Nikola Jokic just won his second MVP trophy in two years. Chet Holmgren was the talk of the Summer League. Joel Embiid was runner up for MVP. Paolo Banchero was the top overall pick in this year’s draft. Deandre Ayton just signed a 4-year $133 million extension with the Suns, keeping him away from the chasing Pacers.
Big men – including centers, power forwards, and generally anyone over six-foot-eleven – have always made an impact on the game of basketball. You don’t need me to tell you how dominant Shaquille O’Neal was, how unstoppable Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was, and how other-worldly Wilt Chamberlain was. Although some of us could use a reminder about Patrick, Hakeem, David, Moses, Alonzo, Reed, Walton, Russell, Elvin, and Yao once in a while… most people understand the power that bigs can add to a team. A contending team. Championship teams!
But when it comes to the “Hobby…..” When it comes to basketball cards – popularity, prices, and trying to call these things little Investments… Centers have never really moved the needle. Collectors don’t buy hobby boxes in the desperate hunt for that Ayton Silver prizm or the possible Karl Towns RPA. Investors make their short list of collectible “GOATS,” and they usually mean Michael, Kobe, Lebron, and Magic.
If you’re a Basketball fan and new to the Hobby, this is one of those mysteries. I’ve asked myself many times, “will the card values of centers and dominant bigs ever catch up to the other positions?”
Granted, there was a time, kids, when SHAQ rookies were a big deal. I remember 1993 more than most of you, and Shaq cards were pretty cool back then. Unfortunately for Shaq and any of his contemporaries – Hakeem, Ewing, Zo, Mutombo, etc – many of those cards were over-printed so badly that they’re stuck in the “junk wax era.”
Basketball card values and markets seem to avoid power forwards regularly too! You won’t see us writing any articles about how the current low prices on Karl Malone, Barkley, Dirk, C-Webb, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol are a great summer buying opportunity. The only “forwards” who generate a lot of excitement and hobby spending are those tall forwards who run like gazelles and shoot like Larry Bird and fly all over the court. We know them as Lebron, KD, Kawhi, Giannis, Tatum, and maybe someday, Zion or Chet.
If you’ve been around the hobby for a while, my guess is that we just accept it as fact – big men, centers, power forwards – for the most part – just aren’t worth as much when it comes to their rookies, their autographs, and their overall demand.
How many generations, now, have watched SportsCenter highlights of GUARDS who simply do the impossible? The Jordan dunks. The Kobe swagger and shots. The Steph bombs. Ja Morant drives. Anthony Edwards explodes. Luka with his game-winning daggers. The “next gen” superstars have stolen the card market and the NBA attention from their “little man” spots, with household mononyms like Trae, Lamelo, Cade, Dame, Spida, Russ, Beard, Jamal, Darius, Shai, and so many more.
Today, only THREE centers really impact the game and the headlines, and you have to say their full names. Karl Anthony-Towns. Joel Embiid. Nikola Jokic. As a basketball purist, I respect greatly how well-rounded and dominant these players are, along with a healthy Anthony Davis or Rudy Gobert.
But when it comes to buying cards that I hope will retain value, increase in value, or multiply greatly in value – I don’t own ANY of these guys.
Sometimes I think about buying “against the market,” you know, “zig when others zag,” and try to envision a planet where the PSA 10 rookies of Embiid are worth more than the PSA 10 rookies of, say, Dejounte. But that planet doesn’t exist.
It’s just how it is, and Chet, Paolo, or even Victor Wembanyana won’t convince me otherwise. None of them will be as dominant as Shaq, as well-rounded as Hakeem, or as dead-eye clutch as Dirk. It’s not happening. And even if it does happen, odds are that these guys will always take a priced-out back seat to their point guard counterparts.
Decide what you want, but I’m accepting this as fact. Explanations won’t fully solve the issue. If you want to invest in centers, do it for fun and buy on the dips and focus on the greats of all-time. Just know that the upside profit isn’t there, at least not in comparison to the little guys.