When I was growing up, I played a TON of NBA Jam – both the Sega edition on my beloved Sega Genesis and the original arcade version, back when arcades existed. It was easily one of the best basketball games available in the early 1990s. With its mix of players, commentary, and “on fire” effects, NBA Jam provided my friends and I countless hours of above the rim fun.
If you played NBA Jam back in the day, you most likely had your own go-to team, be it your hometown favorite or the team that featured your favorite players. Since Michael Jordan wasn’t in this game (due to likeness rights issues), I wasn’t looking to play with the Bulls (oh and did you know the Bulls team was rigged?). The Celtics arcade team had a decent squad with Kevin McHale and Reggie Lewis (RIP), but I had a hard time winning with the C’s. As a result, I almost always played with the Miami Heat.
Why the Heat? I was taking my talents to South Beach long before Lebron… but in all seriousness, for me the goal of NBA Jam was to get on fire and stay there by whatever means necessary. The easiest way to do this was to hit three shots in a row, then foul and goaltend the sh*t out of your opponent, since goaltending didn’t remove the on fire effect. The best team for this (after lots of trial and error) was the Miami Heat. The Heat duo featured Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice, two tall players who could also shoot from downtown.
But this post is not just my way of nerding out and being nostalgic about one of my favorite basketball video games games. Rather, I’m going to look at the most common (or easiest to find, with one exception) PSA 10 rookie cards for both players on each of the original 27 NBA Jam teams and rank each team by their rookie card value. Lets get into it!
The teams below are all from the arcade game (based on this Deadspin article), but I plan do a follow up post analyzing all teams from the Sega Genesis game as well.
And for those of you who just want to see the results with none of my commentary (can’t say I blame you) – I threw everything into the simple bar chart below.
#27: Milwaukee Bucks – Brad Lohaus & Blue Edwards
Maybe I didn’t play the game enough because I’m not sure if I’ve ever even heard of these guys. As a result, I’m only going to do a quick eBay search for the value of their rookie cards, since its a safe bet that few people have ever sent these cards in to be graded.
Unfortunately for Bucks fans, both of these players rookies were from the junkiest of junk card sets. The Brad Lohaus Rookie (#74) was from the 1989-90 Hoops set and sells for $1. As for Blue Edwards, his rookie was from the 1990-91 Hoops set (card #288) and also sells for $1.
Those must have been dark days in Milwaukee. Glad to see they have a strong team now.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Bucks: $2.
#26: Washington Bullets – Tom Gugliotta & Harvey Grant
Since Gugliotta (or Goog as my dad called him) was from the 1992 NBA draft class (6th overall, same class as Shaq), there are many rookie cards to choose from. However, in this instance, it doesn’t really matter which one we pick because they are all about $1. Knowing this, I’m also going to just stick with eBay for a quick spot price on his rookie cards. His 1992-93 Hoops card (#476) is easy to find on eBay and sells for $1, as does his 1992-93 Stadium Club rookie card (#288).
Harvey Grant, twin brother of Horace Grant (who we will get to later) was the 12th overall pick from the 1988 draft and the most common rookie of his to find was from the 1989-90 NBA Hoops set (#67), which also sells for $1.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Bullets: $2.
Even though the Bullets duo is equal in value to the Bucks, I remember both these players so am giving them the edge in this ranking.
#25: Miami Heat – Rony Seikaly & Glen Rice
These were my boys! I could stay on fire forever with these two. Their combination of height and shooting ability made them nearly unstoppable in NBA Jam. However, as much as I liked these guys in game, I’m not in any hurry to add either player to my collection.
Rony Seikaly, who many (myself included) only know thanks to NBA Jam, was a 6’10” Lebanese-born Center drafted 9th overall by the Heat in the 1988 draft. The 1988 draft class had their rookies on full display in the 1989-90 Hoops set, and Seikaly’s rookie was card #243. Since this rookie is from one of the junkiest sets, i’m going to just peg this card at $1, since that is a common asking price on eBay.
