Card collectors had plenty of big name rookie cards in earlier basketball sets but starting with the 1973-74 Topps basketball set, the impact rookies didn’t appear as frequently for the remainder of the decade. Bob McAdoo and Paul Westphal could score, Fred Brown and Chris Ford could shoot from range, Kevin Porter could pass the basketball, but their rookie cards have low prices.
McAdoo’s rookie cards sell for around $40-45 in PSA 8 condition (nr mint-mint). That should be a bargain for a player with two NBA championships and three scoring titles but McAdoo never really stayed in one place long enough to develop a fan base. He had several seasons scoring over 30 points a game for Buffalo before a trade to the New York Knicks. That was followed by brief stops in Boston, Detroit and New Jersey. He was then Kareem’s backup at the Lakers for four seasons. He ended his career with a season with the 76ers and then six high-scoring years in the Italian league.
1973-74 Topps Basketball Set a Vintage Bargain
Many of the cards in the 1973-74 Topps basketball set are very affordable, even graded examples of star players. A Bill Bradley shouldn’t cost more than $35, an amazing bargain for an old card of a great player who served in the U.S. Senate as well. You can usually find an ungraded near mint card of future Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson –then a player for the Knicks–for less than $20.
Ungraded Paul Westphal rookie cards sell for $3 to $6. As a player he won a title with Boston, and after three seasons there was traded to the Suns where he doubled his scoring average. Westphal had five seasons in Phoenix and averaged more than 20 points every season. His playing career finished with a year in Seattle, two in New York and then one more in Phoenix. His best coaching season was his first, he took a team built on Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle to the NBA Finals.
Fred Brown had a nickname and the right skill but arrived too early to be a star. Downtown Freddie Brown could hit the outside shot, but the NBA only had 3-pointers for the second half of his career. The NBA added the 3-pointer for season 1979-80, and Brown led the NBA that season for 3-point percentage. He was also an important player off the Seattle bench the season before when they won the NBA title.
Chris Ford started at guard for the Celtics when they won the title in 1980-81, and was also a coach there a decade later, but he isn’t going to be on many want lists of collectors. Plenty of his rookie cards are selling, at around one dollar each. A Kevin Porter rookie card sold for $3.55 on eBay. Porter averaged 8.1 assists during his career with the Bullets, Pistons and Nets.
Something that some collectors find amusing is the design of the All-Stars cards in the set, there is a “floating head” on the card fronts as a second close-up picture is on the cards but for different players it takes up a different position. Maravich’s head is floating just above his head of the main picture, Jerry West is passing the basketball just over his floating head, Dan Issel seems to be staring at the rim of the main picture, while the Artis Gilmore is the best of the bunch as not only does it look like Gilmore is holding his floating head but might be disagreeing with it as well.
Some of the stars to look for in the set are Erving, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Maravich, Havlicek and West. High grade PSA 9 type quality cards can run more than $100, depending on how many exist. Complete sets vary based on condition but can be found for $200-300 in the EX-MT range grade.