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The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted LeBron James (12/30/1984) with the 1st overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He began playing basketball in the fifth grade and attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown.
Top Pick: 2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome RC #111
Love him or hate him, LeBron James Rookie Cards have been one of the best investments in the hobby over the last 3 years.
While he is not as beloved as Michael Jordan was, that shouldn’t stop you from making money. LeBron James is not only today’s most popular NBA player but also arguably the best in recent basketball history (not including MJ).
In terms of legacy, James gives the likes of Kobe Bryant a serious run for his money. James got off to a rousing start in his high school basketball career, averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game for the St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish.
He increased his scoring average yearly, topping at 31.6 points per game during his senior season. He also averaged 9.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists. James was one of the most versatile high school players in the nation.
LeBron James Rookie Year Stats: 79 GP | 20.9 PPG | 5.9 AST | 5.5 REB
James earned several accolades during his high school basketball career: Three-time Ohio Mr. Basketball, Three-time USA TODAY All-USA First Team, First high school basketball underclassman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and Gatorade National Player of the Year, just to name a few.
James also played football for the Fighting Irish. He excelled in the wide receiver position. Some Division I programs (such as Notre Dame) recruited him!
He opted to go pro and immediately impacted his first NBA game. He scored 25 points in a road game against the Sacramento Kings – the most a prep-to-pro player scored in his NBA debut. James won the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year Award with averages of 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game.
Since then, James has become one of the NBA’s icons. He eventually led the Cavs to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2007. Cleveland lost to the San Antonio Spurs in four games.
James signed with the Miami Heat as a free agent in 2010 and this is when he acquired the prima donna reputation among some (a handful of Cleveland fans NEVER forgave him for leaving the city for Miami).
James went on to team up with all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a trio which helped the Heat win back-to-back NBA titles in 2012 and 2013. James won two more MVP titles during that span.
LBJ opted out of his contract with the Heat in June 2014. Less than a month later, he re-signed with the Cavaliers. He formed another formidable trio with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. They helped Cleveland win their first NBA title in 2016 with the Cavs beating the Golden State Warriors in seven games.
James won his third NBA Finals MVP Award after averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists against the Warriors.
James’ other accolades to date include:
- 15-time NBA All-Star
- Three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP
- 12-Time All-NBA First Team selection
- Five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection
- 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics gold medal winner in men’s basketball
James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers when he became an unrestricted free agent during the 2018 offseason. He is determined to help the Lakers win their 17th NBA title.
Let’s check out LeBron James’ best rookie cards for investment purposes without further ado!
2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome Refractors RC #111
This is one of the more in-demand LBJ rookie cards on the market today and is our pick if you could only own one LeBron James Basketball Card.
The card is numbered #11 and shows him pulling up for a jumper as the Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace looks on. The refractor effect makes for some serious eye candy. We daresay this is the best LBJ refractor rookie card around!
The back of the card reads, “No high school hoopster ever has had as many accolades as LeBron, whose quadruple double-type skills could make him a superstar. He won every possible National Player of the Year award in 2002 and ’03.”
Investing in this card will cost you somewhere in the four-digit range. Expect a nice return within the next few years.
2003 LeBron James Topps RC #221
If you can overlook that Lebron is wearing a suit three times too big for him (what we like to call a parachute suit), then this is a must-have for your collection.
James won his first NBA MVP Award at the end of the 2008-09 season, averaging 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. He became the first Cleveland Cavaliers player to earn that distinction.
Besides the Topps Chrome, this is his second most popular rookie card. The 2003-04 Topps #221 LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers RC is and will always be one of eBay’s most sought-after LeBron rookie cards.
It will age like a fine wine and will only increase in value over the next few decades like a blue-chip stock.
2003 LeBron James Upper Deck RC #301
In our humble opinion, the 2003 Upper Deck LeBron James rookie card is often overlooked and is one of his better rookie cards. Not only does it look great but there’s just something about it we like… it has that IT factor that we look for when we invest in cards.
Numbered #301, the reverse reads, “James put the finishing touches on a great high school career in grand fashion, pacing St.Vincent-St. Mary to a 35-1 record and the top spot in the USA Today national prep poll. During his senior high school campaign, the budding superstar led the way by putting up 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.4 steals per contest.”
This is our favorite LeBron rookie card and comes much cheaper than some other high-end ones.
2003 LeBron James Upper Deck Exquisite Collection #LL-LJ
This is the penultimate LeBron James rookie card on the market. Just how exquisite is this LBJ rookie card? You must shell out a hefty sum bordering on the six-digit range.
Yes, it’s a considerable investment, but it’s worth every penny. It’s not your typical sports card that highlights the athlete’s photo on the front cover.
LBJ won his second consecutive NBA MVP Award a season later, averaging 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game for the Cavaliers.
Instead, LBJ’s game-worn Cleveland Cavaliers patch during his rookie year takes center stage – it completely overshadows his photo, the Upper Deck logo, and the Cavs logo. LeBron’s autograph – which adds scarcity – is scribbled at the bottom.
The back of the card reads, “Congratulations! You have received a game-used patch trading card personally autographed by LeBron James. On the front of this card is an authentic piece of a patch from a jersey worn by LeBron James in an NBA game. This trading card was sent to Upper Deck directly from LeBron James. This certificate expressly warrants the authenticity of the depicted athlete’s signature.”
We are not a fan of cards telling us we received a special card… just give us the usual player highlight run down. 🙂
2002 LeBron James Finest RC #178
This is it if you want a LeBron James rookie card that captures his dapper image on draft night. You can see a young LBJ wearing his Cavs draft hat and an all-white ensemble on the front. You can tell he’s stoked to represent his home state of Ohio in the NBA.
The back of the card reads, “Upon choosing James with the first draft pick in 2003, Cleveland Cavaliers chairman Gordon Gund proclaimed, ‘There is no player in the NBA for whom we would have traded this pick.’ That’s an amazing statement but indicative of the uniquely towering regard this teenage marvel holds.”
Many years after LeBron James shook then-commissioner David Stern’s hand, those words proved to be prophetic.
2003 LeBron James SP Authentic RC AUTO #148
The front of this card combines an image of a young LBJ about to throw the hammer down, background graphics, and his autograph. It all adds up.
The back of the card shows an assurance from Upper Deck LBJ autographed the card personally. It’s authentic in every sense of the word. As such, it’s a great addition to your LBJ rookie card collection.
2003 LeBron James Bowman Rookies and Star Basketball #123
Bowman gets in the LeBron James rookie card game with a slick-looking card of LeBron holding the rock in his left hand with a goofy-ass grin on his face… not his best-looking card but not the worst.
Numbered #123, the reverse of the card reads, “One of the most decorated and recognized HS hoopsters ever… Led team to a mythical national title in ’02-’03, and three state crowns… ranks third on Ohio’s all-time HS scoring list.”
2003 LeBron James Fleer E-X #1
LBJ’s Jambalaya series rookie card has slick graphics – his image, the blue and red background, and gold lettering make this card stand out.
The back of the card reads, “LeBron did not disappoint in 2002-03 as many of his games were on pay-per-view. He always managed to put on a show with various athletic jams. Because of his physical skills and awesome showmanship, he’ll be a dunker extraordinaire.”
This card comes with a four-digit price tag. Still, it’s a good investment. You should get a nice return after a few years.
2003 Fleer E-X LeBron James #102
This is one LeBron James rookie card that has a unique identity – the black background on the front of the card speaks massive volumes. You can also see an image of LBJ moving to the hoop.
The back of the card reads, “LeBron’s an electrifying performer who can finish with flair. A brilliant passer with amazing court vision, he gains as much satisfaction from a great assist as a monster dunk. Despite intense media coverage, he played with poise and focus as a high school senior.”
2003 LeBron James SP Signature RC
This is another highly-touted LBJ rookie card with his signature scribbled on the front. In terms of graphics and flair, it’s also one of the simpler ones we’ve seen.
The back of the card shows an assurance from UD regarding the card’s authenticity and signature.
We get a fair amount of emails regarding the value of LeBron James RCs.
The price among cards will vary greatly, but the most expensive LeBron James rookie card is the 2003 LeBron James Ultimate Logos Sig. #LJ-L is shown below.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture of the LeBron card you want a value on.
High School Cards
- 2002 LeBron James Rookie Review Card #6
- 2003 Saint Vincent LeBron James ST. Mary High School #6A
- 2003 LeBron James Saint Vincent Mary High School Card Rookie Tiffany #1A
- 2003 Lebron James Signed Autographed Rookie High School Card Rated Rookie #
- 2003 Upper Deck LeBron James Box Set High School Superstar #7
2003 Bazooka Home White Jersey LeBron James ROOKIE RC #223
Another one of the “Bazooka Rookie Cards,” but not one of the better ones. The card shows LeBron backing down some scrub with the image of a piece of Bazooka gum in the top left-hand corner.