Glen Rice is certainly the more famous of the two, and went on to have a decent career. Rice was the 4th pick in the 1989 draft, and his most common rookie card is from the 1990 Fleer set, card #101. The price history for the Rice rookie isn’t great, but there have been 5 sales dating back to June 2020, and each sale has jumped around quite a bit, with this PSA 10 fetching $16 on the low end but as high as $71. If we take the average of the last 5 sales, we’d get peg this card at just over $40.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Heat: $41
#24: Philadelphia 76ers – Hersey Hawkins & Jeff Hornacek
I’ve always been a fan of the 76ers. Dr. J was unbelievable, and the old school 76ers theme song is terrific (it will instantly get stuck in your head, but you can check it out here). Still, I probably only played with this team a few times.
As the 6th overall pick from the 1988 draft, Hersey Hawkins‘ most common rookie would either be his 1989 Fleer card (#117) or the 1989 Hoops card (#137). Both ungraded cards are easy to find on eBay for around $1. The PSA 10 Fleer card sold for $40 in both July and August, and the PSA 10 Hoops only has one transaction on the site, and it was for $8 back in March, 2019. I’m a generous guy so I’m willing to peg the Hawkins rookie at $40.
Jeff Hornacek, present day assistant coach to the Houston Rockets, was the 46th overall pick in the 1986 draft, so you’d expect his rookie card to be in the 1987 sets, but for some reason that isn’t the case. Rather, Hornacek’s rookies are from the 1989 sets… go figure? Hornacek’s rookies are also easy to find on eBay for near $1, and his PSA 10 Fleer rookie (#121) has bounced around between $10 and $32 throughout September and October, so in keeping things simple I’ll just say his Gem Mint rookie card is worth $20.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the 76ers: $60
#23: Charlotte Hornets – Larry Johnson & Kendall Gill
There was a lot of hype about Larry Johnson in the 90s – I remember the hype but I can’t remember why. Larry Johnson had a few commercials with Converse starring Johnson dressed up as “Grandmama” and taking it to the rim (check them out here). Despite the hype, I never played as the Hornets because I just never understood the hype.
The first thing that happens when you type in “Larry Johnson rookie” into eBay is you get a ton of the 1980 Bird/Magic/Erving card results. That is certainly one of the best cards in the hobby, and I should have known better.
Anyway, for Larry Johnson’s actual rookie, you have a few options with the 1991 Hoops card (#546), the 1991-92 Upper Deck card (#2), and you’ve got your 1991-92 Fleer set (#255). The most commonly graded rookie card appears to be the Upper Deck card. The PSA 10 Upper Deck cards sell a few times each month, and prices bounce between $45 and $65, so I’ll split the difference and go with $55 for Grandmama.
You also have a couple rookie card options with Kendall Gill, who was the 5th overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. For Gill, you can check out the 1990-91 Hoops card (#394), the 1991-92 Fleer card (#232), the 1990-01 Skybox card (#356), among others. The only rookie I could find graded on the PSA site was the Skybox card, and the most recent sale was $8 back in March 2019 – I’d expect this card has about doubled since then so I’ll peg it at $15. His Fleer rookie is selling now on eBay for $22 so $15 seems like a fair price.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Hornets: $70
#22: New Jersey Nets – Derrick Coleman & Drazen Petrovic
When NBA Jam came out, I only thought of the NJ Nets as a ‘has been’ team, thinking back to when they had Dr. J and Nate “Tiny” Archibald in the 70s and a team that hadn’t done much since. I wouldn’t pay much attention to the Nets until the early 2000s, when Kidd and crew would knock the Celtics out of the playoffs, only to be swept by the stacked Kobe and Shaq led Lakers.
The Drazen Petrovic rookie card with the most data available on PSA’s website is the 1990 Fleer Update set, card #U-81. This card features an image of Petrovic looking like he might get blocked by Isiah Thomas. The PSA 10 copies of this card sell for between $50 and $70 so I’ll just use $60 for Drazen Petrovic’s rookie card value.
There is even less data available on the PSA site for Derrick Coleman, who shares his rookie season with his NBA Jam teammate. The Coleman rookie with the most data (a paltry 7 sales transactions) is from a mega junk set – the 1990 Skybox set – which I had tons of as a kid. The most recent sale of a PSA 10 Coleman Skybox rookie (card #364) was in December and sold for $28, which is what I’ll use in this analysis.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Nets: $88
#21: Denver Nuggets – Dikembe Mutombo & LaPhonso Ellis
The Denver Nuggets were a solid NBA Jam team if your focus was on dunking and defense, with Mutombo getting near perfect marks for dunks and both he and Ellis had decent defense ratings – although Mutombo’s defensive stats were still lower than what they should have been.
The most common Mutombo rookie card is probably the 1991-92 Upper Deck card (#3), but like all rookies from this time period you have a few to choose from. The PSA 10s for the Mutombo rookie have sold in a fairly wide range just in December, with one sale on December 1st going for $54 and the most recent sale on the 8th going for $120. I’m going to split the difference and round up to $90, just to give a little extra weight to the most recent price.
There is very little available on PSA’s site with respect to LaPhonso Ellis rookies. Ellis, who was the 5th overall pick in the 1992 draft, seems not to be a top priority for collectors. The card with the most data on PSA is the 1992 Hoops Draft Redemption card (#D… yes that number is correct). The most recent sale of this card came back in March, 2020 and it went for $16, so $16 it is for this analysis.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Nuggets: $106
#20: L.A. Clippers – Danny Manning & Ron Harper
For me, the Clippers were another one of those NBA Jam throw away teams, so its no surprise these guys are ranking low on this NBA Jam team rookie card analysis.
Danny Manning, the first overall pick in the 1988 draft, and the most common rookie card of his on eBay at the moment is from the 1989 Fleer set, card #71. According to PSA’s site, there are over 100 Danny Manning Fleer rookies with a PSA 10 grade, which comes as a big surprise. Not that so many are graded 10 (which is in fact quite surprising by itself for a card from 1989), but also that over 100 people have sent their Danny Manning Fleer rookies in to be graded. Why though?
Anyway, the Manning PSA 10 rookie has been on a bit of a downward trend over the last few months, bucking the trend for nearly all PSA 10 basketball cards. Back in July it sold for $40, $40.50, and $30. The only sale since June took place on December 14th for $21.35. For simplicity, I’ll use the $30 sale as my base for this card.
When looking up Ron Harper, the 8th overall pick in the 1986 draft, I had completely forgotten that this guy is a 5-time NBA Champ; winning 3 with the Bulls (their 2nd 3-peat in the late 90s) and getting his other 2 wins with the Lakers in the 1999 and 2000. Harpers most common rookie is from the 1987 Fleer set (#49), ant it just so happens that a PSA 10 was being bid on the day I wrote this. That card sold for $161.50.
The two most recent PSA 10 Harper rookies listed on the PSA website both sold for $133.50 (with sale dates of May 21st and July 30th). If I take the average from the most recent selling price and $133.50, I arrive at roughly $150.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Clippers: $180
#19: Minnesota Timberwolves – Christian Laettner & Chuck Person
Even as a kid I remember hating Christian Laettner, so I never played as the Timberwolves.
Since Laettner was drafted in the 1992 draft (3rd overall) there are a few rookie choices to choose from. The two I saw most frequently on eBay were the 1992 Ultra rookie card (#304) and the 1992 Upper Deck rookie card (#3). I wasn’t able to find much on the PSA website, but the PSA 10 Ultra Laettner rookies were selling for $27 – $39 (Buy It Now asking prices) on eBay. The PSA 10 Upper Deck rookies were selling in a wider range of $30 – $107, so I’m going to give Laettner a $30 price for this very technical bit of analysis.
Chuck Person was drafted in the 1986 draft (4th overall) and there is really only one option for Person’s rookie, and that would be the 1987 Fleer rookie card (#85). The PSA site also didn’t offer up any data on this card, but the Buy It Now asking price on eBay for the PSA 9 was $20, so I’ll say his PSA 10 should be $300, since you typically see a multiple in the 10x-20x range when comparing PSA 10s to PSA 9s for cards from this set. If $300 is a fair price for the PSA 10 Person rookie, I’m fairly shocked and pleasantly surprised that his card is 10x more valuable than Laettners.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Timberwolves: $330
#18: Dallas Mavericks – Derek Harper & Mike Iuzzolino
The Mavs were such a throw away team back in the early 90s, and the duo you played with in NBA Jam was no different. I’m glad they’ve turned things around since drafting Dirk in 1998. The two players for their NBA Jam team were Derek Harper and Mike Iuzzolino.
The two easiest Mike Iuzzolino rookie cards to find are the 1991-92 Upper Deck card (#16) and the 1991-92 Fleer card (#269), both valued at about $1. Again, I didn’t bother to do a PSA 10 search since it would be a waste of time.
However, things start to get a bit more interesting with the Derek Harper card, since his rookie is from the same 1986 Fleer set as the incredibly well known Jordan rookie. Knowing this, I did take the extra minute to look at the PSA 10 value of Harper’s Fleer rookie (#44), which has sold above $400 for four of the last five transactions according to PSA’s price history. For simplicity, I’m going to peg this card at $400.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Mavericks: $401
#17: San Antonio Spurs – David Robinson & Sean Elliott
I’m not quite sure what it is about the Spurs, but I’ve always been a fan of this team. I loved and respected the quiet confidence that David Robinson and Tim Duncan brought out on the court night in and night out, and I couldn’t imagine a better player for Duncan to learn from during his first few seasons in the NBA.
Having said that, I would play as the Spurs on occasion, mainly to play as Robinson. Sean Elliott was a fine support player, but I would almost always give the rock to The Admiral. Stats at the end of all my NBA Jam games were insanely lopsided.
For Robinson fans, like myself, its fairly easy to acquire a top graded Robinson rookie, since his most common rookie card is from a very junky set: 1989 Hoops. The PSA 10 graded Robinson card (#138), typically sells between $400-$500, with the most recent Gem Mint sale taking place on December 28, 2020 and fetching $567. For this analysis, I’m going to peg the Hoops Robinson rookie right at $500.
The most commonly graded Sean Elliott rookie card comes from the 1990 Fleer set (card #171), another super junky set. This card is rarely graded because the cost to grade is likely more than the card is valued at, even with a top PSA 10 grade. The average price of the last two PSA 10 sales comes to roughly $20.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Spurs: $520
#16: Cleveland Cavaliers – Mark Price & Brad Daugherty
I’m sorry Cav’s fans, but for me this team was also a throw away team that I never touched. However, I like both of these guys a lot and chemistry between the two was fantastic. Mark Price was a great passer and shooter, and Brad Daugherty was a well respected center with a nice post game.
The only real Mark Price rookie option is from the 1988-89 Fleer set (#25). The prices for this PSA 10 card vary tremendously, with two of these selling for under $80 back in May, and one selling for $517 back in September. The most recent sale was for $202 in October. With so much variability, I’m just going to say $250 for this one.
The Brad Daugherty rookie card is from the 1987-88 Fleer set (also card #25). The Daugherty PSA 10 rookie is much easier to price, with the 3 most recent sales going for $295, $210, and $300. With the most recent price of $295 happening back in September, and my very strong expectation that this card would fetch at least that price now, I’m going to bump Brad up to $300… this also keeps the math easy.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Clippers: $550
#15: Seattle SuperSonics – Shawn Kemp & Benoit Benjamin
The Seattle SuperSonics – remember them? This is a team I used to mess around with from time to time, but only to throw it down with Shawn Kemp. Kemp was the man in the early 90s, at least among my friends.
This team was strong! Between Kemp and Benjamin, you had two huge dudes that could goal tend with the best of ’em, so these guys were tough to beat in NBA Jam.
The most common Kemp rookie is from the 1990 Fleer set, card #178 and its a terrific image of Kemp mid-dunk. It sells frequently and midway through December PSA already has 4 PSA 10 transactions, selling for $50, $48, $64, and $60. If you take the average of those and round up to the nearest dollar you get $56.
The much less famous player from that duo is Benoit Benjamin, the 3rd overall pick of the 1985 draft. Benjamin was a 7-foot center and since he was picked in the ’85 draft, his rookie is from the 1986 Fleer set, which almost always guarantees a PSA 10 value of at least $200. And very true to form, his PSA 10 Fleer rookie card (#8) typically sells for a bit over $500. The most recent sale came on December 9th, for $525 and that seems about right to me.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the SuperSonics: $581
#14: Sacramento Kings – Wayman Tisdale & Spud Webb
I did a double take seeing Spud Webb‘s name listed with the Kings, because for me Webb will forever be an Atlanta Hawk, but Webb did play for the Kings between 1991-1995. I liked Spud Webb, but he was way too short (5’7″) to be an effective goal tender in NBA Jam so I didn’t touch the Kings.
