For collectors who liked this year's Upper Deck Basketball set but wished it was a little bit flashier, 2006-07 UD Reserve may be the ticket. Sporting the same design on foil cards, it's literally brighter, with extra autographed and memorabilia inserts that add a few more bells and whistles.
Boxes of UD Reserve Basketball contain 10 packs with four cards each. The packaging suggests collectors can expect to pull one autograph and one memorabilia card per box on average, though About.com's review box fared a bit better than that.
You don't have to love this season's Upper Deck Basketball design to love UD Reserve's base set - but it helps. That's because the 200 veterans and 39 rookies are essentially the same cards from that earlier set, albeit set on shiny foil board this time out instead of regular card stock.
The card fronts are borderless with a single stripe toward the bottom that incorporates player and team information, and the backs are simple and informative with complete career stats. Upper Deck did a nice job getting new photos of players who changed seasons since its namesake brand came out in November, like picturing Allen Iverson in his Nuggets uniform.
Star Rookies make up the final 39 cards of the base set just as they did in Upper Deck Basketball. At three per box they are slightly easier to pull than they were in that set, but since packs of UD Reserve are more expensive, it's pretty much a wash.
I unwrapped 33 of the 239 cards from my sample box, including three Star Rookies - though none were very big names from the 2006-07 rookie class. With so few cards per box it takes significantly more work to try to put together UD Reserve's entire set than it's regular counterpart, which could prove to be a fun challenge or a large annoyance depending on each collector's individual preferences.
The three insert sets in UD Reserve ape those in Upper Deck Basketball and are pretty standard fare. MVP Watch and Flight Team are mostly self-explanatory, though the 15-card set devoted to The LeBrons from the Cleveland superstar's series of Nike TV commercials is fun.
My review box yielded two cards of The LeBrons and one Flight Team insert, also coincidentally featuring King James.
Here's where UD Reserve separates itself slightly from the company's similar efforts in other sports, such as Special F/X Baseball. This set keeps the UD Game Jersey and UD Game Patch cards from Upper Deck basketball, as well as The LeBrons Memorabilia cards in single and quad versions.
But Reserve also has a bunch of game-used inserts of its own. Reserve Materials cards come in three levels: regular (#'d to 100), Dual (#'d to 50) and Triple (#'d to 10). Many of the same players also have game-worn patch cards in the same three levels but with even lower print runs. The checklist has its share of big names too, as players like Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, James, Michael Jordan and Yao Ming are all on it.
The About.com review box doubled up on game-used cards. The first was a UD Game Jersey card of Knicks guard Nate Robinson, and the second was a Reserve Materials Dual card with swatches from Warriors teammates Jason Richardson and Baron Davis numbered to 50.
Reserve also ramps up the autographed content when compared to Upper Deck Basketball. In place of the 76-card Signature Sensations set, this set substitutes the even larger Reserve Signatures series with signed cards from 90 past and present NBA players. There are also Dual, Triple and Quad autographed cards limited to 50, 25 and 5 copies respectively.
Collectors can also hunt for Legendary Reserve Signatures, an 18-card set that actually lives up to its lofty name. That's because the checklist features Hakeem Olajuwon, Dr. J, Jordan, John Stockton, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, among others.
About.com's box of Reserve was also generous with autographs, producing a Bruce Bowen Reserve Signatures and a Bob McAdoo Legendary Reserve Signatures card.