It was a bad time to be in the hobby. Luckily, I wasn't at the time- I was born weeks before the 84-85 season began- so I dodged a bullet, so to speak. There were no cards released in 1982-83, the only season from 1969-70 to current to not have a single card release. Topps had taken it's leave after 81-82.
A new company came onto the scene in 83-84, called Star. It took a different approach to cards- they were sold, not in packs of mixed cards from the entire league, as all other cards were, but instead they were sold in team set bags. The catch was that they were only sold in the team's home area. If you were, say, a Boston Celtics fan in Iowa, you were out of luck.
But it was the only game in town, as Star was the only company to produce cards for three years.
And they are rare, rarer than any of the 70s sets, rarer than anything that came after them- the only sets that are even close are 48 Bowman and 61-62 Fleer. In fact, after I discovered NBA cards in 1996, I knew early on that I wanted to get as many as I possibly could- I am, afterall, a collector- but the first task I went after was trying to get at least one card from each and every set issued. It took me several years, but I actually hunted down a card from 48 Bowman before I hunted down any 83-84 Star card.
Of course, being that it was 1996, I had no internet to do it, and I didn't join Ebay until just months before I stopped collecting in 2006, so it was a lot harder then than it is now.