Sports Cards

10 Best Basketball Rookie Cards of All Time

Best Basketball Rookie Cards of All Time

Sports trading cards have been popular for several decades. They started as fun things for kids to buy and collect like comic books.

However, they have evolved into their mini-stock market. Today, people buy and sell sports trading cards to turn a profit.

As one of the most popular sports in the world, it should be no surprise to hear that basketball cards are among the most popular in the United States.

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Specifically, basketball rookie cards are in demand. If you are new to investing in basketball cards, you might not know where to start.

You might think there is no method to the madness, and you can try to invest in any card. While you can get lucky with any player blossoming into a superstar, you cannot expect to turn a profit from all cards.

Basketball rookie cards are the most popular and valuable basketball trading cards.

Investors or collectors who purchase basketball cards are looking for unique cards. They want a card that is unique in its look or meaning. Rookie cards fit that criterion because they can only come from one year.

A Lebron James card from 2010 and 2011 are not very different because they are two random years in his career. However, a rookie card features the player at a unique time in his career.

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Today we do not want to confuse you by looking at several rookie cards for the same player.

Instead, we want to look at the 10 best basketball rookie cards. These cards are not necessarily great investment options because they are already expensive, but they are fun to look at.

2018 Luka Doncic Prizm RC #280

Luka Doncic is one of the best young players in the NBA.

He led the Dallas Mavericks to a Conference Finals appearance in 2022 and is a perennial MVP candidate just four years into his career.

He is one of the greatest young players in the history of the NBA, and as a result, investors are eager to scoop up his rookie cards sooner rather than later.

The front of this Luka Doncic rookie card features an image of Luka in his blue Mavericks uniform.

You can see Dallas written in black lettering above his number 77. Luka is lifting his right leg off the ground as he takes a shot.

The image catches Doncic with the ball in his right hand as he looks at the rim for his shot.

You can see part of the forearm tattoo on his left arm. The rest of the card is not that exciting as it features a grey and black background.

There are a few logos on the card. In the top left there is an RC logo, a Prizm logo is in the top right, and Doncic’s name and the team is in the bottom right-hand corner of the card.

When you flip over the card, you can see the same image of Luka in the top half of the card. There is then a blue stripe with Luka’s name over it.

Below that is a blurb describing Luka’s career with Real Madrid before joining the NBA. If you want this card, you can purchase it on eBay.

It is available for $581 and in good condition.


1986 Michael Jordan Fleer RC #57

No basketball player is more famous than Michael Jordan.

He is unanimously considered one of the top two players of all time, and a significant portion of the basketball community considers him the most outstanding player.

He dominated the 90s, winning six championships in eight years. His dominance led to the development of his famous shoe brand, Air Jordan.

Michael Jordan is known for his greatness on the basketball court, so it should be no surprise to see his best rookie card on this list.

It comes from Fleer and is one of the most sought-after cards in the world. Even with a BGS 6.5 rating, it is still listed for $4200 on eBay.

The card features an image surrounded by a red, blue, and white border. In the image of Jordan, you can see him fly through the air as he makes one of his signature dunks.

He is so high in the air that other players’ heads are at crotch level.

Jordan has his right arm outstretched as he gets ready to slam the ball through the basket. The image has a small Fleer logo in the top right corner.

Below the image, you can see Jordan’s name, team, and position.

If you flip to the back of the card, you can see some of Jordan’s statistics and physical characteristics. Magic Johnson RC 1980 Topps Magic Johnson is one of the most likable players in the history of the NBA.

Michael Jordan might be better, but no one liked any player in his era more than Magic.

However, he does not have a traditional rookie card like other players.

He debuted in the early 80s, and at that time, trading cards were limited. With that in mind, Magic Johnson’s rookie card features an image of him and two other players. The card is in a horizontal design, with Magic as the rightmost player.

In Magic’s image, you can see him fly through the air with the ball in his right arm.

He is wearing a purple Lakers jersey and gold shorts. The background is black, and the image has a red border. The border features cursive writing at the bottom that says Lakers.

Below is his name and position. The other two images feature Julius Erving and Jan Van Breda Kolff. Erving has an image in the center with a green border. He is wearing a red uniform and is looking to the right.

A logo in the top right indicates he was the scoring leader that season. Next, the image of Kolff is on the left side with a red border. He is wearing a blue jersey for the Nets and is taking a free throw.

Turning to the back of the card features stats for each of the three players on the card.

You can purchase a copy in PSA 7 condition for $200 on eBay.


2003 Lebron James RC Topps #221

If anyone can challenge Michael Jordan for the title of the greatest basketball player of all time, it’s Lebron James.

Lebron has been a sensation since before he entered the league. He was a can’t-miss prospect in high school, and the second he made his debut, he was one of the best players in the NBA.

The most famous Lebron James rookie card is different from most trading cards. The image does not feature James in a game.

Instead, it is a picture of Lebron in a flashy white suit at the draft. He is holding a red Cleveland jersey on his right side. It almost looks like a school picture with how he is standing.

A white border surrounds the image, and some information is at the bottom. You can see a few labels at the bottom, including his draft position (number one), rookie year, and name.