Spud Webb was one of the last draft picks in the 1985 draft, and his rookie card is part of that iconic 132-card Fleer set from 1986 (card #120). The image for his rookie card is also pretty phenomenal, and I’d even go as far as to put it up there with Jordan’s.
The last two sales of his PSA 10 rookie went for $560 and $597, so I’ll take the rough mid point and say his PSA 10 rookie is worth $580…Is it the shoes?!? Shortly after writing this, I hopped on eBay and purchased an ungraded Webb rookie for $30.
Wayman Tisdale (RIP) was also selected in the 1985 draft (2nd overall), and his rookie also comes from the 1986 Fleer set (card #113). The Tisdale rookie card sees a lot more price volatility according to PSA, has recently swung between $175 and $317, so in order to get a clean number with the Webb rookie I’ll say Tisdale’s PSA 10 is good for about $220.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Kings: $800
#13: L.A. Lakers – James Worthy & Vlade Divac
Ugh the Lakers – I have such a love/hate relationship with this team. If I were from anyplace other than Boston I’d probably be fine with them, but all Bostonian’s naturally grow to hate on the Lakers.
Having said that, I like both players from the NBA Jam squad. James Worthy was one of UNC’s finest players and Vlade Divac was the first European player to really make his presence felt in the NBA. Divac also has a few acting credits, appearing in Eddie, Space Jam, and in an episode of Married with Children. Oh the 90s.
The James Worthy rookie is from the 1986 Fleer set (#131) and is the first card on the list to command a price over $1,000. The recent price range for the PSA 10 Worthy rookies vary quite drastically, with a card on October 1st selling for $1,736 while not even 2 weeks later a card sold for $1,064. The most recent selling price of a Worthy PSA 10 was $1,578 and I think that is a fair price to use for this card.
The most common Vlade Divac rookie is from the 1990 Fleer set (#91). There is a good amount of PSA data on this card, and PSA 10s have sold three times in the past month, with sales between $21 and $39. The most recent sale price was $33 and since that is nearly the midpoint of the other two, it looks like a good price to use.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Lakers: $1,611
#12: Boston Celtics – Reggie Lewis & Kevin McHale
Even though I was a die hard Celtics fan growing up, I rarely played as the Cs. I loved both these players, but McHale was old by the time NBA Jam debuted and Reggie Lewis (RIP) just didn’t fit my style of play.
Although I didn’t play as the C’s much, I can’t express how much I loved these two guys for their contributions to Boston both on and off the court. Reggie Lewis was known in Boston for gifting turkeys to the needy around the holidays and I’ve always admired him for his generosity. His rookie card, however, doesn’t resonate with collectors. The most common Lewis rookie is from the 1989 Fleer set (card #10), and the top graded PSA 10s only sell for around $35 (his jersey number).
The Kevin McHale top graded rookie card is a bit of a different story, and commonly fetches close to $2,000. The McHale rookie is from the 1981 Topps set (East card #75). This set was split up between an East and West sets, so there are two of each card number, which is why I specified “East” when referencing the McHale rookie card number. The two most recent PSA 10 McHale rookie sales both netted $1,900 or above, so I will peg the McHale rookie at $1,900 even.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Celtics: $1,935
Note: I didn’t need to massage the data at all to give the Celtics the slight edge here over the Lakers. Had I needed to, I’m sure I would have been tempted to do so. Go Celtics!!!
#11: Portland Trail Blazers – Clyde Drexler & Terry Porter
As far as I’m concerned, Clyde Drexler was probably the best overall player in NBA Jam. I didn’t play with the Blazers often, but it sure was fun to see what Drexler was capable of in that game. When I did play with Portland, Terry Porter almost never touched the ball as my offensive strategy was very one dimensional. Again, stats were heavily one sided,
The Terry Porter rookie card is from the 1987 Fleer set, card #89. With all my attention on Drexler, I was surprised to see that the top graded PSA 10 porter rookies were recently selling for over $200, in fact this card looks like it typically commands prices closer to $225. Not too shabby for a 24th overall draft pick in the 1985 draft. Present day Blazers fans know Porter as head coach, a position he’s held since 2016.
