Taking My Hacks

Basketball Cards – Where's the Respect?

Joe Orlando

Over the past few months, I have been working on a collectibles book project. While working on this project, something struck me more than ever, which I will get to later in this piece. I was working on a section about trading cards, covering all the major sports. I went through baseball, basketball, football, hockey, boxing and golf. After making a first pass through this list of great cards, I went back to see how each sport stacked up against each other.

There was no surprise about which sport dominates in this hobby – baseball. From its rich history to its great names, the foundation of the hobby is built on baseball and it always will be. As I went through the list of great cards, this became more and more apparent, even with the idea that sport diversity was part of the approach. Much more than half of this entire list was devoted to baseball even though we tried to expand the coverage to other sports as much as we could.

Now for the big surprise. After going over the list repeatedly, the sport that seemed to have the smallest representation relative to the popularity of the sport was basketball. Even with hockey, a sport that few people even consider a major sport anymore according to fan interest levels, there is a much greater level of respect for the cards. As many of you know, there were very few vintage basketball sets issued. This leaves collectors with very little to collect. It also leaves people like me without much to work with when you are putting together an elite list of trading cards.

What really surprised me wasn't the lack of respect for the classic vintage basketball issues like the 1948 Bowman, 1957 Topps or 1961 Fleer sets because collectors do feel that those issues are extremely important, it was the general lack of respect for the post-1970 material that surprised me. After polling many active hobbyists, the feeling was universal. Even though most of the greatest players were active in the post-1970 era, the hobby just hasn't embraced these greats like they have in other sports. The Mikans, Russells and Chamberlains get plenty of respect, it's the Malones, Olajuwons and Worthys that don't.

Think about it. Rookie cards of many of the greatest players to ever play the game were produced in the modern era. While no one questions their greatness as athletes, hobby respect is an entirely different thing. Just in the 1986 Fleer basketball set alone, there are several current and future Hall of Famers but their market values do not reflect their place in history. Here is what many consider to be the most important modern sportscard set in the hobby but you can still acquire many of these rookie cards for close to nothing.

How about a card like the 1989 Hoops David Robinson rookie? Robinson had an outstanding career and is well on his way to the Hall of Fame yet you could buy this rookie card for just a few bucks. Yes, it's true that many modern cards were simply produced in such huge quantities that it's hard for them to retain great value, no matter how great the player was. That being said, it's the lack of respect that shocks me. A Tony Gwynn rookie card, in PSA NM-MT 8 or lower, is not an expensive card but almost all hobbyists would agree that the card itself is an important one. How many people would say a David Robinson, John Stockton or Patrick Ewing rookie is? According to most of the hobbyist I spoke with, not too many.

Maybe basketball cards will gain more respect someday or at least more respect in relation to the greatness of the players they picture but only time will tell.


Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief