December 23, 2021



Hoops is one of the most synonymous basketball card brands out today. Today, the brand typically offers the first Rookie Cards of players in their NBA uniforms. That’s a big deal unto itself. For longtime and returning collectors, there’s likely some added nostalgia as well.

Since the brand’s debut more than 30 years ago, Hoops has given the hobby lots of memorable cards. Here’s a look at 20 of the best and biggest base cards Hoops has given us.

Top 20 Hoops Basketball Cards

20. 1990-91 Hoops Gary Payton RC #322

For those who collected Hoops during those early years, the suits, caps and other fashions were a defining part of many draft picks cards. Gary Payton also managed to get a nifty Sonics telephone, proving that it’s all about the accessories.

Buy on:

19. 1995-96 Hoops Kevin Garnett RC #272

Kevin Garnett’s Hoops Rookie Card might not have a lot of design elements, but the ones that are there make themselves known. At the time, they were probably going for the “extreme” aesthetic that was trendy at the time. Today, it’s more that it’s a memorable RC of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Buy on:

18. 2012-13 Hoops Kawhi Leonard RC #236

2012-13 Hoops isn’t the brand’s first set of the Panini era, but it did mark the first time the company used the set to go all-in with rookies. Hoops made its comeback in 2011-12, a shortened season due to a lockout. It was decided that 2012-13 products would get the double rookie class treatment. The result is a loaded checklist with several superstars, like Leonard. 

Buy on:

17. 1990-91 Hoops Drazen Petrovic RC #248

Drazen Petrovic was one of basketball’s early international superstars. After representing Yugoslavia for much or the ’80s, Petrovic made his NBA debut in 1989 with the Portland Trail Blazers. After a trade to New Jersey in early 1990, the shooting guard proved to be a workhorse for the rising team. Tragically, Petrovic’s life was cut short following an automobile accident in Germany in June, 1993.

Buy on:

16. 2017-18 Hoops Jayson Tatum RC #253

It didn’t take long for Jayson Tatum to emerge as one of the NBA’s top young superstars. The fact that he’s doing so as a member of the Boston Celtics raises his hobby standing that much further. While still relatively affordable, Tatum’s Hoops RC has taken off as his rising star status and the card boom have coincided with each other. 

Buy on:

15. 1991-92 Hoops Mike Krzyewski RC USA CO #588

Coach K is a legend in college basketball. He’s been at Duke for more than 40 years and made the Blue Devils one of the most iconic teams in the NCAA. Despite a dozen Final Four appearances and five college championships, Krzyewski has very few cards. It wasn’t until 1991-92 where he made his first mainstream basketball card appearances, including this one from Hoops. Even then, it took being an assistant coach of the USA Dream Team to get there.

Buy on:

14. 1996-97 Hoops Allen Iverson RC #295

One of the most fascinating athletes in all of sports in the late 1990s and early ‘00s, there’s no denying Allen Iverson’s greatness. But even after leading the 76ers to the 2001 NBA finals, being named the league’s MVP that same year and  11 consecutive All-Star selections, 2001 MVP, there’s still an aura of “What if?” surrounding him. That’s become part of his story, though. And that’s a big reason why Iverson’s 1996-97 Hoops RC remains one of the best in a loaded set.

Buy on:

13. 1989-90 Hoops Michael Jordan #200

Sometimes the massive print runs of the late ’80s can be a blessing in disguise. As Jordan’s cards continue to soar at all years and levels, this one remains affordable in all but the highest of grades. The classy 1989-90 design and color choices are a nice compliment to the somewhat subdued photo, something that’s not found on a lot of Michael Jordan cards.

Buy on:

12. 1997-98 Hoops Tim Duncan RC #166

Five NBA Championships, two league MVPs, 15 All-Star selections — it’s hard to think of someone with Tim Duncan’s accomplishments as being overlooked, but there’s an argument that could be made for his cards. At this point, though, with lots of other brands out there, Hoops was getting lost in the shuffle. So one might say this is an overlooked card of an overlooked player. 

Buy on:

11. 1992-93 Hoops Shaquille O’Neal RC #442

When it comes to Shaq’s Rookie Cards, Upper Deck, Topps and Ultra are the most recognizable. Still, any Shaquille O’Neal RC has to be considered a solid card. This one is found in Series 2 packs. 

Buy on:

10. 2012-13 Hoops Anthony Davis RC #275

Now with a championship ring and a starring role in Los Angeles, Anthony Davis’ place in the hobby is coming full circle. The Draft Day attire is certainly a standout feature here and is a bit of an unofficial throwback to the early ’90s Hoops sets.

Buy on:

9. 1989-90 Hoops Pistons Champions SP #353

Typically, team cards aren’t a huge draw. But when they’re short prints celebrating an NBA Championship, it’s different. The “World Champions” SP has been an on-again, off-again Hoops tradition over the years. But even back in the early days, it’s one of the standout features of the brand’s debut season.