The Clyde Drexler rookie is from the 1986 Fleer set, card #26. The December sales price for PSA 10 Drexler rookies have quite a range, with the low price of $1,500 and a high of $3,550. The most sale, which transpired on December 28th, went for $1,825 which seems about right. I’m sure this card will start going for $2,000+ shortly into 2021, but I’ll use the $1,825 price now as the practical Gem Mint Drexler rookie card value.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Trail Blazers: $2,050
#10: Indiana Pacers – Reggie Miller and Detlef Schrempf
Since Reggie could shoot, he was arguably the best shooter in NBA Jam, I would certainly play as the Pacers from time to time. Detlef Schrempf was also tall and was a respectable goal tender so the Pacers were probably my main backup behind the Heat.
Detlef Schrempf was picked by the Dallas Mavericks with their 8th overall pick in the 1985 draft. He played in Dallas for four years and was traded in 1989 to the Pacers for veteran center Herb Williams. The Schrempf rookie card debuted in the 1987-88 Fleer set (card #97), and the PSA 10 grades of this card typically go for about $220 – much higher than I would have guessed.
The Reggie Miller rookie card is from the 1988-89 Fleer set (card #57) and is one of the top rookie cards from that set. The most recent sale of a PSA 10 Reggie Miller rookie took place on Christmas day, and that card sold for $2,000 which is a perfectly round number to use here.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Pacers: $2,220
#9: Detroit Pistons – Bill Laimbeer & Isiah Thomas
Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas, two of the linchpins from the late 1980’s back-to-back NBA Championship team, were still available for the Pistons when the arcade version of NBA Jam debuted. Although these guys were a little long in the tooth at this point, they were still a formidable team to play against and their rookie cards are in high demand with collectors.
The Bill Laimbeer rookie card is from the 1981 Topps set, and is card #74 Mid-West. Given this set is 40 years old, the top graded PSA 10 cards are rather difficult to come by, and according to the PSA website, there are only 25 top graded Bill Laimbeer rookie cards in existence. However, even with such a limited card population, the Gem Mint Laimbeer rookies are still rather affordable, with the average price from the two most recent sales being $580.
With the Isiah Thomas rookie card, we once again return to the 1986 Fleer set. The Thomas rookie (card #109), is one of the more popular rookie cards from this set, and the average December 2020 sales price for the PSA 10 Thomas rookie was roughly $1,820. The average selling price last December was slightly under $700, so this card is up around 160%.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Pistons: $2,400
Note: I wrote about the three of the Bad Boys rookie cards in one of my earliest posts, which you can find here.
#8: Golden State Warriors – Tim Hardaway & Chris Mullin
I wasn’t all that big on Chris Mullin growing up (and even as a kid I questioned why he and Laettner made it on the Dream Team), but I liked Tim Hardaway so I’d try out the Warriors from time to time. Their shooting skills and height conformed well to my style of play.
The most commonly graded Tim Hardaway rookie is from the 1990 Fleer set, card #63. This is a very affordable card, even at top grades. The three most recent December 2020 sales all clocked in at $45, so I feel good using that price for this analysis.
The Chris Mullin card is in the 1986 Fleer set, card #77. Yes, another stand out rookie in the unbelievable 1986 Fleer set. Like so many other rookies from this set, the top graded Mullin cards sell in the thousands. In fact, the the most recent PSA 10 Mullin card sold in mid-December for $2,388 according to PSA’s website. This card has also doubled compared to where it was selling in December 2019.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Warriors: $2,433
#7: Chicago Bulls – Scottie Pippen & Horace Grant
A 90’s Bulls team with no Jordan is like a watching the New England Patriots with no Tom Brady. Sure, Scottie Pippen was a phenomenal player but people tuned into Bulls games to see Jordan. The same was true for me playing NBA Jam. No Jordan, no thank you.
Both the Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant rookie cards are from the 1988-89 Fleer set. The Grant card was card #16, with Pippen grabbing card #20. The PSA 10 Horace Grant card holds its own and consistently sells above $200, with the most recent sale coming on December 15th, when someone paid $205 for this Gem Mint rookie.
If you were guessing the Pippen rookie card was going to be the higher value prize with collectors you have good instincts, although that is a pretty easy call compared with Grant. The PSA 10 Pippen rookie card typically sells for over $2,000, with the most recent sale taking place of the final day of 2020 and going for $2,258.
