Basketball card

The Wacky World of Basketball Cards

A lookback at some of the wackiest, weirdest, and most notable basketball cards to ever hit the market. From Steve Nash on ice, to a groping golden robot, to the infamous Mark Jackson Hoops card.

In my spare time I often aimlessly scroll around eBay looking for affordable basketball cards that belong in my collection for one reason or another. Just the other day, I came across a bizarre Ray Allen rookie card with a robot reaching around Ray’s upper thigh and it got me thinking about other wacky basketball cards I’ve encountered over the years.

There are a number of famous sports cards that collectors gravitate to just because they are weird, funny, or interesting. Two of the most famous baseball cards in this category are the very famous “F*ck Face” Bill Ripken Fleer card and the “Rally Squirrel” Skip Schumaker Topps card.

With this post, I’m working to catalog as many of the strangest or funniest basketball cards I’ve come across as well as highlighting their ungraded and top graded PSA values. If you know of other odd, funny, or outright bizarre basketball cards please comment and I’ll be sure to add them to this list.

1998-99 Fleer Ultra Basketball #24: David Wesley

There are some basketball sets that are known for being a bit silly (1996-97 Upper Deck is one… more on this set later), but the 1998-99 Fleer Ultra set featured normal cards, more or less. One very notable exception is card #24 featuring Charlotte Hornets point guard David Wesley.

For whatever reason, the good folks over at Fleer wanted to capture Wesley in a ball pit being read to by the Hornets mascot. It doesn’t get much weirder than this.

1998-99 Fleer Ultra Basketball #24: David Wesley
1998-99 Fleer Ultra Basketball #24: David Wesley

In case this card interests you, its very easy to find on eBay for around $1. There is also a Gold Medallion copy (#24G) that is likely more rare but is equally affordable on eBay.

1973-74 Topps

The 1973-74 Topps basketball set features some incredible players, including Julius Erving, John Havlicek, Phil Jackson, Oscar Robertson, Pete Maravich, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and many other HOFers from the 1970s. It also has some very odd cards that were staged in strange locations.

One of the strangest staged images from the set is card #99 featuring Chicago Bulls power forward Garfield Heard. As you can see below, the Heard photo looks like it was shot in a locker room of sorts. Heard wasn’t the only player in the 1973-74 Topps set to look a bit out of place. In fact, the cards featuring, Howard Porter, Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, and other all look like they were shot in a hallway.

1973-74 Topps #99: Garfield Heard
1973-74 Topps #99: Garfield Heard

The Garfield Heard card sells for about $1 on eBay, but there are some other players mentioned earlier that sell for top dollar at high grades. The highest selling card from this set featuring a ton of legends and super stars is card #135 featuring Bob McAdoo.

1973-74 Topps #135: Bob McAdoo Rookie Card
1973-74 Topps #135: Bob McAdoo Rookie Card

This card, despite being staged in a hallway, is McAdoo’s rookie card and the top graded PSA 10 cards sell for as much as $7K. These cards are very difficult to find in GEM mint condition and the population for PSA 10 McAdoo rookies is limited to just 4 cards! PSA 9s are also quite scarce with a population of just 67 and they have been know to sell for over $1,500.

2019-20 Panini Prizm Sensational Swatches: Ja Morant (SS-JAM)

There are numerous fantastic Ja Morant rookie cards to choose from, but by far the most unique photo I’ve seen for a Ja rookie, or any rookie card for that matter, comes from the 2019-2020 Panini Prizm Sensational Swatches insert. What makes this card so unique is how Morant is photographed with his back to the camera and holding a detached rim with his left hand. I don’t know of any other cards featuring the rim as a prop, so this card certainly deserves a spot on this list.

2019-2020 Panini Prizm Sensational Swatches Ja Morant Rookie card (SS-JAM)
2019-2020 Panini Prizm Sensational Swatches Ja Morant Rookie card (SS-JAM)

The base version of this card will generally sell in the $50-$75 range, while the prizm variants (like green ice or orange ice) will sell for more. Right now there are over 150 graded copies of this base Morant swatch rookie listed on eBay, but that number will climb as PSA catches up with the submissions of these cards.

