Legacy players. Hall of Famers. Ring Chasers. Perennial All-Stars.
Kawhi Leonard. Chris Paul. James Harden. Joel Embiid. Damian Lillard.
Amazing players like these "already-greats" will try to add to their resumes and legacies this season. Some of them will see their card values soar if there's a chance that a championship banner is in sight. Welcome to Milwaukee, Mr. Lillard.
For Basketball Card peeps like me and you, we know who the most treasured GOATS of the Hobby already are. Jordan, Lebron, Magic, Bird, Kobe, um.. uh.. - it's easy to start running out of names and getting into arguments about rankings or who you'd like to add to the list. Nobody argues if you say Wilt or Russell or Shaq or Jerry West or Dr. J. Everyone has a list, and most people agree with at least Lebron and Michael.
Will any of today's greats actually make a case for being somebody's GOAT? Or at least entering the conversation when it comes to their position, impact on the game, card market appeal, and legacy moving forward?
It's easy to say no... but here are the guys who could make a stronger case over the next 1-3 years...
Kawhi Leonard - Multiple championships, an MVP, and a lot of injuries since he became a Clipper. Leonard is one of the best "stretch-four, two-way" players of this era, and rings from Toronto and San Antonio are impressive. When healthy, Kawhi is one of the five best ballers alive, and he's in his prime. No matter what, Kawhi's 2012 Prizm PSA10 is a nice get for those who love his legacy.
James Harden - Dude was on track during some MVP seasons in Houston, but we think his GOAT campaign is over. His incredible career stats and offensive arsenal are historically good, but he's wasted some of his prime years causing drama in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and somewhere else fairly soon. The 2009 Topps Harden Rookie cards are simple head-shots and hard to grade well. We'll pass on Beard.
Chris Paul - Not sure how he got the nickname "Point God" when players like Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Isaiah Thomas, and others did it before him. In his prime, CP3 could take over any game, dominate from anywhere, and hit any clutch shot. But he's ringless and ring-chasing in the Bay area, and Finals investors should look at Steph Curry first, second, and third before chasing Chris.
Kevin Durant - perhaps the best scorer of his generation, KD has rings, MVPs, and incredible moments. He also has ring-chasing (again) and franchise busting (again) in leaving OKC, GS, Brooklyn, and now his latest super-team, Phoenix. If Phoenix wins a title, it won't be Durant's doing, but rather another super-team of all-stars with Bradley Beal and Devin Booker. That being said, the 2007 Topps Durant rookies are iconic, affordable, and an affordable legacy piece for today's collector and investor.
Joel Embiid - the MVP is trending up, and 2014 Prizm and Donruss rookies are investible for long-term growth. Joel is one of the two best centers of the decade, but the 76ers are a question mark. Embiid's card market suffers from the "Big Men aren't as Valuable" tradition. If Embiid had been healthy during his first five seasons, we would be talking about a GOAT. Instead, he's today's version of Patrick Ewing, and there's nothing wrong with that!
Damian Lillard - Joining Giannis in Milwaukee gives Dame a legit shot at GOAT status. Win two championships, drop 50 in several playoff games, and defeat Jrue, Steph, Jimmy, Trae, and Spida along the way. It's a steep climb for sure, but Lillard could do all of that and more in the next 2-4 years. His 2011 and 2012 rookie cards are worth chasing and grading before next year's playoffs.
In a year or two, we might add names like Luka, Jayson, Devin, or Jimmy to the list. As it stands, the players we mentioned are the six players knocking on the GOAT door right now.