The NBA won’t be sending any players to the Olympics this year because no one is sending any players to the Olympics. With COVID-19 restrictions in full effect, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have been pushed back a year. We’ll have to wait to find out which 12 players of the USA men’s team’s 44 finalists will be sent to Japan to defend the 2016 squad’s crown.
It’s impossible to think about USA Olympic basketball without your mind inevitably wandering to the 1992 Dream Team. You probably know most of the roster by heart. Take a moment, close your eyes, and list as many of the 12 Dream Team players as you can. They were absolutely iconic.
How many did you get? I got 10, tripped up by (understandably) Chris Mullin and (less forgivably) Magic Johnson. I tried putting Hakeem Olajuwon and Alonzo Mourning in their place. I bet they still would’ve brought home the gold. The full roster, by the way, is Christian Laettner, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, and Magic Johnson. Side note: I have no idea how I remembered that Laettner got the nod over Shaq.
That got us thinking, but with a fun little bent that leans into our expertise: Who’s the 2020 Dream Team of NBA cards? Which 12 players from the 2019-2020 NBA season have the most valuable cards? Which 12 players would turn a box break into a bonanza?
Before we get started, let’s set some ground rules. First, they have to be current NBA players. Maybe an extremely limited autographed parallel from a Hall of Famer would be worth enough to crack the list, but we’re only concerning ourselves with active players. Second, we’re not drafting based on need. This isn’t necessarily a feasible roster with a few guys who play each position. We’ll take 12 centers if that’s who commands the most money. Lastly, we’re not worrying about nationality. This isn’t a US Dream Team — partially so that it truly encompasses all the most valuable cards, partially so we don’t have to snub the Greek Freak. Also, it’s worth noting that these values aren’t necessarily perfect; we’re taking figures from the last few months on eBay, but private sales could have garnered more money.
Without further ado, here’s our NBA Cards Dream Team:
Zion Williamson — $40,201.01
This is Zion’s list, and everyone else is here because we couldn’t just name Zion over and over and call it a day. Rookie cards are bound to be some of the hottest commodities every year, and Zion is the de facto leader of that group. The New Orleans rookie came out of his one-and-done season at Duke as quite possibly the most-hyped prospect since LeBron James. A torn meniscus derailed the first half of his rookie season, but that did nothing to tank the value of his rookie card.
In April, a Zion Williamson Panini Contenders Gold Vinyl autograph numbered 1/1 sold on eBay for $40,201.01. It’s not an anomaly. Over the past few months, eBay has been slammed with rare Zion cards going for thousands. Sellers are looking to strike while the iron’s hot. This one happens to be the most expensive, though. If Zion lives up to expectations, whoever spent more than $40,000 on his rookie card might end up with a steal.
Ja Morant — $24,055.55
If Zion weren’t in this rookie class, Ja Morant would almost certainly have the most valuable rookie card. The Murray State product has drawn comparisons to Allen Iverson and Russell Westbrook. That’s some fantastic company to be in. Right now, Morant is the heavy odds-on favorite to wind up the 2019-2020 Rookie of the Year.
His rookie cards accurately reflect how excited he has everyone. His autographed Panini Optic Superfractor that’s numbered 1/1 recently sold for $24,055.55. Given that Black Prizms (which you’ll hear about in just a minute) traditionally sell for more, there may be an unlisted Morant card out there that’s even more valuable.
Coby White — $12,500.00
Coby White is one of the most exciting rookies in basketball, but that’s not the sole reason his rookie card fetched five figures. This Black Prizm is ultra-rare in that it’s numbered 1/1. That’s the only one of it, baby that’s the fun of it.
Of course, it helps that White went on an absolute tear right before the league halted play. White has come off the bench for almost the entire season, but he topped 30 points in three consecutive games in late-February (which happens to be right before this card sold). You gotta love a kid giving his coach no choice but to leave him in.
By the way, White is the first player the Bulls drafted from the University of North Carolina in the first round since 1984. Chicago’s last first-round Tar Heel worked out pretty okay. That was His Airness himself.
Tyler Herro — $8,100.00
We’re going to see a lot of rookies on this list — mostly rookies, in fact — but you have to look to the middle of the first round of the NBA draft to find the third most valuable card. That’s Miami’s rookie guard Tyler Herro, who’s in the midst of a solid first-year campaign.
Just like White before him, Herro’s most valuable card is the Black Prizm 1-of-1. Whoever paid just north of eight grand for Herro’s rookie card is placing a bet in Herro turning into a top pro. His Kentucky Wildcat pedigree helps, as UK is a school that’s known for churning out highly-paid all-stars like Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and John Wall. In fact, Kentucky led all universities with 29 alumni in the NBA at the start of this season.
