Sports card collecting has surged in popularity over the past few years, and whether you’re getting back into the hobby after a long layoff or just diving in for the first time, the 1990s is a decade that stirs up nostalgia for many.
With that in mind, we’ve selected 10 basketball cards that every 1990s kid should own to help serve as a snapshot of the decade.
An entire article could be written on the 1986-87 Fleer set, which features rookie cards of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Isaiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Chris Mullin and James Worthy. However, in an effort to provide some variety, we’re not including any cards from that set on our list.
Some of these cards are from the 1980s, but the focus was on players who were at their peak in the 1990s, and each of these selections fits that general theme. On the flip side, while Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have rookie cards in 1990s products, their peak came during the 2000s, so they’ll be included on that list.
You might also like: 10 Baseball Cards Every ’90s Kid Should Own and 10 Football Cards Every ’90s Kid Should Own.
1988-89 Fleer #57 Reggie Miller (Rookie Card)
1 OF 10
PSA 9: $140
PSA 10: $3,000
The Indiana Pacers selected Reggie Miller with the No. 11 overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft out of UCLA, and by his third season in the league he was the face of the franchise, averaging 24.6 points per game to earn his first of what would be five All-Star selections.
He went on to spend his entire 18-year career with the Pacers, pouring in 25,279 points (joint-24th all-time) and 2,560 three-pointers (third all-time) as one of the most prolific shooters the sport has ever seen. His swagger and smooth jumper made him one of the most popular players of his era.
The 1988-89 Fleer set features rookie cards of four Hall of Famers, with Miller joined by Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and John Stockton. Other notable rookies include Mark Price, Horace Grant, Mark Jackson and Muggsy Bogues.
1989-90 Hoops #138 David Robinson (Rookie Card)
2 OF 10
Focus On Sport/Getty Images
SEE THE CARD HERE!
PSA 9: $35
PSA 10: $400
This card might only sell for a few bucks now, but it was the pinnacle of the hobby when it first hit the market.
Until the David Robinson rookie card in Series 1 of the 1989-90 Hoops set, rookies were generally not included in sets until the year after they debuted. However, since he was actually drafted in 1987 before fulfilling a two-year military commitment, his rookie card was ready to roll when the 1989-90 set was released.
The 24-year-old averaged 24.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks during his rookie season, and the San Antonio Spurs went from 21 wins to 56 wins in the process as he immediately became the face of the franchise and a superstar in the league.
1990-91 Fleer # Shawn Kemp (Rookie Card)
3 OF 10
PSA 9: $15
PSA 10: $50
Who didn’t love Shawn Kemp during the 1990s?
The high-flying power forward of the Seattle SuperSonics made six straight All-Star teams in the decade, with the bulk of that time spent playing alongside point guard Gary Payton as one of the era’s most memorable tandems.
His propensity for dunking was captured perfectly on his 1990-91 Fleer rookie card, which is one of three rookie cards that were made of Kemp, along with his 1990-91 Hoops and 1990-91 SkyBox cards.
All three are readily available for just a few bucks each, and the PSA 10 version of his Fleer rookie card is still extremely affordable, despite the market spike over the last few years.
1991-92 SkyBox #544-46 Dream Team (Puzzle)
4 OF 10
Raw: $10 (for all three)
PSA 9: $300 (for all three)
PSA 10: $600 (for all three)
What would a 1990s NBA collection be without some sort of nod to the Dream Team?
The 1991-92 Hoops set has an individual Team USA card for each player and coach who was part of the legendary Olympic squad, aside from Christian Laettner, who was still an amateur at the time and therefore not eligible to be included.
However, an underrated option to honor that team is a three-card spread in the 1991-92 SkyBox set that lines up to make a three-card puzzle of sorts with the full team.
The 1991-92 SkyBox set is peak 1990s basketball nostalgia, and unopened boxes can be found on eBay for $50-75 if you’re looking for a fun trip down memory lane.
1992-93 Fleer Rookie Sensations #5 Larry Johnson
5 OF 10
PSA 9: $25
PSA 10: N/A
Larry Johnson never quite developed into the superstar many expected him to be when he was selected No. 1 overall in the 1991 NBA draft out of UNLV, but he was one of the most popular players in the sport when he first arrived on the scene with the Charlotte Hornets.
