There aren’t many players that had the same sort of impact on the game of basketball as one Lew Alcindor.
Alcindor’s dominance on the court was evident early on, as he won three NCAA championships with the UCLA Bruins and then six NBA championships with the Bucks and LA Lakers.
Not only was Alcindor a great basketball player, but a prominent cultural figure for the African American community.
Alcindor boycotted the 1968 Summer Olympics due to the unequal treatment of black players. He also changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar in 1971 as a testament of his faith and to stand up for black Americans.
The Lew Alcindor rookie card has taken on a renewed identity of its own in recent years, skyrocketing to among the hobby’s most valuable basketball cards, even despite a somewhat abundant supply.
As follows, we’ll examine the 1969 Topps Alcindor rookie card in detail, taking a closer look at overall value, scarcity, along with our take on future investment potential.
Lew Alcindor As A Player
Lew Alcindor, also known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, played in the NBA for 20 seasons and is considered among basketball's all- time greats.
He was born in New York City and grew up in the projects, attending Power Memorial Academy, leading his high school team to three straight city championships from 1965 to 1967.
As a college player at UCLA, he also played on three consecutive national championship teams for John Wooden (1967-69), winning the Naismith College Player of the Year Award each year.
In 1968, Alcindor adopted the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar due to religious reasons and as a way to help reframe and reset the discussion regarding the unjust treatment of African Americans. As a part of his protests, he refused to try out for the 1968 United States Men's Olympic Basketball team.
Alcindor was drafted #1 overall in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, which might have been one of the biggest no-brainer picks in NBA Draft history.
Alcindor's talents translated rapidly into success in the NBA. In his first professional season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Alcindor averaged 29 points a game, with 15 rebounds, winning the NBA Rookie Of The Year award.
The following two seasons were nothing short of miraculous for Alcindor as he (and Oscar Robertson) led the bucks to the NBA Championship in 1970-71, winning the Finals MVP and NBA MVP.
He would follow up the next year with another scoring award and another NBA MVP award, continuing to dominate as one of the premier big men in the league.
"Going into a game against Lew Alcindor [later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] is like going into a knife fight and finding there's no blade in your handle.."
- Bill Fitch, Former NCAA and NBA Coach
Abdul-Jabbar was one of the NBA's best all-time low post players, etching his name in history alongside fellow big men such as George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell.
Abdul-Jabbar left basketball as one of the most successful players in the game’s history, winning six NBA Championships and six NBA MVP Awards while also getting named to nineteen All-Star games.
When he retired at the age of 41, Abdul-Jabbar would leave basketball as NBA's All-Time leading scorer.
Here's a great video showing him doing what he did best, with 70 of his best skyhooks.
Front And Back Of The Alcindor Rookie Card
The 1969-70 Topps Basketball set is a landmark set, and was the first Topps basketball set issued after the inaugural 1957 Topps Basketball issue.
The oversized cards (2-1/2" x 4-11/16") are commonly referred to in the hobby as tallboys and can be a bit of a nuisance due to the requirement of special oversized plastic holders.
The 1969-70 Topps set is full of rookies and stars, with the most valuable card from the set being the #25 Lew Alcindor rookie card.
The front of the 1969 Topps Lew Alcindor rookie card features a young Alcindor in a shooting pose in what appears to be a Bucks practice uniform, however due to contractual issues, Topps couldn't use team logos on the images.
The card features four action drawings in the white borders with nice bold red and black letters, representing Alcindor's name and 'Milwaukee' at the bottom.
The backs of the 1969 Topps Basketball cards are quite attractive, with a short player bio, stat lines, and a fun player fact. Since Alcindor had no NBA experience yet, Topps provided Alcindor's stats from his UCLA basketball career.
Topps also notes that "Lew came of the NBA with the most impressive set of credentials in history", something I would wholeheartedly agree with.
How Much Is A Lew Alcindor Rookie Card Worth?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's (aka Lew Alcindor) official rookie card is his 1969 Topps #25 basketball card.
Due to the odd sizes, cards are more difficult to find in mint condition.
There are only two Gem Mint (PSA 10) Lew Alcindor rookie cards in existence with the last sale at auction in 2017 for $240,000, a number that might reach into the millions in today's card market.
Mint (PSA 9) copies of the Alcindor rookie card have sold on average for around $200,000.
Lower graded copies can be found for less, depending on your budget.
A PSA 8 (NM-MT) Lew Alcindor rookie averages about $30,000 at auction.
The good news for collectors is that the Lew Alcindor rookie card has fairly plentiful supplies in lower grades.
How Rare Is A Lew Alcindor Rookie Card Worth?
In total, PSA has graded nearly 4,000 copies of the Alcindor rookie card. Note that this number doesn't even include any graded copies from Beckett or SGC or the existing raw (ungraded population).
As noted previously, PSA has graded only two PSA 10 copies of Alcindor's rookie card. PSA 9's are also quite scarce, with only 17 copies; PSA 8 copies (NM-MT) are also somewhat tough to find, with ~300 copies graded by PSA.
The bulk of the existing Alcindor rookie card population runs from PSA 2 through PSA 7, with, no surprise, more of the cards available at the lower grades.
Thus, there is a fairly sizeable supply of Alcindor rookie cards, but the number isn't monumental, even in comparison to more modern, more sought after cards such as the Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer rookie card, which has multiples more of a graded population.
How Much Is An Autographed Lew Alcindor Rookie Card Worth?
Abdul-Jabbar has been a fairly liberal signer over the years, and thus finding an Alcindor autographed rookie card is not an impossible feat.
What might be impossible, however, is finding a Lew Alcindor rookie card autographed 'Lew Alcindor', instead of 'Kareem Abdul-Jabbar' for which he has been legally and publicly known as since 1971.
So, I have not seen a Lew Alcindor rookie card autographed as 'Lew Alcindor', but if for some reason it exists somewhere, it would be worth a small fortune.
Based on my research, an autographed Alcindor rookie card with a Kareem Abdul Jabbar signature will run from around $3K to $6K for lower to mid graded condition cards, which is also highly dependent on the quality of the signature.
Note that I've also seen autographed reprint Alcindor rookie cards which sell for way less, and aren't really something I'd recommend as a long term investment.
What's The Investment Potential?
Despite the plentiful supply for the Lew Alcindor rookie card, I still like the card's long- term investment potential.
And I mention 'plentiful', but 4,000 total PSA copies of the Alcindor rookie card is a stark difference versus the more than 22,000 PSA graded1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie cards.
And Alcindor or Abdul-Jabbar's name has a lot of prominence among basketball card collectors.
He's not exactly in the same stratosphere of discussion as Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Bill Russell, or even Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, but he probably should be.
I mean look at his career records!
All time leading scorer, six NBA MVP Awards, three NCAA championships, six NBA championships; Alcindor aka Abdul-Jabbar was a winner through and through.
So, yes, I think the Alcindor rookie card is a great long term investment. And if you can find an affordable autographed Alcindor rookie card, even better.
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