Discover the best rookie cards of the New York Knicks' all-time greats, delving into the rich history of this iconic basketball franchise.
This guide highlights the top basketball cards of the exceptional Knicks players who earned the honor of having their jersey numbers retired.
These honored jerseys now grace the rafters of Madison Square Garden (MSG), acclaimed as 'The Mecca' by legends like LeBron James.
#10 - Walt “Clyde” Frazier - 1969 Topps Rookie #98
Walt Frazier is considered one of the greatest and most popular Knicks players ever. He won two NBA Championships and played point guard for the Knicks from 1967 to 1979.
Today, Clyde Frazier is a popular Knicks commentator known for his signature catchphrases and flashy suits.
According to PSA Price Guide data, the highest recorded sale of Frazier’s Rookie card in a PSA 9 sold for $11,105 in April 2021.
Only one PSA 10 of Frazier's rookie card exists and has never been for sale.
Many of his lower-grade rookie examples are still fairly easily obtainable for other collectors. Another option is buying a signed slabbed example, which is a nice alternative.
Clyde's rookie card is considered one of the must haves for any Knicks rookie card collector.
#12 - Dick Barnett - 1969 Topps Rookie #18
Dick Barnett joined the Knicks in the later part of his career and helped them win two NBA Championships. He played for the Knicks from 1965-1973.
Dick Barnett’s highest recorded sale of his rookie was a Mint PSA 9 copy, which sold for $840.00 in 2020, according to PSA Price Guide data.
Not many Barnett rookies have received a high grade from PSA. Only 162 have been graded a NM-MT PSA 8, with only nine PSA 9's, and only one GEM-MINT PSA 10.
A PSA 8 is valued at around $90 to $125, already becoming tougher to find. I have a PSA 8 in my Knicks personal collection.
Barnett is not a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, but his Knicks legacy lives on, with his number 12 hanging in the MSG rafters.
#15 Earl “The Pearl” Monroe - 1969 Topps Rookie #80
Earl "The Pearl" Monroe played on the Knicks from 1971 to 1980 and helped the Knicks win an NBA Championship in 1973.
Monroe along with Walt Frazier were a part of a dynamic backcourt.
According to PSA Price Guide data, the highest recorded sale of Earl Monroe’s rookie card sold $7,488.88 in a PSA 9 example in June 2021.
Monroe’s rookie card is very tough to find in a high grade; only 227 PSA 8s exist, 29 PSA 9s, and zero PSA 10s. Investing in a PSA 8 is still a great option; the last two at eBay auctions sold for $535 and $561.
The Earl The Pearl rookie card is a must have for any Knicks collector.
#15 - Dick McGuire - 1957 Topps Rookie #16
Dick McGuire played for the Knicks from 1949-1957. He was an all-star with the Knicks for four seasons and led the NBA in assists his rookie season.
McGuire's rookie card is featured in the iconic 1957 Topps set, which also features Bill Russell’s rookie and many other NBA greats.
The highest recorded sale of Dick McGuire’s Rookie card in a PSA 8 grade sold for nearly $2K in September 2020, according to PSA Price Guide data.
Only 17 NM-MT PSA 8’s exist, which makes this a difficult card to find. McGuire’s rookie card is becoming tougher to find in all PSA grades.
As of November 2023, only less than 12 are available on eBay. Investing in one with stronger centering is your best bet.
McGuire is an NBA Hall of Famer and one of the vintage Knick greats.
#19 - Willis Reed - 1969 Topps Rookie #60
Willis Reed had one of the most famous moments in Knicks history when his inspired play of Game 7 led to them winning an NBA Championship in 1970.
Despite being sidelined by injury, Reed created an unforgettable moment in NBA history when he emerged from the tunnel to play in a crucial game.
A loyal New York Knick from 1964 to 1974, Reed recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy as one of the team's most beloved players.
His 1969 Topps rookie card is a collector's gem, with a Mint, PSA 9 version fetching $4,554 in 2021.
