With all the success that Topps has had with the Triple Threads brand in baseball and football, it was pretty much a no-brainer for the company to create a hoops version. For the uninitiated, Triple Threads lives up to its name by delivering low-numbered three-swatch relic (memorabilia) cards in each pack.
Each box of Topps Triple Threads Basketball contains two mini-boxes, each holding a single pack of six cards. Every pack features either a triple relic card numbered to 36 or less or an autographed triple relic card.
Base Cards and Parallels
The first 100 cards in the base set are devoted to NBA veterans, legends and a few rookies (more on that in a second), all numbered to 899. Card fronts have the best kind of design for a high end product - simple but classy - with an action photo set on a textured surface that resembles the skin of a basketball.
Five levels of glossy parallels feature background tinting of various colors (Sepia, Gold, Emerald, etc.), with numbering ranging from 299 down to just one. If the About.com sample box is any indication, collectors can expect two parallels in each pack, as I pulled four regular base cards, two Sepia parallels and one each of the Emerald and Gold levels.
Now about those rookies. Several of the more prominent first-round picks from the 2007 NBA Draft signed exclusive autograph and memorabilia card agreements with Upper Deck. Thus, players like Brandon Roy and Tyrus Thomas get their Triple Threads rookie cards on regular base cards.
Topps exclusive Adam Morrison and 29 other first-year stars have autographed triple relic rookie cards, which I'll discuss in the section on autographed cards.
Triple Relic Cards
The meat and potatoes of Triple Threads basketball is its array of three-swatch Relic cards. A total of 35 players spanning decades of NBA history get their own cards with three game-worn swatches die cut into some pretty unique shapes. To keep the theme complete, each player has - you guessed it - three different Triple Relic cards.
There are also a number of combo cards with three players contributing one swatch each. All of the Relic cards are limited to just 36 copies and have the same five levels of parallels as the base cards, taking print runs all the way down to 1-of-1.
A Sepia Paul Pierce card was waiting in my sample box, numbered 27/27. Appropriately, the green swatches from the Celtics star are all die-cut into the shape of shamrocks.
Most of the signed cards in this set come in the form of Relic Autograph cards. Think of the Relic cards, add an autograph and you've got the idea.
There are also Relic Combo Autographs with three swatches and three signatures each. All of them have the same numbering and parallel levels as the regular Relic cards. Add in the 30 signed relic rookie cards (limited to 99 copies each) and there are well over one hundred different autographed memorabilia cards awaiting collectors.
Triple Threads also has one insert set that breaks from the "triple" theme and goes for four autographs on one card. Court Rivals Quad Signers come in ten different variations, all with autographs from legendary rivals Larry Bird and Magic Johnson plus signatures from two current NBA players like Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. Cool? No doubt, but a tough pull as all ten versions are 1-of-1's.
My review box's autographed card was a Relic Combo Autograph of the Human Highlight Film himself, Dominique Wilkins. The red swatches are cut into the letters "ATL" and the card is numbered 04/36.
The Last Word
Triple Threads was the most difficult basketball card product of the season for me to grade on the five-star scale. The concept is still fresh enough and the execution is terrific. Even the packaging is excellent, with the packs made to look just like the cards they hold.
Any qualms I have (like wishing for different color swatches on the relic cards) are minor. If I was considering just how cool and attractive the cards are, I'd score it even higher.
That being said, the lack of the best rookies from this season takes a little bit of the impact out of busting packs of Triple Threads. It's not Topps' fault that Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick ended up having lackluster rookie years, but I can't shake the feeling that some collectors will miss seeing Roy and the others on the set's most unique rookie cards.
If the rookie issue doesn't bother you and memorabilia and autographs are what you're after, Triple Threads doesn't disappoint. Here's to seeing it return next year, hopefully with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in tow.