If we wind back to December 2019, we see this Gem Mint rookie was only selling for around $600, so top graded Pippen rookies have more than tripled in the past year.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Bulls: $2,463
#6: New York Knicks – Patrick Ewing & Charles Oakley
I’m not sure if I ever dabbled with this Ewing and Oakley lineup, but even if I did they certainly weren’t a top team for me. Even though I didn’t love this team for NBA Jam, I’m not surprised to see these two take the 6th spot on this list, since both Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley have rookie cards from the ’86 Fleer set.
The Charles Oakley rookie card is card #81 from the famous Fleer set, and the most recent PSA 10 prices from December 2020 sales are around $200. Compared to last year, the Oakley rookies are up around 100%. Charles Oakley was the 9th overall pick in the 1985 draft and was a bit of a journeyman, playing for five different teams over his 19 season career. Oakley currently ranks 23rd all time in rebounds.
The Ewing rookie card (#22) is the true breadwinner on this Jam team, with the most recent PSA 10 prices coming in around $4,000. If we dial it back to December of 2019, we see this card was selling for under $1,000, so top graded Ewing rookies are up over 300% this year! Ewing had an incredible NBA career. Despite never winning a Championship, he still won gold with the USA Olympic team (the Dream Team) in 1992, he was an 11-time All Star, and his jersey number 33 is retired with the Knicks franchise.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Knicks: $4,200
Side Note: Ewing also holds a special place in my collection since I really credit him for getting me excited about the hobby in the first place. I wrote about my first ‘hit’ as a kid, which was Ewing’s Upper Deck Skylights card, which holds new meaning in my collection after 9/11. For more, read my In Remembrance post.
#5: Utah Jazz – Karl Malone & John Stockton
There is no doubt that the most talented NBA Jam team, at least on paper, was the Utah Jazz. You really can’t get much better than Karl Malone and John Stockton for any basketball duo. I also agree completely with Deadspin’s 2014 Power Rankings, where they gave the Jazz the #1 spot.
However, in rookie card value terms, the Jazz fall to the #5 spot, due in part to the Stockton rookie card. The John Stockton rookie card is from the 1988 Fleer set (card #114). Top graded PSA 10 copies of this card generally sell for around $910, although there have been multiple instances when this card has cleared $1,000. If we go back to November 2019 we see the Gem Mint Stockton rookies were selling for around $180, so this card is up around 400% this year.
The Karl Malone card is from the 1986 Fleer set, card #68. I don’t think this card is getting the love and respect I’d expect, as the top PSA 10 graded cards are only selling for $3,300 on average in December 2020. I’d expect this card to be selling up around Dominique Wilkins rookie card level, but maybe that’s just my ‘Mailman’ bias getting in the way. This card was selling for around $5,500 back in August, so the value has dropped since the summer. Still, the top graded Karl Malone rookie card is still up roughly 300% in a year.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Jazz: $4,210
Interesting Note: Oddly enough, the top graded 1986 Fleer Jeff Malone cards (#67) sell for more than the Karl Malone cards, with three of the last four sales going for over $5,000. I’ve purchased two ungraded Jeff Malone cards since writing this post, hoping to strike gold with a PSA 10.
#4: Orlando Magic – Shaquille O’Neal & Scott Skiles
I loved Shaq as a kid and continue to appreciate Shaq today. I think he and I have the same kind of humor. Despite my love for Shaq, I hardly touched the Magic because their NBA Jam team didn’t jive with my style of winning.
Technically, the most common Shaq graded rookie card is from the 1992 Topps set (#362), but with Shaq I’m going to bend the rules a bit and focus on the rookie card of his that I like most, which is the 1992 Stadium Club Beam Team card (#21). For this analysis, I’m focused on the card you’d pull from packs, which IS NOT the ‘Members Only’ card.
So far in December there have been two PSA 10 sales of Shaq’s Beam Team rookie, and the selling prices were $4,600 and $5,843. If we take the average of those two and round down a bit we hit $5,220.
Scott Skiles was the virtual unknown on this team (at least to me at the time), but Skiles was drafted 22nd overall in the 1986 draft. You’d think his rookie cards would be from the following year but rather his rookies are from the sets in 1989, with his most common rookie card probably being the 1989 Fleer rookie card (#110). This PSA 10 sales transactions for this card are between $5 and $12. I’m willing to give Skiles $12.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Magic: $5,232
Note: Had I not broken the rules here, the total value for the Magic would only be about $362, since Shaq’s Topps rookie sells for around $350. Also, I love the Beam Team cards, and my first post covered both the Shaq and Jordan card. It was my first post so its mediocre at best, but you can find that post here.