He won Rookie of the Year during the 1991-92 season by averaging 19.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, and he was an All-Star in two of his first four seasons. Beyond his play on the court, his character “Grandmama” from an episode of Family Matters in 1993 helped further fuel his pop culture relevance.
Unfortunately, a back injury cut short his prime, and he settled in as more of a role player following a trade to the New York Knicks.
The Fleer “Rookie Sensations” insert set helped usher in the 1990s insert card boom, and Johnson was the chase card in the 1992-93 set. The card has only been graded 53 times by PSA, with a mere seven PSA 10 in existence, but there are plenty of raw copies available.
1992-93 Topps Archives #52 Michael Jordan
6 OF 10
PSA 9: $100
PSA 10: $600
The average person is never going to own a Michael Jordan rookie card.
However, his 1992-93 Topps Archives card shows what his Topps rookie card might have looked like if there had been a Topps set released during his rookie year, and it’s a nice entry-level card for collectors looking to pay homage to early Jordan.
There was a nine-year window following the 1981-82 set where Topps stopped producing basketball cards, and when they returned with the 1992-93 flagship set, they also released Topps Archives. The idea was to fill in that nine-year gap with “cards that could have been” based on the baseball card designs from those missing years.
The set is more of a novelty than anything else, but the Jordan card still sells for good money in high-grade condition.
1992-93 Upper Deck #1b Shaquille O’Neal (Redemption Card)
7 OF 10
PSA 9: $70
PSA 10: $1,000
Due to an exclusive sports card agreement with Classic Games, Shaquille O’Neal was not initially eligible to be included in 1992-93 products. Most companies simply waited to include him in their sets until they released Series 2 of their checklist, but Upper Deck took a different approach.
They included a “Trade Upper Deck” card that could be sent to Upper Deck along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope in exchange for a special card of the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft, which of course, was O’Neal.
The company then also released his rookie card in Hi-Series packs.
Both cards have the same photo, but the in-pack version is No. 1 and says “#1 NBA Draft Pick” across the top, while the redemption version is No. 1b and says “Trade Card” at the top. The pack version was short-printed, so it sells for more, but both are worth owning thanks to the unique story behind them.
1993-94 Finest #189 Anfernee Hardaway (Rookie Card)
8 OF 10
PSA 9: $30
PSA 10: $350
For a brief time when he first broke into the league, Penny Hardaway was one of the most electric players in the league. He was a dynamic 6’7″ point guard who averaged 20.9 points and 7.2 assists during his second season, and he was the perfect complement to Shaquille O’Neal for an Orlando Magic team on the rise.
His Nike ad campaign with “Lil Penny,” who was a puppet voiced by Chris Rock, was one of the iconic ’90s sports commercials, and while knee injuries kept him from reaching all-time great status, there is no question he was one of the most popular players of his era.
He has nine different rookie cards, the most valuable of which was part of the 1993-94 Finest set. The ultra-premium product from Topps was a staple throughout the 1990s, and the 1993-94 set was its inaugural release.
1994-95 SP #3 Grant Hill (Rookie Card)
PSA 9: $30
PSA 10: N/A
Grant Hill ranks 102nd on the all-time list with 17,137 career points, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, but he still stands as one of the biggest “what ifs” of the 1990s.
After a standout career at Duke, he won Rookie of the Year during the 1994-95 season, and he was an All-Star in five of his first six seasons, peaking during the 1999-00 campaign when he averaged 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury cut short that season, and it turned into a nagging ailment that plagued him for the remainder of his career.
At his peak, he was one of the most popular players in the hobby, and his 1994-95 SP rookie card was a hot commodity. Now raw versions can be found for just a few bucks, though it’s difficult to find in high-grade condition due to the foil design. Only 53 of the 2,131 that have been graded by PSA have received a 10 grade.
1995-96 Finest Dish and Swish #DS27 John Stockton/Karl Malone
10 OF 10
Nathaniel S. Butler
PSA 9: N/A
PSA 10: N/A
It’s only fitting to honor the dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone together on one card, and that was done to perfection in the 1995-96 Finest “Dish and Swish” insert set.
The pair played together from the time that Malone entered the league during the 1985-86 season, until Stockton retired after the 2002-03 season. Malone ranks second all-time in points (36,928), while Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists (15,806), making them the perfect embodiment of the “Dish and Swish” theme.
Other notable combos in the 29-card set include Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal, and Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.