2003 Topps Bazooka LeBron James Cavaliers #276
Our favorite of the so-called LeBron James rookie card is the Bazooka card as it shows the mythical Bazooka Joe… a must-buy for Bazooka Joe fanboys.
While rookie cards will always be sought after by investors because of the nature of the industry, there have been several other quality LeBron James cards made since then. As his career has unfolded and he’s proven himself to be among the best of all time, card companies have hopped on the bandwagon and flooded the market with a ton of options.
Must read: How to get cards graded by psa in 2021
Perhaps you’re an investor who wants to get a card that shows LeBron James during his time with the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe you just are looking for a different design on your card of choice. There are plenty of reasons why someone might want a non-rookie card, but it can be hard to tell which are the best investment options.
We’ve outlined one card worth looking at as a great non-rookie Lebron James investment.
2019 LeBron James Panini Chronicles #75
This card shows Lebron James as he drives hard towards the hoop. It’s from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he signed with during his 2018 free agency. The bottom right of the card includes his and team names.
This is a good option if you’re looking for a James card from his time with the Lakers that isn’t going to break the bank. For those with a smaller bankroll just looking to get their feet wet in the LeBron market, this is as good a choice as any.
- 2003-04 LeBron James Bazooka Rookie Card #223
- 2003-04 Bowman #123
- 2003-04 Bowman Chrome Rookie Card #123
- 2003-04 Bowman Signature Edition #56
- 2003-04 E-X #102
- 2003-04 LJ Flair Rookie Card #94
- 2003-04 Flair Final Edition Rookie Card #75
- 2003-04 LeBron James Fleer Authentix #104
- 2003-04 Fleer Avant #65
- 2003-04 Fleer Focus #137
- 2003-04 Fleer Genuine Insider Rookie Card #104
- 2003-04 LeBron James Fleer Mystique Rookie Card #99
- 2003-04 Fleer Patchworks #105
- 2003-04 Fleer Platinum Rookie Card #183
- 2003-04 LeBron JamesFleer Showcase #130
- 2003-04 Fleer Tradition #261
- 2003-04 Hoops Hot Prospects #112
- 2003-04 SkyBox Autographics #77
- 2003-04 SkyBox LE #118
- 2003-04 Topps Jersey Edition #LJ
- 2003-04 Topps #221
- 2003-04 Topps Collection Rookie Card #221
- 2003-04 Topps Chrome RC #111
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Glass #100
- 2003-04 Topps Finest #133
- 2003-04 Topps Pristine RC #101
- 2003-04 Topps Rookie Matrix #BHJ Chris Bosh – Kirk Hinrich – LeBron James
- 2003-04 LeBron James Ultra Rookie Card #171
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Black Diamond #184
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite #78 Jersey Auto
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Triple Dimensions Reflections RC #10
- 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck Glass RC #100
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Rookie Card #127 Auto
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Rookie Exclusives #1
- 2003-04 Upper Deck #301
- 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck #301
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Finite #242
- 2003-04 Upper Deck MVP Future HOF ROOKIE RC #201
- 2003-04 LeBron James UD Hardcourt #132
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Honor Roll #106 Jersey
- 2003-04 LJ Upper Deck Legends RC #135
- 2003-04 Upper Deck MVP #201
- 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck Standing O #85
- 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic #148 Auto
- 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Game Used #107 Auto
- 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck SPx #151 Jersey Auto
- 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Signature Edition #101
- 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck Sweet Shot #91
- 2003-04 Upper Deck Triple Dimensions #132
- 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck Victory #101
- Investment Rating: Strongest Buy Possible (5 out of 5)
- Ownership Disclosure: 2003 LeBron James Topps RC #221 x2 (PSA 10, SGC 10) & 2003 LeBron James Upper Deck RC #301 x3 (PSA 10, PSA 9, BGS 9.5)
- Best Rookie Card: 2003 Topps Chrome Refractors RC #111
LeBron James has won just about every basketball accolade known to man. He has several NBA MVPs, NBA Finals MVPs, and NBA titles tucked under his belt. Love him or hate him, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer several years after his retirement.
On that note, only a few players come close to James’ legacy. LBJ is truly a cut above the rest. It’s hard to fathom another player of his caliber dominating the NBA in the future.