1998-99 Topps Chrome basketball was the third season for the iconic brand. After a now legendary 1996-97 Chrome product followed up by a solid 1997-98 set, 1998-99 had appearances to keep and expectations to live up to in the hobby.
New Jersey Nets standout point guard Stephon Marbury is the featured athlete on all the promotional material including hobby boxes and hobby packs.
‘Starbury’ is featured on hobby boxes, with two hands on the ball ready to jump up and finish up the rim. The Topps Chrome logo is prominently featured over the backdrop of an abstract basketball design with all the key selling points listed on the box and pack wrappers.
Hobby boxes held 24 packs of four cards. Today, you can expect to pay around $1,000 for an unopened box.
The card fronts offer a smooth, thick border all around with the team logo appearing in the upper right hand corner. There is a full color, sharp picture of the player featured. The Topps Chrome logo appears in the lower left hand corner and the players name is found in the lower right hand corner of the outside border of the card in a bumped out thicker section. The raised borders, imagery and text offer a classy touch, evoking a higher end feel to the product.
The card backs feature the players name scrolled up and down the left hand side of the card. A small image of the player in top center and to the right you will find basic biographical information. Player stats are found in a box in the center of the card. The bottom third of the card offers a paragraph highlighting details of the players prowess.
The 1998 NBA Draft class was as loaded as any in the last 25 years and Topps Chrome captured each of those standout rookies.
We all know about the spectacular career Toronto Raptors lottery pick Vince Carter had in Canada and stateside. Dallas Mavericks top pick and team icon Dirk Nowitzki co-stars as a top RC in the set.
Boston Celtics number one draft pick Paul Pierce is a top 25 all-time scorer in league history and one of the 75 greatest players the game has ever seen. As large of a shadow as those greats cast, there was a very strong second tier of standouts, especially back in 1998, that carried hobby weight coming out of college and into the league.
One of the flashiest point guards to ever lace up a pair of Nikes, Sacramento Kings nightly highlight reel Jason Williams is found in this set. Carter’s North Carolina teammate Antawn Jamison, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis and longtime pro Al Harrington are among the other rookies.
The Vince Carter rookie card was easily one of my favorite and most prized cards back in 1998, as it shows the greatest dunker in an NBA history throwing down a reverse jam in epic Air Canada fashion. Many of the top picks RCs feature a photo shoot image, offering a clean, professional and controlled image of the rookie featured.
As with many card sets and individual cards, this set caught fire during the pandemic and reached sales heights that no one would have expected prior to the shutdown. Most notably, the Carter and Nowitzki rookie cards went from consummate $5 box bins to being locked away in PCs as legitimate, notable additions to collections.
As with past Topps Chrome products, this 220-card base set is a souped-up chromium version of the flagship Topps set from the same year. It’s simple and straightforward but at the same time flashy and shiny enough to catch (and keep) your attention.
Each card in the base set has a Refractor parallel and those cards are some of the most desirable cards of the entire season, with the big name rookies going for big bucks.
There are six insert sets including a 10 card Apparitions set, found one in 24 packs, that showcases some of the biggest and most magical players in the game including Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant among others. The card looks like Houdini inspired the backdrop and the players featured inspired awe on the court in their own right.
The second insert set is a seven card series called Back 2 Back, found one in 12 packs. It features NBA superstars who repeated in certain major milestones and accomplishments in previous seasons. From Michael Jordan’s back to back NBA championships and scoring titles to John Stockton’s many back-to-back assist titles, you can find some very elite players in this relatively small set.
The next insert set, Champion Spirit, found one in 12 packs, is designed as if it was an ode to Game of Thrones. It features another seven card checklist with players that show a champion spirit in key series and seasons, from Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to Ron Mercer and Michael Dickerson. Yes, you read this last two names correctly.
Next up is an insert set called Coast to Coast which features 15 players who can, as the title states, take the rock from one end of the floor to the other. It features sensational backcourt players such as Orlando Magic Point Guard Penny Hardaway, monster dunk artists like the Seattle Sonics Forward Sean Kemp and others. The design is a gold background with a globe overlapping a basketball which makes for a pretty cool visual.
Instant impact, found one in 36 packs, is the next insert set up on the roster. A darker colored background with lines and swirls as the design, it offers the words Instant Impact in a light colored swirl on the bottom of the card. The ten card collection features players who made an immediate mark on the game from the moment they stepped on the NBA hardwood featuring such icons as Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and other greats of the game.
Seasons Best is a unique 30 card insert set found one in six packs that features players in different tactical categories from Navigators such as Gary Payton to Bombardiers like the Milwaukee Bucks Ray Allen and Soarers such as Detroit Pistons superstar Grant Hill, the card design reflects the title of the featured player. With multiple basketballs being bombed on Ray Allen’s card and maps where x marks the spot on the Navigators cards and wings on Grant Hills cards, it’s a pretty unique idea and it’s pulled off well using the classic chromium technology.
With the exception of Back 2 Back and Champion Spirit, all of the insert sets and cards can also be found in the classic parallel refractor form.
With the incredibly rich crop of rookies coupled with the growing tradition of Topps chromium technology, the 1998-99 set is a great example of late 90s basketball card art that carries value and weight today.
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.