Kareem Abdul Jabbar Basketball Cards

Kareem Abdul Jabbar (1947-present) played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. His awards are quite numerous, including 6 time MVP, 19 time All Star, 15 time All NBA, 11 time All Defense, 2 time Finals MVP, and 6 time NBA Champion as a player (with two more championships as an assistant coach).

He is widely considered one of the best NBA players ever. Some notable basketball experts, including Pat Riley, Isiah Thomas, and Julius Erving, have called him the Greatest of All Time. Some use the Mount Rushmore analogy to call attention to their top picks rather than the singular best, and Abdul Jabbar is almost always on a Mount Rushmore analogy as representing one of the best of the best.

Abdul Jabbar’s dominance started young. He was recruited to UCLA after totaling 2,067 points in high school which was a New York City record. He also led his high school team to 71 consecutive wins. His dominance was so widely feared that the NCAA specifically banned dunking to curb his play before he began in college.

The rule change did not stop him, and he scored 56 points in his first game. Furthermore, Abdul Jabbar would continue on to three consecutive NCAA Championships and MVPs under the coaching tutelage of John Wooden. UCLA would only lose 2 games during his residency, while the dunking ban remained in effect until after he graduated.

Abdul Jabbar took the National Basketball Association by storm after joining the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969-1970 season. The next year, he changed his name from Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. to Kareem Abdul Jabbar because he converted to Islam while at UCLA. The Bucks won their first and only championship in 1971.

He moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975, and he went on to win five championships with the team through the 1980s. By 1984, he became the league’s record holder for scoring after surpassing Wilt Chamberlain. He would eventually set the records for field goals made, career wins, and minutes played.

Abdul Jabbar is not remembered as the strongest or most physically dominant player in an era of physically dominant big men. Instead, he is best remembered by such descriptors like skillful, graceful, and finished. He was a phenomenal passer, and his skyhook remains one of the most impressive moves in basketball history.

After retiring in 1989, Abdul Jabbar continued to make a name for himself off the court. His work included a notable role in Airplane!, a well written autobiography, and extensive writings on the African American experience. He has written on and appeared for a number of well respected publications on race, religion, and culture.

Lastly, Abdul Jabbar has accepted and participated on several governmental projects including a cultural ambassador, a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (Abdul Jabbar is a notable coin collecting enthusiast).

Abdul Jabbar’s basketball legacy is substantial. He is rarely left out of any discussion on the greatest or one of the greatest of all time. That will most likely never change. For that reason alone, Kareem Abdul Jabbar will always be valuable as the face of a basketball card.

1969 Topps Lew Alcindor

Bearing Abdul Jabbar’s birth name, the 1969 Topps has the only recognized rookie card of the legendary player. The card is rather large at 2 ½” x 4 11/16”. There are well reported condition issues because of the size, and the centering and background are notable examples of defects.

The set is decently well populated with other notables like Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, and Walt Frazier. Abdul Jabbar has hundreds of graded cards at every grade, excluding 17 graded at PSA 9 and only two cards at PSA 10. There are 99 cards in the set, and the more popular cards follow similar populations.

PSA has recorded nearly 1000 different sales of the 1969 Topps Lew Alcindor at the time of writing. The last time a PSA 10 sold was in November of 2017, and it sold for $240,000. PSA 9’s stayed high at $30,000 to $40,000 since 2017. It takes dropping to a PSA 6 to find a card below $5,000, but prices have spiked above 5k at times due to the coronavirus instability in the market.

1969 NBAP Members Kareem Abdul Jabbar

While this is not considered a rookie, it is still an interesting set though nowhere as near as important as the 1969 Topps. For one, the set was produced during Abdul Jabbar’s rookie season, and secondly, it features Abdul Jabbar’s chosen name which has serious significance to many collectors. Lastly, this is an exceptionally rare set of some great players. However, it is not nearly as sought after nor valuable as the 1969 Topps.

Measuring 2 ¾” x 4 ½”, the black and white photography set does not display the NBA logo, so historians assume that the NBA did not sanction the set. The cards are unnumbered and feature a blank back. Like the 1969 Topps, this set is notable for its other players like Jerry West, Bill Russell, and Oscar Robertson. There are 21 cards on this unnumbered set, while some believe that more may surface in the future.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar has one card authorized by PSA. The rest of the cards in the set are exceedingly low grade, and sales are infrequent. A John Havlicek and Bill Bradley sold in July of 2020 for about $1,000 apiece.

1969 Topps Basketball Rulers Lew Alcindor

The last card produced during Abdul Jabbar’s rookie season that is worth mentioning is the Topps Basketball Rulers. There were 23 cards in the set, and they measured a whopping 2 ½” x 9 ⅞”. This unique card shows a cartoon of the player next to a ruler to display the player’s height.

One ruler card was inserted into the 1969-1970 Topps basketball cards. They are made further rare by their light material used which makes the cards condition sensitive.

A fun fact is that there was a mystery card #5 for a long time. Nobody could find one, and nobody knew the story behind it. Finally, the original artwork revealed that Bill Russell was supposed to be #5, but he retired before the cards could be produced.

This is the final card produced during Abdul Jabbar’s rookie season. The cards are rare, in bad condition, but not overly expensive. There are cards available at every grade, and the higher grades will cost thousands, while a PSA 5 could be had for $100.

1970 Topps Lew Alcindor

A valuable alternative to his rookie option is the 1970 Topps. Measuring 2 ½” x 4 11/16”, this 175 card set has several legendary players like the 1969 Topps, and you could get a Abdul Jabbar (named as Lew Alcindor) for a fraction of the price. While a PSA 10 sold for $44,280 in 2019, a PSA 9 was selling for a few thousand in 2020.


Prices continue to fall after his rookie card, but Kareem’s 1970s Topps can still reach a couple thousand at a PSA 10. After 1971, cards begin to refer to him by Kareem. He is a major player on every set produced in the 1970s, and Kareem stuck around long enough to find a place on a few of the ultra important Fleer sets in the 1980s. His 1986 Fleer card is the only card after his early years to break $1,000.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar is rarely left off lists for the top basketball players ever. While he often misses the #1 spot to players like Michael Jordan, Kareem is undoubtedly on the Mount Rushmore of basketball players. The esteem that players and fans alike have for him is represented in his cards, even though Kareem played in a weak era of basketball cards.