One that is overlooked by collectors, the 1979-80 Topps basketball set is affordable and has plenty of cards of Hall of Famers. At just 132 cards and with a rather uninspiring design, it’s not one of Topps’ best efforts, but there’s no denying the quality of the players.
The front of the card uses a basketball with a ribbon going around it to display the team name. The cards even offer a little basketball knowledge as there is a team quiz on the back. The backs have player stats as well as a short write-up.
1979-80 Topps Basketball Stars and Rookie Cards
Pictured in uniforms they would win titles in are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes and Norm Nixon of the Lakers, Julius Erving and Bobby Jones of the 76ers and Celtics Cedric Maxwell, Rick Robey, Nate Archibald and Chris Ford. It’s the year before the arrival of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird but you’ll find Bill Walton, Pistol Pete Maravich and some other stars and Hall of Famers too.
Collectors who focus on prolific scorers have a couple of rookie cards to look for in this set. Alex English scored 25,613 points during his NBA career with an average of 21.5. Most of his career was spent in Denver, but on his rookie card he is an Indiana Pacer. His ungraded rookie cards have been selling on eBay for around $5. Reggie Theus played for a number of NBA teams, beginning with the Bulls and later with Kings. Theus averaged 18.5 points per game over his career, with his best average for a season coming in 1982-83 with 23.8. Theus rookie cards have been selling on eBay for just a couple of dollars.
Mychal Thompson’s rookie card is in this set. He gave Portland plenty of points and rebounds but is better known as Kareem’s backup late in his career. Kent Benson’s rookie card is needed by those who collect first overall draft picks, he was top pick of the 1977 draft and Thompson was top pick of the 1978 draft.
Complete 132-card sets can usually be found in ungraded form for less than $75 but prices for surviving unopened boxes have soared like the rest of the vintage unopened market. Even high grade singles are mostly inexpensive.
The 1979-80 Topps basketball set is one of the most economical of all vintage basketball sets and even though it may not be immensely popular, it’s a great throwback to the era before Magic, Larry and Michael turned things upside down.