1997 SPx Basketball was the sophomore season for the now iconic Upper Deck brand. As was the case with the 1996 set, each and every base card featured the company’s Holoview technology and a die-cut base set of cards. The one major difference from the previous year is the fact that the 1997 set offers a horizontal card design. The details of the die-cut are different, too. If you look closely enough, it’s almost like the entire card is die cut in the letters of s, p and an x flowing left to right. I see what you did there, Upper Deck.
Just like the debut product, it was one and done again for the premium Upper Deck offering. 1997 SPx boxes offer 36 packs, with just a single card in each pack. As a side note, you have to be exceptionally careful opening one card packs because it wouldn’t take much to damage and already super condition sensitive card.
The box packaging features a dark rich color with the SPx logo flashing in silver across the face of the box, as it let’s potential customers know what can be found inside with imagery of Michael Jordan adorning the box and promotional materials. There were 12 boxes per case. Last month, an unopened case sold for $15,000 on eBay.
The base cards feature a full color action shot of the player on the left hand side followed by a looping bar with the player’s name and then the unmistakable Holoview technology image in the center of the card. It’s in the shape of a curve or maybe even a p that flows across the right hand side of the card and overlaps the far right hand side of the card that is a die cut x. There’s an SPx logo in the upper right hand corner and the player’s number and position in the lower right hand corner.
If you step back and see the “S-P-X” die cut design of the card, it hits you as an ‘a ha’ moment. It’s a pretty remarkable conceptual design that utilizes over the top technology and design, but is somehow understated. The imagery on the left hand side of the card also has foil background which adds to the luster but also the condition sensitivity of the cards.
The card back is a reverse of the front die cut as the left hand side features a stat bar with the expected on court, yearly stats and some basic biographical information. The center of the card is a team colored stripe that carries the players name, position and team. The far right hand side of the card features an inaction image of the player featured.
Much like last seasons release, the card backs of SPx are nice enough to be card fronts for many of the competitor’s products.
The base set was again limited to 50 cards including many of the biggest stars in the NBA–and some that didn’t really pan out. A few of the nicest looking cards in said base set include a young Kobe Bryant, who was finishing up his first year as a pro when the set was produced, Minnesota Timberwolves’ youthful superstar Kevin Garnett and Orlando Magic phenom Anfernee Hardaway. They’re not “common” but you can often find nice complete, ungraded sets for 1997 SPx on eBay.
Just like the 1996 set, there are no true rookie cards as the first rookie cards in SPx will be found later in the 1997-98 set featuring the likes of Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups.
There is also a gold parallel version of each of the base cards, found one in every nine packs. Although the change from base to gold parallel is minimal, the gold look on the right side does spice up the card and offers a clear parallel option. You had to open a huge number of packs to complete the SPx Gold set.
The Holoview Heroes returned for their second straight run in the product. It’s a 20 card set, with one card found in every 75 packs and a checklist of the biggest and brightest stars in the league.
Holoview Heroes are a vertical version of the base set this time around with a very similar die-cut of the aforementioned base set. It features the hologram imagery on the right hand side of the card along with a black stripe that holds the players number and underlying text, in the center you will find the words Holoview Heroes scrolling from bottom to top in a black stripe that separates the card nicely, the players name and dual action shots (one in full color, one subdued) on the right hand side of the card. The checklist has Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and a who’s who of future Hall of Famers.
The second insert set is called ProMotion, a five card set found one in every 430 packs that features the same die cut design as the base set but offers two portrait images stacked on top of each other on the left hand side of the card using the now expected Holoview technology.
As you rotate the card, the portraits come to life. The right hand side of the card features a full color action shot of the featured player with more underlying hologram usage. The colors of the swooping design of the card match with the featured player’s team colors, which is pulled off really nicely and adds to the cards in this insert set. You can snag ProMotion cards of Michael Jordan, Shawn Kemp and a few others.
There are autographed versions of each of the five players featured in the ProMotion set with a print run of 500 each.
As you might imagine, the Michael Jordan autograph is the highlight of the set and a legendary piece of art today. They sell for five figures each and every time it comes up for auction or can be found online.
The sophomore SPx offering picks up right where the freshman product left off, giving customers a high quality product featuring the now expected Holoview cards, another full die cut set and some special autographs that solidified Upper Deck as the producer of premium basketball card products in the mid to late 1990s.
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 @reidrattlecage on all social media platforms.