steph is seen laying the ball in at the rim on his card. KG and Starbury teamed up to be quite possibly the most exciting young duo in the game back in the late 1990s.
Washington Wizards versatile big man Chris Webber is card number 12 in High Voltage. Webber was in his final season with the Wizards, who were coming off their first playoff appearance in nine seasons. He’d soon be on his way to Sacramento where he’d spend the next seven years.
Boston Celtics sophomore star forward Antoine Walker is lucky number 13. ‘Toine is laying the ball in at the rim after fighting through some tough defenders. The card back speaks to Walker’s remarkable versatility, comparing him to Karl Malone’s bulk and Scottie Pippen’s skillset. That’s incredibly high praise for this young man but that was the thought at the time.
The 14th card is Michael Jordan, buried 3/4 of the way through the set but this gem still shines as the brightest card in the release. MJ is seen just moments before releasing his classic jumper–appropriate considering what happened in the NBA Finals. Jordan was all-everything, winning a fifth MVP award and leading the Bulls to their sixth title a few months after these cards hit the market.
The biggest rookie of them all is found at card 15 where San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan is featured. The Duncan image is a cool aerial view just above the rim as the future Hall of Famer is ready to lay one in for two points. A rookie year card of the big man, this is one of the more valuable cards in the set.
The most electrifying rebounder in the game is found in the 16th spot in the set where Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman is featured. The Worm is seen doing what he does best- ripping a rebound right out of mid-air. While he made as much news off the court that season as on it, Rodman did with a seventh straight rebounding title at 15 per game.
The last part of the set is Chicago Bulls heavy as Scottie Pippen is featured card number 17 who is shown fighting Alonzo Mourning for a rebound. Many of the High Voltage card backs are fun as they make direct comparisons of the player featured to other players around the league and this card is no different. It reads ‘Scottie has taken Magic Johnson’s big point guard idea a step further; he’s a big point, a little forward, a menacing threat no matter what he’s doing on the court.’
Cleveland Cavaliers big man Shawn Kemp is found a card number 18. Kemp posted career-highs for points per game and led the Cavaliers to the playoffs that year. Easily one of the more electrifying players in the league during his prime, Kemp developed enough cache to be in these types of sets as long as he was an active player.
Houston Rockets iconic center Hakeem Olajuwon is number 19 in High Voltage. The Dream is seen in his Rockets pinstriped uniform, elbow pads, wrist wraps and all releasing one of his feathery jumpers.
The final card in the set features Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone. The Mailman is releasing a hook shot near the hoop amid the Vertigo like back drop of HV. Malone’s size, strength and brute force made him a force in the league (and an insert card staple) for nearly two decades.
The High Voltage insert set had a very limited parallel called 500 Volts, with each card having even more holofoil and electricity through various waves and lines, as well as being numbered to just 500 copies.
Many of the lower level cards in the 1997-98 High Voltage set can be had for around $20-30 in ungraded form. Raw copies of the upper echelon cards sell for over a $100 with a raw Kobe Bryant recently bringing about a $125 online. Somewhat hard to find ungraded, a raw Michael Jordan copy sold for $600 in late June.
Graded copies, of course, garner more money, with higher end Jordan cards easily topping $1,000. Add a few zeros if you’re looking to purchase the High Voltage 500 Volts in either raw or graded form.
You can check out the eBay inventory of 1997-98 High Voltage cards here.
The base Skybox inspired Hoops set itself was a continued breakaway from the classic, traditional Hoops design into a more modern and flashy one. The High Voltage insert is a prime example of that transition, one perfectly aligned with the products found across the board in 1990’s basketball.
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.