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NBA Veteran Cards Priced to Own

by Paul Angilly
May 3, 2005

In the minds of marketers and many card collectors, youth is a prized commodity in the NBA.

When the league wants to promote itself, it's usually young stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Yao Ming that get top billing. Only a few long-time veterans -- most prominently Shaquille O'Neal -- generate as much interest as the younger players.

But when it comes to winning NBA championships, it's often veteran leadership that makes the difference. Now might be a good time for collectors to take a look at some veterans playing key roles with their teams in the playoffs.

At the age of 31, Steve Nash has been a standout this season for a Phoenix Suns team that finished with the best record in the league (62-20) during the regular season. The three-time All-Star (including this season) led the league in total assists (861) and assists per game (11.5). He also averaged 15.5 points per game.

Nash collected 13 assists and 11 points in the Suns’ victory in their playoff opener against Memphis. His 1996-97 rookie cards have high-end prices (as listed recently on the Beckett.com website) ranging from just $1 (Collector's Choice) to $8 (Finest).

Future Hall-of-Famer Reggie Miller averaged 14.8 points per game for the playoff-bound Indiana Pacers in what is expected to be his final NBA season. In the process, he passed Jerry West for 12th place on the all-time scoring list (with 25,279 points). He is also sixth all-time in career minutes played (47,619) and ranks far and away as the NBA’s career leader in 3-pointers made with 2,560 (Dale Ellis is second with just 1,719).

Despite all that, Miller's 1988-89 Fleer RC is valued at just $10 to $25, with his second-year cards from 1989-90 Fleer and NBA Hoops both available for under $1.

Ben Wallace was also named to his third All-Star team this season. The Detroit Pistons' center is known as one of the best defensive players in the league, being named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in both 2001-02 and 2002-03. This season, he was second in the league in rebounds per game (12.2) and fifth in blocks per game (2.38).

In the Pistons' victories over Philadelphia in their first two playoff games, Wallace had 20 rebounds and nine blocks, along with 12 points. He has five RCs from 1996-97, with high-end prices ranging from just $3 (Fleer and NBA Hoops) to $5 (Ultra).

Gary Payton is sixth all-time in career assists (8,508) and continues to be among the best in that category, finishing tied for 13th in the league this season with 6.1 per game for the Boston Celtics. He's also accumulated 20,829 career points, now 25th all-time in that department after averaging 12.1 ppg this season.

His awards are impressive: All-Defensive First Team eight consecutive seasons (1994-2001), Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, an NBA All-Star seven straight seasons through 2000-01 and gold medals with Team USA in 1996 and 2000.

A sure-fire future Hall-of-Famer, the 35-year-old's three 1990-91 rookie cards are tremendous values despite being overproduced, with his Fleer Update ranging from $2.50 to $6, Skybox at $2 to $5 and NBA Hoops at just 60 cents to $1.50.

The Miami Heat's Eddie Jones has piled up 12,601 career points and is still going strong with 12.7 this season. He was also 16th in the league in three-point field goals made (142). Many of his 1994-95 RCs can be easily found for less than $1. High-end values range from $1 (Collector's Choice) to $10 (Finest), with most in the $1.25 to $2 range.

The Phoenix Suns' Jim Jackson has similar stats, with 12,569 career points and a 10.5 ppg average this season. The 34-year-old also has just one true rookie card -- a short-printed one from the 1992-93 Upper Deck set, priced at just $1 to $2.50. Many more recent issues can be found for mere pennies.

Speaking of pennies, for just eight of them (low-end price) you could pick up either a Fleer or NBA Hoops rookie card from 1990-91 for long-time veteran and UConn alum Clifford Robinson, owner of 18,838 career points.

He was traded to the New Jersey Nets in mid-February after averaging 8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 26.0 minutes per game for the Golden State Warriors at age 38. With the Nets he averaged 6.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 20.7 minutes per game as his veteran leadership helped the Nets scrape their way into the playoffs.

Among other career highlights for Robinson: He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team twice (2001-02 and 1999-00), won the 1992-93 NBA Sixth Man Award, ranks 19th all-time in career 3-pointers with 1,168, opened his career with a streak of 461 consecutive games played and has missed just 19 of 1,198 team games due to injury in 15 seasons.

Before this season, he had appeared in 125 career NBA playoff games, averaging 11.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, reaching the NBA Finals with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1990 and 1992. He has appeared in the playoffs in 15 of his 16 NBA seasons.

In New Jersey's first two playoff games against the tough Miami Heat this year, he had 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. The high-end values for his RCs: Fleer and NBA Hoops, 25 cents; Skybox, 40 cents.

Of course, the ultimate goal of any player is to win the NBA championship, and the San Antonio Spurs' Robert Horry has done that five times. Only Scottie Pippen, with six, has won more titles among active players. Horry had appeared in 118 career NBA playoff games before this season, averaging 9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.32 steals.

He ranks second to Jordan in NBA Finals history in career three-pointers made with 38, set an NBA Playoffs record for most three-point field goals made in a game without a miss (7) and set an NBA Finals record for most steals in a game (7). Like Robinson, Horry's RCs (from 1992-93) can be found for mere pennies, ranging in high value from just 15 cents (Topps) to 60 cents (Stadium Club).

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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