The GEM Mint PSA 10 copies of this card have sold for as much as $420 back in October, 2020, but the most sale only went for $151 on May 20, 2021. The PSA 9s hit their record high sales price back in January, 2021 when a card sold for $114, but the two most recent sales in March and April sold for $84 and $70 respectively.

I’m quite bullish on Ja Morant and I’ve been really impressed with how well he has played and developed in the NBA thus far. I’d actively trying to add one of these base cards to my small but growing Morant stack.

1996-97 Upper Deck

The 1996-97 basketball season is one of the hottest years for basketball card collectors due in large part to an incredible rookie class featuring players like Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, and Kobe Bryant. While Topps debuted the wildly popular Topps Chrome set in 1996-97, Upper Deck went in a wacky direction with bizarre player photos, featuring players like Steve Nash, Wesley Person, and Martin Muursepp photographed away from the hardwood.

The Steve Nash rookie card (#280) is hands down my favorite card in this set, featuring Nash on skates winding up with a hockey stick and smiling for the camera.

1996-97 Upper Deck #280: Steve Nash rookie card
1996-97 Upper Deck #280: Steve Nash rookie

The top graded GEM Mint PSA 10 Nash on skates rookie card is still quite affordable, with the last two PSA 10 sales selling for $100 or less. The PSA 9 was selling in the $30-$50 range, but the most recent sale on March 14, 2021 sold for $111, perhaps that is an outlier. These Nash rookies are very common on eBay, and you should be able to find one for $5 or less.

1996-97 Upper Deck #245: Martin Muursepp
1996-97 Upper Deck #245: Martin Muursepp

Other very strange cards from this set include Miami Heat forward Martin Muursepp (#245), Phoenix Suns shooting guard Wesley Person (#281), and Milwaukee Bucks point guard Elliot Perry (#250). Of those three cards, the hardest one to find for sale on eBay was the Muursepp card. The lowest price I was able to find for the Muursepp card was a Buy It Now price of $9.

1996-97 Upper Deck #281: Wesley Person
1996-97 Upper Deck #281: Wesley Person

1991-92 Upper Deck #37: Dee Brown

The 1991-92 Upper Deck set was more or less all normal looking cards, and as far as crazy basketball cards go this one is probably the least crazy on the list. However, the Dee Brown card has always stuck out to me as an interesting card since its the only one I’ve ever seen featuring a player sitting on the rim.

1991-92 Upper Deck #37: Dee Brown, holding the 1991 slam dunk trophy and sitting on the rim
1991-92 Upper Deck #37: Dee Brown

Not only is Brown sitting on the rim, but he’s also holding his 1991 Gatorade Slam Dunk Champion trophy. Brown defeated Shawn Kemp with his “no look” dunk, where he famously covered his eyes with his right forearm and finished with his left hand.

For sneaker collectors out there, this card also clearly features the super popular 1991 Reebok Pump Omni Lite shoe. If you grew up in the 90s, the Reebok pump shoes were a must have for any aspiring basketball player.

This card is a $1 card on eBay and there is very little PSA data available on their website, since it looks like only a few cards have been graded. I did find on SCG 9.5 graded copy of this card selling on eBay for $35, but that was the only graded copy available.

1996-97 Metal Universe Cyber Metal Inserts

Steve Nash wasn’t the only player from the 1996-97 rookie class to come away with an interesting looking rookie card. In fact, the 1996-97 Fleer Metal set (one of my personal favorites) had unique insert called Cyber Metal, some of which included the design of a handsy golden robot that led to some weird looking cards. From a distance, none of the robot Cyber Metal cards look too strange, but when you get a closer look at the robot’s hand placement things look a little inappropriate.

The Ray Allen Cyber Metal rookie card (#2) was the card I was referring to up at the top of this post. The chosen card design, with the robot reaching around and touching or pinching Allen’s upper thigh, is a very poor and bizarre design choice.

There are probably hundreds of different ways to incorporate a robot into this design, but Fleer just happened to find one of the worst ways of doing so. To state the obvious, the handsy robot is a bit too close to Ray Allen’s “no no square” if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

(Please note, these cards are very difficult to photograph and look much better in person. The below image of Ray Allen was the best images I was able to find.)