#3: Atlanta Hawks – Dominique Wilkins & Stacey Augmon
I didn’t often play as the Hawks, but a few of my friends did, and going up against Dominique Wilkins in NBA Jam was not easy! He was good on the offensive side of the floor and a beast playing defense, and my typical Heat squad struggled to handle the Hawks.
The lesser known player on the Hawks NBA Jam squad, Stacey Augmon, was still a pretty solid support guy next to Wilkins. Augmon was the 9th overall pick in the 1991 draft, and his most common rookie card is from the 1991 Upper Deck set and is card #5. PSA has no record of any PSA 10 sales, and the most recent PSA 9 card sold for $8 back in May 2020.
This image on Upper Deck card, featuring Augmon in a white tee shirt and acid wash genes, looks like some failed 90s sitcom rather than a basketball card. However, with no PSA 10 data to draw from, I’m just doubling the most recent PSA 9 price and going to assume a PSA 10 would sell for $16.
The Wilkins rookie card is from the 1986 Fleer set (card #121), so you can expect the PSA 10 price for this card to be worth at least a couple grand. In fact, the average selling price for the three most recent sales is roughly $7,800. Going back to December 2019, this card was selling for around $2,600, so the Gem Mint Wilkins rookies are up around 200% in a year.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Hawks: $7,816
#2: Phoenix Suns – Charles Barkley & Dan Majerle
With respect to rookie card prices, the value of the Phoenix Suns NBA Jam team is driven almost entirely from the Barkley rookie (no surprises there). The most commonly graded Dan Majerle rookie card is from the 1989 Fleer set, card #124. There is very little PSA 10 data on this card, but the average selling price of the two most recent sales would peg the PSA 10 Majerle rookie at $32. Majerle was the 14th overall pick in the 1988 draft, amd was a three-time NBA All Star in the 1990s.
I hope any reader that has read this entire piece (lord have mercy) isn’t tired of hearing about the 1986 Fleer set, because the Charles Barkley rookie is yet another prime time rookie card from that set. Since the set is numbered alphabetically, the Barkley card is #7 in the set.
This is one of the most sought after cards in this set, and the December 2020 sales prices reflect that. In December, the average selling price if a PSA 10 Barkley rookie card was $8,355. There was even one sale that topped $9K! Surely the top graded Barkely cards will hit $10K+ in 2021.
Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Suns: $8,387
#1: Houston Rockets – Hakeem Olajuwon & Kenny Smith
They’re on FIRE! With the top spot on this list is the Houston Rockets. This team was a real tough team to beat in NBA Jam, with both players able to get it done on both sides of the court.
This team is the only one on the list to eclipse $10K in 2020, thanks to the insane price appreciation of the Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card, the card from the 1986 Fleer set that popped the most in 2020 (click here to see the rest of the top 10 from that set).
The Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith card is from another strong set, the 1988 Fleer set (card #100). Top graded Smith rookie cards are on a nice upward trend, with the most recent PSA 10 card selling back in October for $107.50. Over the summer this top graded card was selling for as little as $12.38, and in October 2019 this top graded rookie sold for $41, so Smith rookies are up about 150% in a year. For this analysis, I’ll just round ‘The Jet’ up to $110.
But the real story with this Rockets team is Hakeem Olajuwon, who holds the PSA 10 price record for this list of NBA Jam rookie cards. Hakeem “The Dream” has seen the value of his Gem Mint rookies absolutely take off like a rocket! If you were lucky to buy one of his cards last year you’ve made out quite well for yourself.
The Olajuwon rookie card is card #82 from the 1986 Fleer set and the December prices for this PSA 10 card have recently sold in a wide range of $7,500 to $12,500. The average price of the two most recent sales was about $10,730! Going back to December of 2019 and the PSA 10 Gem Mint Olajuwon rookies were selling for under $900. In other words, this card is up over 1,000%!
🔥🔥 Total NBA Jam Rookie Card duo for the Rockets: $10,840. 🔥🔥
And there you have it – all 27 original NBA Jam teams ranked by rookie card value. Crazy how many players with top spots now work over at TNT!
Stay tuned for future posts and stay safe out there!