Given its rarity in high grades, with only 31 PSA 9s and a single PSA 10, it's a prized item.
A more accessible option for collectors is a PSA 8, which recently sold for between $550 and $750 on eBay.
#22 - Dave DeBusschere - 1969 Topps Rookie #85
Dave DeBusschere began playing professional baseball before becoming a professional basketball player.
He joined the New York Knicks in 1968, playing until 1974. He helped the Knicks win two NBA Championships and was best known for his defense.
DeBusschere is a NBA Hall of Famer and another key vintage Knicks rookie card.
DeBusschere's most prized basketball card is his 1969 Topps Rookie card.
PSA Price Guide data shows its highest sale reached $5,376 for a PSA 9 grade in November 2022. With just 15 PSA 9s in existence and none rated higher, this card is exceptionally rare in high grades.
For collectors seeking alternatives, a PSA 8 grade is a viable option, especially as vintage PSA 8s are appreciating in value. For example, a DeBusschere PSA 8 recently fetched between $330 and $360 in an eBay auction.
#24 - Bill Bradley - 1969 Topps Rookie #43
Bill Bradley played with the Knicks from 1967-1977 and won two NBA Championships. His most popular card is his 1969 Topps Rookie card.
According to PSA Price Guide data, the highest recorded sale of this card in a PSA 9 example sold for $4,704.00 In October 2021.
Only 15 copies of Bradley's RC have earned a Mint, PSA 9 grade, with none graded higher.
PSA 8’s are valued around $380-400 at recent eBay auctions. Investing in a PSA 8 is still a smart option, and a great addition to complete your Knicks collection.
#33 - Patrick Ewing - 1986 Fleer Rookie
Patrick Ewing, a distinguished member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, significantly influenced New York Knicks basketball, particularly in the 1990s.
As one of the New York Knicks' most legendary figures, Ewing greatly enhanced Madison Square Garden's standing as a top basketball destination during his tenure from 1985 to 2000.
An 11-time All-Star, Ewing was crucial in propelling the Knicks to numerous playoff runs, though an NBA Championship eluded him.
Ewing's definitive rookie card is the 1986 Fleer basketball card. According to PSA Price Guide data, its highest sale recorded was $21,500 in February 2021.
With a limited count of only 160 PSA 10 graded examples, this card is a collector's rarity in high grade.
For those looking for more attainable options, PSA 8 and PSA 9 grades of Ewing's card offer good alternatives for collectors.
#613 - William ‘Red’ Holzman - 1948 Bowman Rookie #32
William ‘Red’ Holzman began his professional NBA career as a player, but he was famous for being the coach of the New York Knicks. The number 613 hangs in the Knicks rafters to symbolize how many games Holzman won as the Knicks coach.
He coached the Knicks for 15 years, 1967-1977 and 1978-82. His rookie card is featured from the 1948 Bowman set. According to PSA Price Guide data, the highest recorded sale of this card sold for $5,380.80 in February of 2022—only six straight PSA 9’s existence. Holzman’s card is becoming difficult to find in all grades and conditions.
#6 - Bill Russell - 1957 Topps Rookie Card
Bill Russell’s number 6 is retired by all teams; his 1957 Topps rookie is one of the most iconic basketball rookies ever.
Other Knick Greats
Carmelo Anthony - Carmelo Anthony is likely next up to have his number retired and hang from the MSG rafters. His most popular rookie card is his 2003 Topps Chrome Rookie; PSA 10s are widely available from where they were just a few years ago when the basketball card market was at an all-time high.
Cazzie Russell - won an NBA Championship with the Knicks in 1970 and was their sixth-man. His rookie is featured from 1969 Topps.
Bernard King - King played on the Knicks from 1982 to 87 and arguably played the best basketball of his career. There has been much debate that his number 30 should be in the Knicks rafters; Julius Randle wears it in the 2023-24 season. His rookie card is featured from 1978 Topps.