1996-97 Fleer Metal Cyber-Metal #2: Ray Allen Rookie
1996-97 Fleer Metal Cyber-Metal #2: Ray Allen Rookie

On eBay, the Cyber Metal Ray Allen rookie card sells in a very wide range. In April, 2021 I saw this card selling for as low as $8 and as high as $99. There isn’t a ton of data on PSA’s website, but the most recent PSA 9 sale, in March 2021, sold for $67. There were no GEM Mint PSA 10 sales listed on the website.

What really gives the robot in the background an 11 out of 10 creep factor is the fact that it doesn’t just lay it’s hands on Allen’s thigh, but it looks like it is trying to pull the exact same move with Kobe Bryant. The Kobe Cyber Metal rookie is the 5th card in the set and its an awesome shot of Kobe, but Fleer still has the robot in the background grabbing for Kobe’s upper thigh. I’m just not sure what the design team was thinking…

1996-97 Fleer Metal Cyber-Metal #5: Kobe Bryant Rookie
1996-97 Fleer Metal Cyber-Metal #5: Kobe Bryant Rookie

The ungraded copies of the Kobe Cyber Metal rookie are plentiful on eBay, but they will set you back a few hundred dollars. The lowest priced Buy It Now card available on eBay was selling for $200, while the highest priced Buy It Now card was asking $900. There were also a few ungraded auctions.

There is a good amount of PSA data listed on their website, and if you own a copy of this card that looks to be in perfect condition is could easily be worth your wile to have it graded. The total population of GEM Mint PSA 10 Kobe Cyber Metal cards is 79, and the most recent sale of a PSA 10 went for just under $6K in early March, 2021. The most recent sales for PSA 9s have been selling in a range of $650-$900. But if we go back to February of 2020, these cards were selling for only $40-$50!

Not all 20 of the Cyber Metal cards feature the robot. While I was researching, the only other instances of the robot I was able to find were the 9th card in the set featuring Stephon Marbury, the 16th card featuring Gary Payton, and the 20th card featuring Chris Webber. The Webber Cyber Metal card actually shows the robot reaching for the basketball and appears to be the only time the robot isn’t reaching for or touching a players upper thigh.

1996-97 Fleer Metal Cyber-Metal #20: Chris Webber
1996-97 Fleer Metal Cyber-Metal #20: Chris Webber

1992 Skybox #31: Michael Jordan (Back)

The front of the 1992 Skybox Michael Jordan card (#31) is all business. Jordan is gripping the basketball with both hands and staring daggers at the defender. Its a great looking card of Jordan, and there isn’t anything particularly interesting or noteworthy going on, except perhaps for the nice addition of the string of lights in the background that gives this card a bit of a Broadway feel.

1992 Skybox Michael Jordan #31 (Front)
1992 Skybox Michael Jordan #31 (front)

But when you flip this card over, you get a look at Jordan after a game and he’s wearing a colorful and uniquely patterned shirt along with an ivory (or perhaps eggshell) colored cowboy hat. Jordan is not known for his sense of style or dapper fashion sense. In fact, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about how he is perhaps the worst dressed athlete of all time! But when you’re the GOAT, you wear what you like and probably don’t care what anyone says about you.

1992 Skybox Michael Jordan #31 (back)
1992 Skybox Michael Jordan #31 (back)

This card is an easy one to find on eBay for around $5-$10. There are nearly 700 graded copies of this card, but purchasing a GEM Mint PSA 10 will set you back at least $150-$200. The most recent PSA 10 sale sold for $178 on June 13, 2021. If you’re okay with a PSA 9, you should be able to grab one for only $25-$40. If you collect MJ and don’t yet have this card, it might be a fun one to add to your collection.

1990-91 NBA Hoops

Perhaps the most macabre basketball card of all time is the 1990-91 NBA Hoops card featuring Mark Jackson (#205). On the surface, there is nothing notably funny or interesting going on with Jackson himself, but in the background sitting courtside are Lyle and Erik Menendez.

The Menendez brothers were an infamous pair who murdered their parents in the den of the family’s Beverly Hills home in the summer of 1989. The Menendez brothers murder story drew national attention in 1993 when Court TV broadcast the trial. The brothers were convicted in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

1990-91 NBA Hoops Mark Jackson (#205) with the Menendez brothers in the background
1990-91 NBA Hoops Mark Jackson (#205)

As a result of the 1990-91 NBA Hoops set hitting the printers in the midst of the “junk card era”, there are tons of copies of this card available on eBay. If you’re looking to add an ungraded card to your collection, you should be able to find one for around $5.