Buy on:

8. 1991-92 Hoops Michael Jordan USA #579

1991-92 Hoops Series 2 highlights the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the 1992 Dream Team. And while all of them are nice, this portrait of the game’s biggest star tops them all. 

Buy on:

7. 1990-91 Hoops Mark Jackson #205

No disrespect to Mark Jackson, but he’s not the reason why this one of the most notorious sports cards of all-time. Those two young men watching the game from courtside are Lyle and Erik Menendez, brothers who were convicted in the high-profile murders of their parents. Further adding to the card’s story is the fact that the photo comes from a game that happened not long after the murders and the two set about living off their parents’ wealth. Memorable cards often have stories, but they’re obviously not always happy ones.

Buy on:

6. 2019-20 Hoops Zion Williamson RC #258

Zion Williamson arrived in the NBA as the most hype rookie since LeBron James. 2019-20 Hoops marked his mainstream basketball card debut with him in his New Orleans gear. What started out as something relatively affordable compared to some of Williamson’s higher-end RCs, soon soared. One can also look at how this card has helped push recent retail-driven products. 

Buy on:

5. 1996-97 Hoops Kobe Bryant RC #281

Kobe Bryant was more than an NBA superstar. His popularity put him in the top-tier icon status, particularly when you look at his impact in growing basketball and its marketability on the global stage. This definitely ranks as one of Bryant’s blandest Rookie Cards, but it’s also a Kobe RC making it highly desirable. 

Buy on:

4. 1990-91 Hoops Sam Vincent #223

Looking back, 1990-91 Hoops is the cameo set. This one has nothing really to do with Sam Vincent. Instead it’s Michael Jordan. Under normal circumstances, that would make it cool, but there are lots of MJ cameos out there. Rather, it’s a matter of zooming in a little more to the number on Jordan’s jersey. This photo comes from the one game where he was forced to wear #12 after his jersey was stolen. Interestingly, Vincent’s card found in Series 2 packs has a different, Jordan-less photo. Technically, that makes this one a short print, but it’s 1990-91 Hoops that we’re talking about so it’s not rare — but it is cool. 

Buy on:

1990=91 Hoops Sam Vincent Michael Jordan 12

3. 2018-19 Hoops Luka Doncic RC #268

Luka Doncic entered the 2018 draft as something of a wild card. A standout on the international scene, there was still some mystery as to how his game would hold up in the NBA ranks. Safe to say, it has been better than expected. Not only has Doncic emerged as one of the league’s best, his big personality and ability to come up big in important moments has quickly made him one of the game’s biggest and most marketable stars. That’s easy to see in the big prices all of his Rookie Cards are going for now, including this humble Hoops issue.

Buy on:

2. 2013-14 Hoops Giannis Antetokounmpo RC #275

For a long time, Hoops has been considered a place to find affordable Rookie Cards for top superstars. That’s still true in most instances, but for current players in the Prizm era, Hoops has created some valuable RCs. Case in point, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 2013-14 card, which tops $100 raw. There’s likely a couple of things going on. The first is tradition. Hoops is the oldest basketball brand around today. With Prizm out of reach for many collectors, Hoops may have also emerged as a second choice, which is helping boost interest and prices.

Buy on:

1. 1989-90 Hoops David Robinson RC #138

David Robinson’s Rookie Card might not carry a lot of value, but it’s still the Hoops card. Back when the line debuted, it was the hottest card around. Today it remains the signature card for the line. Available only in first series packs, it’s a short print in relation to the rest of the set. That said, there’s no shortage of 1989-90 Hoops Series 1. This is Robinson’s lone Rookie Card. Fleer, the only other major set that year, didn’t have him on their checklist.

Buy on:

Hoops: The Hot Prospects Years

Sometimes sports card brands need to evolve to find an audience again. And that’s exactly what Hoops did between 2000-01 and 2004-05. Rather than being a strictly base product, it shifted to more high-end elements that were quickly taking over the hobby.

That carried over to Rookie Cards with most Hoops Hot Prospects RCs getting either patches or autograph-patch combinations. Serial numbers also came into play, resulting in some tough cards to find today.

So while still part of Hoops’ history, Hot Prospects exists as something different but related. With that in mind, here are five key Hoops Hot Prospects Rookie Cards from its five-year run:

1. 2003-04 Hoops Hot Prospects LeBron James RC #112 /1000

Buy on:

2. 2003-04 Hoops Hot Prospects Dwyane Wade RC AUTO JSY #108 /400

Buy on:

3. 2002-03 Hoops Hot Prospects Yao Ming RC JSY #81 /500

Buy on:

4. 2003-04 Hoops Hot Prospects Carmelo Anthony RC AUTO JSY #95 /400

Buy on:

5. 2001-02 Hoops Hot Prospects Tony Parker RC JSY #108 /1000

Buy on:


Leave a Reply