What are the best basketball cards to invest in now? (also read our “Best Sports Cards To Invest In Now“).
Much depends on what is likely to sell for the most significant profit, and it’s not always easy to judge who or what will be popular in a year.
It’s worth taking the time to gauge your options and work out which card is right for you. For example, your budget will be an obvious constraint, as well as how long you want to invest. A long-term investment piece will have different characteristics to a card you wish to flip quickly.
“Basketball Cards are overtaking baseball cards as the most popular in the hobby”
We’ve included everything you could need to know about both the player and the card, with something to suit
We’ve looked at everything from recent market data to values to bring you this list with some of the best investment options. The cards are listed in no particular order, and there are options to suit almost every budget. Rookie cards make up the majority of the list, as they’re the most profitable purchase at any given time.
Of course, some are worth more than others, and brand recognition will also have a role to play. We’d advise sticking with PSA, BGS, and SGC-graded options whenever possible for investment purposes.
You’ll have a better idea of exactly what the card is worth and eliminate the risk of losing money, and you won’t have to go to the trouble of sending it off to appraise yourself.
Without further ado, let’s get ready to rumble. We’ll start off with one of the most recognizable cards in the hobby, released way back in 1985.
1985 Michael Jordan Nike Promo
Where better to begin than with His Airness? Michael Jordan is a true legend, and the legacy of his branding still remains as strong today as it ever was.
A six-time NBA champion (and the Finals MVP each time), he ended his career as a 14-time All-Star and the first billionaire player in the history of the NBA.
If you can name it, he has probably achieved it.
This promo card was released by Nike in 1985, as Jordan leaps toward the net in an iconic shot. It’s one of the first-ever cards to feature the young star, while the ‘Jumpman’ pose is used for advertising the original Jordan 1 sneakers.
It wasn’t the rarest card by any means when it was originally released in ‘85, but prices for mint copies have risen significantly in the last few years.
Keep an eye out for reprints sometimes sold as the ‘85 card by unscrupulous sellers. Cards from the original set are over-sized, measuring a little more than 3″ x 5″.
1986 Michael Jordan Fleer RC #57
MJ cards are great investments, following a resurgence in popularity in the last few years. Due to The Last Dance (Rewatch The Last Dance), almost every Jordan card is worth significantly more than they were a decade ago.
As such, the same is true for his RC, released during the 1986-87 season.
Jordan’s Fleer RC is one of the most iconic cards from the 1980s, with a bright red, white, and blue background.
“Please note due to how iconic the MJ Fleer RC is, we feel it’s OK to drop your minimum grade requirements down to PSA 6 or SGC 7.”
It features an action shot of MJ as he leaps up toward the rim in a typically dominating display. As the definitive Jordan rookie card, the ‘86 Fleer sees a lot of interest at any given time.
Compared to many others on the list, it’s incredibly condition-sensitive, which is why the price of PSA 10 copies has skyrocketed over the past year. It’s arguably the most popular basketball card ever, and prices continue to climb with no end result in sight.
For example, prices for mint Jordan RCs have more than doubled since 2014. What will they be worth by 2025?
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome RC #138
Kobe Bryant cards are another scorching ticket item and should be for the foreseeable future. RIP, Black Mamba. Investors continually keep putting massive amounts of money into Kobe Bryant’s rookie cards, and his cards are some of the best in terms of ROI.
He first won an NBA championship in 2000 and went on to win another four titles for a total of five (two of which he was Finals MVP). Being an 18-time All-Star, a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team also don’t hurt Kobe’s rookie card values.
His 1996 Topps Chrome rookie card is what we’re looking at here. It has a powerful action shot of Kobe laying the ball up with the players in the background, mostly faded out.
Despite being unsigned, the Topps Chrome card is an excellent mid-range to a high investment piece. If you have the money to pony up consider the Topps Chrome Refractor version of this card.
2013 Giannis Antetokounmpo Prizm #33, #290 RC
Next up is Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” is one of the biggest stars in the modern-day and recently announced that a Disney movie about his life was in the works.
Among his numerous accolades is the honor of being named the NBA MVP in 2019 and 2020, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan as the only players to win MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.
His Prizm and Prizm Signature cards are another great addition to the list, and it’s a proper premium option. It’s hard to do better than a Prizm base rookie card when it comes to basketball card investing, as they are trendy and easy to sell when the market is going well. But by the same token, they also fall the most in terms of ROI.
If you’re looking for a long-term investment piece that could be worth a lot, and when we say a lot, we mean A LOT MORE in a decade or two.
2003 LeBron James Topps #221, Topps Chrome #111, Topps Chrome Refractor #111 Rookie Cards
These are what we call LEBRONS’ BIG THREE. Here we have some of the best investments in the entire sports card hobby if not the entire alternative investment industry.
Best of all, all three have completely different values as PSA 10/SGC 10/BGS 9.5 grades. Are you an investor on a budget? Try the 2003 Topps LeBron RC.
Looking to spend a solid amount without going completely nuts? The LeBron James 2003 Topps Chrome rookie card is right up your alley. Or maybe you a CEO or have recently won the Powerball. You should be looking at the crown jewel of the three in the Topps Chrome Refractor LeBron rookie card.
1992 Shaquille O’Neal Upper Deck RC #1,#1b, #220,
We love the 1992 Shaq Upper Deck rookie card as it is a great-looking card and is available in international versions to boot. Number #1 or #1a in the United States but the Italian, French, or Spanish version (also sometimes called international within the listings) numbered #220.
Consider yourself extremely lucky if you can obtain one of the French, Italian, or Spanish versions at a PSA 10 or SGC 10 grade, as they are scarce at high grades. You have a great-looking Shaq card and an outstanding long-term investment.
2007 Kevin Durant Topps Chrome Refractor, Topps Chrome, Topps #131,#131,#2 (left to right)
Kevin Durant’s best rookie card. Enough said.
2018 Luka Doncic Panini Prizm RC #280
Luka Doncic is last on this list, but he could have the top ROI over the next 10 years.
The 2019 Rookie of the Year, he went on to make his first All-Star appearance in 2020, and on August 10, 2021, he signed a five-year $207 million rookie extension, the largest in the history of the NBA.
It’s easy to see why one of his RCs is one of the best basketball cards to invest in now, as he seems destined for greatness and has all the tools to succeed in the NBA.
His 2018 Panini Prizm card has everything you’d expect from the brand, with a unique border design and a crisp RC logo on the top left corner.
Doncic is pictured in the middle of the card as he leaps up to make a shot. As you can see from the list below, there’s a ridiculous amount of parallels to look out for, some of which benefit from low print runs. They offer something to suit almost every budget, making it another great investment option.
So, there you have it. Players like Williamson and Doncic are joined by old favorites like MJ, making a list that feels more like a who’s who in the NBA.
Each card we’ve mentioned has attracted hundreds of bids over the past few months, making for some of the more interesting basketball cards if you’re purchasing solely to invest in the future. Some cards are better suited to a quick flip, while others would probably have a better chance if you’re willing to hold in the long term.
Much depends on your appetite for risk and what sort of profit you would accept. After all, you might have been happy with the price if you sold an ‘86 Jordan Fleer in 2014.
However, holding for a few more years would have significantly increased your personal profit margins. The same goes for younger players, who still have the majority of their careers ahead of them.
Are you willing to put faith in the prospect of future championship rings and an HoF spot, which will undoubtedly cause prices to rise again?
It’s a risk either way, but that’s the name of the game when you’re investing in items that will ebb and flow depending on external factors.