Collectors can score key LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and 'Greek Freak' modern cards

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Collectors can score key LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and 'Greek Freak' modern cards
2014 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo (Red, White, Blue Pulsar Prizm) No. 73, graded PSA Gem Mint 10.

DALLAS, TX.- A 1957 Bill Russell. Three ’69 Lew Alcindors. Three 1980 cards featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (and, between them, Julius Erving). A complete set of perfect-condition 1986 Fleers – including the Michael Jordan card that seems to set world records every time it drives to the basket.

There is no shortage of coveted rookie cards in Heritage Auctions’ Michael Jordan & Basketball Icons Sports Catalog event now open for bidding before extended bidding begins October 3. This all-star sale its full of 20th Century hall-of-famers still closer to Little Dribblers than retirement.

Don’t overlook, either, the more modern offerings – those 21st Century rarities making new collectors of kids, investors of collectors and headlines of sale prices once thought out-of-reach for anything more current than, oh, 1952. The signed cards. The relic and refractors. The one-of-ones. All of the above. And then some.

Here, then, in no particular order are 10 (well, OK, 11) of the top modern cards available in the Basketball Icons event.

2004 Topps Chrome LeBron James Superfractor No. 23, graded PSA Gem Mint 10, 1/1
The 2004 Chrome collection, which was actually released in February 2005, is widely regarded as one of Topps’ most iconic modern basketball sets given the look and the lineup. And this gem-mint-condition Lebron James Superfractor is the best of the best: It’s a second-year card, as quintessential as any rookie-year offering, and there’s only the one. Not even LeBron can boast of having this in his collection. Not yet, anyway.

2014 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo (Red, White, Blue Pulsar Prizm) No. 73, graded PSA Gem Mint 10

2014 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo (Orange Prizms Die Cut) No. 73, PSA Mint 9, 51/139

Second-year cards have started to spike in value – sharply, too – in recent months, and the stars of today have benefited from this most of all, especially the man known as the “Greek Freak,” who, on Sept. 18, was named the NBA’s MVP for the second year in a row. No wonder these Giannis second-year Prizm inserts are starting to see a lot of buzz. They’re phenomenal investments, yes, but also beautiful pieces of modern-card history-in-the-making.

2019 Panini Obsidian Zion Williamson (Jersey Autograph) No. 232, graded PSA Gem Mint 10, 74/75
Zion Williamson may not yet have proved himself the player everyone knows he can be. But there remains the expectation that come next season, he’ll begin flashing his promise. Already the market expects great things, as evidenced by the fact this rookie-patch autographed card from one of modern basketball’s most beautiful collections is already seeing bids exceeding the $10,000 pre-auction estimate.

2003 Fleer Carmelo Anthony/Dwayne Wade/LeBron James No. 300, Graded PSA Gem Mint 10
Three of modern-day basketball’s most influential players adorn this card, alongside some pretty interesting facts about each player on the back. Among the trivial pursuits: James was an All-State wide receiver, Anthony enjoyed visiting the White House – while Wade always wanted to be a sports broadcaster, a dream he’s currently fulfilling.

2018 Panini Hoops Kobe Bryant (Hoops Ink), No. HI-KBR, Graded PSA Mint 9
Star, hero, icon, myth – Kobe Bryant was all those things, and more, long before the tragic helicopter crash in January. It was only inevitable that collectors, casual and serious, would turn to Bryant’s cards in recent months. And this beautiful autographed Hoops Ink card is a remarkably inexpensive investment in a legend.

2003 SP Signature Edition LeBron James Autographed Parallel No. A101, graded BGS NM-MT+ 8.5 and Auto 10, 5/25
One of LeBron James’ rarer rookie autos, this card numbered only to 25 is extremely undervalued with its estimate of $20,000. The only reason it isn’t a $50,000 card is most likely the BGS 8.5 slab with two 8.5 subs – and, it’s a tough set to grade highly given the production quality.

2016 Panini Donruss Optic LeBron James No. 15, graded PSA Gem Mint 10
From Donruss’ inaugural Optic set, this Lebron James base card is becoming extremely desirable to modern collectors – in no small part because it shows James finishing a layup over Kobe Bryant. Reasonably priced now but likely not for long.

2006-07 Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan (Limited Logos) No. LL-MJ, graded BGS NM-MT 8 and Auto 10, 2/50
This Michael Jordan patch auto is a highlight reel that fits in the palm of your hand: It features a beautiful three-color prime cut from one of his Chicago Bulls jerseys, alongside a signature graded BGS 10. A hard card to turn down. Or put down.

2006 SP Signature Michael Jordan/LeBron James/Larry Bird/Magic Johnson Autograph Jersey Quad No. JJJB, graded PSA Mint 9, 5/5
What’s better than a quad relic-auto featuring four of the sport’s most legendary players? No, that is not a trick question. Beautiful in every day – from the blue signatures, two on each side, with small pieces of their jerseys next to each.

2003 Topps Pristine LeBron James Gold Refractor No. 103, Graded PSA Mint 9, 61/99
For many, a favorite Lebron James rookie offering, in large part because this card shows a very young Lebron standing atop the Cavs name, with a baby-faced King James till a prince grinning in the background. The fact this is a refractor adds even more beauty to the card design. A modern gem – modern art, even. And, for the moment, reasonably priced.

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