Taking My Hacks

Building the Mount Rushmore of Basketball Cards

Joe Orlando


We now turn our sights to the legends of the hardwood. While basketball doesn't have the long, rich history of baseball or hockey, don't let that fool you. The sport has plenty of iconic players and basketball cards from which to choose.

The one major advantage that basketball has, as a sport, versus the others is that it's the one sport that requires the least to play it. Of course, I am not talking about the degree of talent it takes to play basketball, because basketball players are some of the greatest pure athletes in the world. 

If you have a ball and a basketball hoop, whether it's at the park, at school or connected to your garage, you can play. You don't need special or expensive equipment. You don't even need another person to play with you. As legendary announcer Bob Costas once said (and I'm paraphrasing), an average person would never stand a chance at beating a premier power hitter in a home run hitting contest, but on a good day, that same person could beat a premier basketball player in a free throw shooting contest.

That is the beauty of the sport, its simplicity, and the connection the average person has to basketball.

Here is my attempt at sculpting the prestigious side of the mountain and the reasons behind each selection.

1948 Bowman #69 George Mikan - This classic card captures basketball's first marquee player and dominant big man storming towards the basket. Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to five championships in six years, creating the game's first true dynasty. When he retired, Mikan was basketball's all-time scoring leader. While Mikan was a great player, that is not why this card takes our first spot on the mountain. In the hobby, this card has always been considered the undisputed pound-for-pound king of basketball cards. The image has taken on a life of its own.

1957 Topps #77 Bill Russell - Sports are about winning. That is the ultimate goal. No player, in any team sport, won more championships than this man. With 11 championships in all, Russell remains at the top. In addition, Russell won two NCAA titles and he even won a Gold Medal during the 1956 Olympic Games. The Boston Celtics icon is the symbol of what it means to be a great teammate and winner. He also made defensive prowess an art. Russell's rookie card, the anchor of the set, is extremely tough to locate in high grade as the issue is riddled with condition obstacles. 

1961 Fleer #8 Wilt Chamberlain - Mikan was the first dominant force, Russell is the most prolific winner and Michael Jordan might be the standard for greatness, but no one was more dominant in their prime than "The Stilt." Possessing great size and immense strength, Chamberlain bullied grown men like he was picking on children. Chamberlain led the league in scoring seven consecutive seasons, while leading the league in rebounding 11 times in 14 years. During the 1961-62 season, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game. Chamberlain's rookie card is the key to a set filled with star power. 

1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan - As a player, Jordan has become the standard by which all others are judged. Jordan is the Babe Ruth of basketball, and he played during an era when televised sports coverage was widespread. Jordan's rookie card is, without question, the most important modern card from any sport in the entire hobby - period. As a result, it is also one of the most heavily counterfeited. No card in the hobby could retain the value the Jordan card does with the same population numbers.   

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
PSA President


Mt Rushmore of Basketball Cards

Which of the following cards do you think should take the
final spot on the Mount Rushmore of Basketball Cards?

1) 1961 Fleer #8 Wilt Chamberlain

2) 1961 Fleer #43 Jerry West

3) 1972 Topps #195 Julius Erving

4) 1980 Topps Larry Bird/Magic Johnson

Vote at www.PSAcard.com/takingmyhacks