This is one of the most popular graded cards from this set, with over 500 graded copies. GEM Mint PSA 10 copies are quite rare however, with a population of only 31. There have been 8 PSA 10 sales thus far in 2021, with the lowest selling for $290 and the highest selling on March 10th for $590.

The PSA 9s are much more common, but there isn’t a huge drop off as you might expect going down from a PSA 10 to a PSA 9. The three most recent sales of PSA 9s have sold for $211, $203, and $143. One interesting note is that last year in March and April the PSA 9 Mark Jackson cards were selling in the $20-$40 range.

The second most interesting card from this set is card #223 featuring Orlando Magic guard Sam Vincent. This card is notable not because of someone in the background, but rather the photo was taken during a game where Michael Jordan’s jersey was stolen, so its the only known card showing Jordan wearing the #12 jersey.

A non-Jordan card featuring MJ is a great example of a Jordan cameo card, and there are at least 25 well known examples of these special cards.

 1990-91 NBA Hoops Sam Vincent (#223) and Michael Jordan wearing #12
1990-91 NBA Hoops Sam Vincent (#223)

This card is also plentiful on eBay, and like the ungraded Jackson card, this one should be an easy pickup for around $5. There are only about 120 PSA graded copies of this card, and of those 25 received a GEM Mint PSA 10 grade.

The top graded copies of this card have very recently popped in value. Recent sales for the Vincent PSA 10 are around $500, with the three most recent sales in February, 2021 selling for $550, $510, and $480. However, as early as November 2021 this card was only selling for $50, so perhaps hobbyists have re-discovered this card.

The PSA 9s are very affordable and have been selling in the $20-$40 range. With the new price hikes from PSA, if you can find a PSA 9 Sam Vincent card for under $20 I would hop on that. I expect this card will continue to resonate and appreciate in value, since it is the only know card featuring Jordan in the #12 jersey.

2006-07 Topps Full Court Dennis Rodman #83

This one perhaps doesn’t belong on this list, because it highlights a player going all out for the basketball, however I believe this card is worth including because I’ve never seen anything quite like it and it perfectly captures just how hard Dennis Rodman would play the game. The 2006-07 Topps Full Court card (#83) featuring Rodman shows why he made a name for himself as an ultimate work horse and a player who would do anything to get his team the basketball.

2006-07 Topps Full Court Dennis Rodman #83
2006-07 Topps Full Court Dennis Rodman #83

When I searched eBay, I only found three ungraded copies of this card, all of which were selling for around $20. I also checked the PSA website to see if there were any graded copies, but there were none. There were not many graded cards in general, so this may be a fairly scarce card given the lack of PSA price and grade history, as well how few there were available on eBay. If you’re a Bulls fan or a Rodman collector, this would be a fun one to add to your collection.

1999-2000 Fleer Ultra Richard Hamilton Rookie #129

Another Fleer Ultra card makes the list, with the Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton rookie card from the 1999-2000 Ultra set. Rip is captured in this rookie card giving the basketball a little kiss against a blotchy purple and black background wearing a teal Washington Wizards uniform.

As one Redditor puts it, “Rip Hamilton loves the ball almost as much as the game itself. Those two should get a room!”. Perhaps Rip has so much love to give because he was born on Valentines day?

1999-2000 Fleer Ultra Richard Hamilton Rookie #129
1999-2000 Fleer Ultra Richard Hamilton Rookie #129

The standard copy of this card is plentiful on eBay, and can be easily purchased for just a few dollars. There is also a die-cut Gold Medallion Edition copy of this card that sells on eBay between $10-$30.

1999-2000 Fleer Ultra Richard Hamilton Gold Medallion Edition Rookie #129
1999-2000 Fleer Ultra Richard Hamilton Gold Medallion Edition Rookie #129

And that does it for this post highlighting the wacky world of basketball cards. If you know of any other noteworthy or bizarre cards that I missed, please message me directly or comment below and I’ll be sure to update and add to this list.

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