Luka Doncic — $7,800.00
Finally, the veterans got some of the spotlight… and by veterans, we mean a second-year player. Luka Doncic is one of the most breathtaking, electrifying, and downright-spectacular players in the NBA. The Dallas swingman is a rising star who ended his first season by capturing the Rookie of the Year award with 98 percent of the first-place votes.
Card investors certainly have confidence and faith in Doncic, and rightfully so. His Black Prizm 1/1 commanded $7,800 on eBay in mid-February. Not bad at all for a non-rookie card. Keep an eye on Doncic. He’s going to be a mainstay on this type of list for a long time to come.
LeBron James — $6,800.00
At long last, The King has arrived. Halfway down the list isn’t a bad showing for a group that’s dominated by league-newcomers. That’s the thing about a guy like LeBron: Everyone already knows what they’re getting. They’re not betting on a rookie card that could skyrocket in 10 years; they’re paying top dollar for one of the very best players in NBA history who’s in the twilight of his career. And his cards are still some of the most exciting and sought-after in the league.
This year, it was LeBron’s Select Concourse Black Prizm that’s numbered 1/1 that seems to be the top prize. It recently sold for $6,800.00 on eBay. LeBron shows no signs of slowing down, so why should his cards — especially if the season resumes and he can hang another banner in the Staples Center.
Giannis Antetokounmpo — $3,161.00
Fresh off his first MVP season (but probably not his last), the Greek Freak has given Wisconsin good reason to be excited about more than just football. He’s on the shortlist of NBA players who can absolutely dominate a game whenever they feel like it. Pray your team doesn’t run up against Giannis when he decides there’s no way in hell he’s losing tonight.
Card buyers are just as confident that Giannis is a winner. His gem mint-condition Prizm Black Gold card fetched $3,161 on eBay a few weeks ago. That’s numbered out of 5, which means his Black Prizm would certainly sell for even more.
Cam Reddish — $2,001.00
The third of three Blue Devils taken in the top 10 at the 2019 NBA draft, Cam Reddish actually ends up with a rookie card that sells for more at auction recently than RJ Barrett. But neither of them probably want to gloat in Zion’s direction.
Reddish is an on-again-off-again starter for the flailing Atlanta Hawks, an unsure rookie who got off to a shaky start. Throughout the season, he has slowly gotten his sea legs — adapting to the speed and physicality of the NBA, and eventually morphing into a valuable asset at the pro level. Card buyers seemingly have faith that he’s not a bust, as his Select SSP Courtside Green Prizm numbered out of 5 recently sold for just a smidge more than two grand.
De’Andre Hunter — $1,914.85
Just behind rookie teammate Cam Reddish, that’s probably exactly where De’Andre Hunter belongs right now. The young Atlanta duo are both adjusting to life in the NBA, and Reddish’s recent leaps have him probably just one step ahead of Hunter.
They’re far from out of place on this list of promising rookies and NBA leaders. Hunter’s most valuable card right now is his 1/1 autographed Panini National Treasures which sold for $1,914.85 in mid-April.
Sekou Doumbouya — $1,852.00
After working his way through the French pro leagues, the Pistons’ Sekou Doumbouya arrived on the North American pro scene this season — well, sort of. Doumbouya didn’t earn his spot in Detroit until the start of 2020. He spent the early part of the season playing for the Pistons’ G League affiliate.
But, Detroit clearly sees potential in the 19-year-old, as they drafted him 15th overall in the draft. Card investors similarly see potential, as Doumbouya’s autographed Prizm White Sparkle 1/1 went for $1,852 a few months ago.
Rui Hachimura — $1,705.00
Rui Hachimura is definitely one of the most popular rookies in the NBA. The Japanese-born power forward forewent his final season at Gonzaga and entered the NBA draft. The Wizards took Hachimura 9th overall, making him the only Japanese player ever taken in the first round. He has an enormous overseas following.
People are excited about Hachimura and rightfully so. Thus far, he has turned in a respectable rookie campaign with room to grow. His rookie card that is selling for the most is a 1/1 Panini Origins that’s autographed in gold ink. That too will have room to grow if Hachimura can make good on the Kawhi Leonard comparisons he drew around the draft.
RJ Barrett — $1,520.69
RJ Barrett certainly has potential. That’s why the Knicks drafted him third overall. That’s why he’s getting a ton of minutes. That’s why he’s near the top of the rookie class in scoring. You get the sense that everything will turn out great if the Knicks don’t screw Barrett up. But, they’re the Knicks.
Maybe that’s why his most recent high-value card is selling for less than his Blue Devils teammate Cam Reddish. Maybe everyone has just accepted that nothing ever turns out right in New York. Still, his mint condition Panini Prizm Gold numbered out of 10 netted $1,520.69 in February. It should also be mentioned that Barrett had a lot of cards that were sold on eBay at an undisclosed “Buy It Now” offer. There’s a very good chance that one of his cards would’ve landed him higher on this list — but it’s impossible to verify that.