If you flip the card, you can read about Lebron’s tremendous career in high school.

You can buy this card on eBay in PSA 8 condition for $425.


2019 Ja Morant Prizm RC #249

Ja Morant might not be on the level of Luka Doncic, but he is one of the best young players in the NBA today. His Memphis Grizzlies burst onto the scene in 2022, getting the second seed in the Western Conference.

Ja Morant had a breakout year, establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the league. The best Ja Morant rookie card is from the Panini Prizm collection. The card shows Morant dribbling the ball with his right hand.

He has slightly hunched over with his feet waist-length apart. He is wearing his light blue Grizzlies jersey and black leg compressors.

His shoes are yellow and pink. The background is black and grey with a red, white, and blue border. You can see an RC logo in the top right and a Prizm border at the bottom in the center.

If you flip to the back of the card, you can read a scouting report on Morant from his time in college at Murray State. There is also a list of his college statistics. If you want to purchase this card, you can get it on eBay for $425.


2007 Kevin Durant Topps RC #2

Kevin Durant has been one of the most dominant players of his era. He might be a step below Lebron James, but he is still a top-15 player.

Interestingly, this rookie card is priced low, considering his reputation as a player. You can buy it in PSA 8 condition for just $9.50.

Kevin Durant is known for his early career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, leaving them for Golden State and eventually going to Brooklyn.

However, if you are not a hardcore fan, you might not know he started his career with the Seattle Supersonics.

Seattle drafted him and played a season there before the team moved to Oklahoma City. The image on the card features KD in his yellow Supersonics uniform. He is posing for a photo, holding a basketball in front of the logo of his jersey in both hands.

There is a black background in the photo. The rest of the card is straightforward, with a white border with green dots in the top corners and yellow dots in the bottom corners. The Topps logo is at the top of the card, along with Seattle’s name.

KD’s name is written across the bottom of the card. If you flip the card over, you can see a blurb describing Durant’s college accomplishments.

It has a yellow background.


2009 Stephen Curry Topps RC #321

Steph Curry has been a dominant player for the Golden State Warriors for a decade.

He revolutionized the basketball game with his three-point shooting and is universally considered the best shooter of all-time.

His rookie card from Topps is not flashy. It features a picture of curry from his chest up. He is wearing a white warmup Warriors shirt and is smiling.

The image has a white border with a rookie card logo in the top right and a Warriors logo in the bottom right.

You can flip the card to read about Curry’s college career at Davidson.

You will also see his physical characteristics there.

Steph Curry is one of the most popular players of all time, so it should not be surprising to hear his rookie cards are expensive.

You can purchase one on eBay for $5000.


1992 Shaquille O’Neal Upper Deck RC #1

If Steph Curry is the most dominant player of all time, Shaq is the most physically dominant player in the history of the NBA.

Shaq was massive, standing over seven feet tall and weighing in at over 300 pounds.

We will likely never see a player like him again. Shaq’s rookie card is unique in its design. The image features three images of Shaq as he is in different stages of dunking.

The first shows him on the ground dribbling the ball, the second shows him flying through the air, and in the third image, he is falling back to the ground.

In all three images, Shaq is wearing a white jersey with blue stripes for the Orlando Magic.

The background is all black, and there is a #1 Draft Pick label across the top. The bottom of the card features Shaq’s name and an Upper Deck logo.

When you flip to the back of the card, you can read about the early parts of Shaq’s rookie season in the NBA.

You can purchase this card on eBay in PSA 8 condition for only $0.99.


1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome RC #138 

Kobe Bryant is a controversial player in NBA history. Some people love him, and others hate him.

Regardless of your thoughts on him as a player, it was a tragedy when he died in a helicopter accident in early 2020.

While his death was sad, they increased the value of his rookie cards. You can purchase this card on eBay in BGS 8.5 condition for $1250.

An image of Kobe takes up the entire card.

He is driving to the rim with his right leg on the ground. The ball is firmly in both hands, and you can see his exertion as his mouth is open.

Furthermore, Kobe is wearing the gold jersey of the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the image takes up the entire card, there are a few logo overlays.

In the top right is a Topps Chrome logo, a basketball logo is in the bottom right, and Kobe’s name is written in the bottom left.

You can read a short blurb on the back of the card explaining why scouts were so confident Kobe would transfer his skills to the NBA.


1997 Tim Duncan Topps Chrome RC #5

The final card we want to look at is for Tim Duncan. Duncan is one of the most intelligent players to ever play in the NBA.

His intelligence and dominance with the San Antonio Spurs led them to five championships. The image of Duncan on his rookie card shows him moving to get a dunk.

His arms are unstretched, and the ball is in his left hand. His mouth is wide open as he battles a player on the Golden State Warriors.

Duncan is wearing his white Spurs uniform, and he has white shoes to match.

Outside of the image, the card is straightforward. There are no extra logos on the card.

Instead, the only other thing of note is a grey stripe near the bottom of the card with Duncan’s name written in red lettering.

If you want to purchase this card, you can get it on eBay for $320 in PSA 10 condition.

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