Every collector of NBA rookie cards would be ecstatic to add these six names to their collections.
The world of sports card collecting changes every single day, always keeping those in the market for cards on their toes. Rookie cards in particular are a risky gambit, as an unknown player that showed up in that pack you just opened could turn out to be a sensation, while a projected next big star could stumble their way to a quick exit from the league.
The NBA is no stranger to this phenomenon, with plenty of famous faces making up the list of most valuable NBA rookie cards — and a few notable absences. From current stars to some of the greatest to ever hit the hardwood, there are plenty of names to consider when looking for a premier player's first-ever pro sports card.
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6 NBA rookie cards worth breaking the bank for
The names you'll find below are a selection of the most coveted NBA rookie cards ever printed. Those who follow the NBA won't be shocked by who's included, but the prices of the cards will widen everyone's eyes.
(Oh, also, none of the names on this list are "Michael Jordan." Just FYI.)
LeBron James rookie card
The highest-profile player in the league today, LeBron James is just as visible in movies, video games, and commercials as he is on the court. It doesn't hurt that he's also one of the best basketball players in the world, as he's currently on track to become the all-time leader in points scored this upcoming season. That popularity coupled with that talent means any memorabilia with his face on it will be worth a pretty penny, and the LeBron James rookie card is no exception.
The Beckett Marketplace currently lists a Bowman brand NBA rookie card from 2003 priced at nearly $5,000, while a 2003 Topps Chrome Refractor LeBron James rookie card currently sits on eBay for a cool $25,000. The Dibbs market lists that Topps Chrome Refractor card at a slightly lower cost of $17,693, but thanks to fractional NFTs you could own a piece of the pie for as little as $25.
Dibbs is the only real-time 24-7 fractional collectible market, letting collectors buy and sell parts of their most valuable cards without going anywhere near a pair of scissors. Instead of splitting up the card itself, we securely store the card and split up the token representing it. Give it a try today and you can get three free frac packs with your first deposit.
Kevin Durant rookie card
Any Kevin Durant card could become valuable. Why? He's changed teams — or has been rumored to change — so often that a card for each team he plays for could rise in value as soon as he leaves for another city. Wherever he’s played, Durant has put up incredible numbers –– averaging 30 points and seven rebounds a game in his 14-year career — and that success has sent prices for his cards through the roof.
A BGS 9-graded Topps Chrome Orange Refractor card is going for nearly $90,000 right now, while an Upper Deck SP Authentic card with the same BGS 9 rank is sitting at $24,000. If you want to add a Kevin Durant rookie card to your collection, you’d better have deep pockets.
Kobe Bryant rookie card
The tragic loss of Kobe Bryant in 2020 rocked the entire sports world, including the sports collectibles scene. As morbid as it sounds, the death of a star player of Bryant's caliber does cause a spike in prices for that player's memorabilia, with Bryant's NBA rookie card being no exception.
A 1996 Fleer European Kobe Bryant rookie card, graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, has a current asking price of over $2 million. A 1996 Topps Finest Atomic Refractor Gold card — also graded a perfect 10 — sits at $500,000. Even an ungraded Kobe Bryant rookie card like this 1996-97 Topps Chrome is selling for $12,500. Bryant's cards were always highly sought after, but his unfortunate passing has only increased the demand.
Bill Russell rookie card
Twelve All-Star selections. Five league MVP awards. Eleven NBA championships. Many players have surpassed him in terms of individual stats, but no player in history may ever own as many championship rings as the recently deceased, eternally legendary Boston Celtic, Bill Russell. With a resume like that, you can imagine how valuable a Bill Russell NBA rookie card is on the open market.
The 1957 Topps Bill Russell rookie card has been listed multiple times, with PSA-rated cards going for as high as $50,000. Even a Bill Russell rookie card rated as low as PSA 2 has an $11,800 asking price. There aren't many NBA players that compare to the one and only Bill Russell, and the prices of his NBA rookie card make that very clear.
Magic Johnson rookie card
The NBA in the mid-1980s was dominated by two players: Larry Bird (who we'll get to shortly) and Magic Johnson. Averaging nearly 20 points per game and over 50% shooting in his 900-game career, Johnson led the Showtime Lakers to multiple championships alongside the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
The Magic Johnson rookie card market reflects that success, including a 1980-81 Topps card rated PSA 10 going for $25,000. Another card featuring Johnson, Bird, and Julius Erving from 1980 sits at $30,000, meaning Johnson is commanding nearly the same amount by himself as three legendary players are together. If that doesn't further cement Johnson's legendary status, nothing will.
Larry Bird rookie card
Finally, as promised, we come to Larry Bird, one of the toughest players ever to step foot on an NBA court. Bird was no stranger to getting physical with opposing players, but he backed up that bravado by averaging nearly 25 points per game on 50% shooting — as well as 10 rebounds per game — across 13 seasons with the Celtics.
The most valuable Larry Bird rookie card is the aforementioned Bird/Johnson/Erving card, but a signed 1981 Topps card is currently selling for $500 if you're looking for a cheaper option. There aren't many Larry Bird rookie cards out there, so if you see one be sure to scoop it up.
Head to Dibbs to buy or sell NBA rookie cards
Staying on top of the market of NBA rookie cards is essential whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned collector. After you finally get your hands on one of these highly coveted cards, however, you may not want to give it up. Thanks to Dibbs' fractional selling options you don't have to, as NFT and blockchain technology will allow you to keep an ownership stake in your favorite card while also adding some cool hard cash to your wallet.
Dibbs also offers insurance services and vaulting opportunities, allowing you to buy and sell with the knowledge that your transactions are tracked and, more importantly, your wallet is safe. Take a look at the NBA Collection on Dibbs now to see which cards could start you on the path to collecting, or if you're a seller, how to earn top money for your best cards. Sign up today and you can get your three frac packs for free with your first deposit.