It’s about time we featured a basketball set in this column, and we couldn’t think of any larger, more powerful example than Shaquille O’Neal’s Rookie Set.
By the time the 7-foot-1 behemoth called it a career, “Shaq Daddy” had four NBA championship rings, 15 All-Star selections, an MVP, an impressive slew of nicknames and, eventually, a Hall of Fame nod.
Though his rookie cards were printed in a quantity on par with the number of Shaq’s nicknames, the titanic center was truly a one-of-a-kind player. And if you’re assembling a Hall of Fame hoops set or are new to the hobby and looking for an easy, affordable basketball set to track down, you can certainly do worse than the rookie cards of “The Big Conductor.”
We grabbed these four cardboard alley-oops from Shaq’s six-card Registry Rookie Set to get you started.
1992 Fleer #401
- PSA population: 370 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $25
With gold borders and a picture of the big man dwarfing his defender as he calls for the ball, 1992 Fleer immediately grabs your attention. But collectors beware; those gold borders can box you out of a chance at a PSA 10. At 370 examples, 1992 Fleer has the second lowest population of Shaq rookies in this entry. Still, you can buy a PSA 10 outright for just $25.
The gold borders of the Fleer rookie certainly add to the eye appeal.
I like the design of Fleer
— Dad News Bears (@adamshugan) September 26, 2019
The Upper Deck one is definitely the coolest looking but I’m partial to the fleer one. Collected that set big time as a kid.
— Jake the Ripper (@LostInJake) September 27, 2019
1992 Hoops #442
- PSA population: 1,064 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $20
Rather than posturing for the ball, “Diesel” is pictured with the ball clutched between his two massive hands, skying high over an unfortunate defender and about to crush a powerful dunk. These cards are easier to find than the first entry on our list, more than tripling the PSA 10 population of 1992 Fleer Shaq rookies.
Remember, kids; they don’t call him “Diesel” for nothin’.
For me the best rookie card is the Hoops card with Shaq out muscling a defender and stuffing the ball. It is what really put Shaq on the radar of every fan and wanna be defender!
— Rod Jamieson (@CILDominion) September 26, 2019
The 92 Hoops is my favorite! I just love the look of it and the fact that it clearly states Rookie right across the front
— Sean Klar (@spanky6973) September 26, 2019
Loved the Hoops. One of my favorite designs.
— CollectorEmpire.com (@autobilia) September 26, 2019
1992 Skybox #382
- PSA population: 872 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $18
Even the busy layout of this 1992 Skybox issue isn’t enough to mute the powerful big man unleashing one of his trademark dunks as two defenders look on in helpless admiration. Random design elements aside, an action shot of Shaq doing what Shaq does best is hard to pass up. The borderless card is apt to show wear.
Gotta be that Skybox Shaq rookie. With the two Hornets players just looking up and admiring that big Shaq Diseal dunk.
— Matthew Britt (@MatthewBritt82) September 26, 2019
Of just those, Skybox. Best combo of photo and design.
— BlowoutBuzz (@BlowoutBuzz) September 26, 2019
The Skybox.. cause I had it as a kid and traded it for some Twins cards to another kid on the playground 😭😭
— Drew (Joe Mauer 4 President) (@dcbrud) September 26, 2019
1992 Upper Deck #1
- PSA population: 298 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $350
We’ve arrived at the most popular, and most scarce, card of “Superman.” Its creative frame-by-frame shot of Shaq was, and still is, a draw for collectors. Of all the Shaq rookie cards, this creative take on the man might be the most eye-catching, too. No gaudy gold borders. No red banner attempting to box out “The Real Deal” – just a clever depiction of the monster athlete ascending to the rim. You’ll also notice the comparatively small population of PSA 10 examples. That’s likely due to the high-gloss surface and black edges of the card, which are both susceptible to wear and combine for a tricky grade under the rim.
It looks like the Shaq attack is still strong with his Upper Deck rookie, as you can see below.
Definitely @UpperDeckSports I was blown away buy their inaugural set the year before and @shaq Mania fueled my fire for 92-93 set and having to wait for the redemption card. Then him finally being in Series 2 packs.
— Nick Revell (@NickRevell317) September 26, 2019
Upper Deck for sure. The photo is iconic for sports cards from the 1990’s. Plus searching for redemption cards to get the different numbered rookie pretty memorable.
— Jon Arias (@JonAriasRadio) September 26, 2019
The upper deck. It was the first redemption card I can think of. I ripped so many packs of upper deck that year. I’m having that same feeling with Zion.
— Brian (@Brian11742842) September 27, 2019
Upper Deck #1 for sure. I love the unique and iconic triple exposure image.
— JLee (@gomazz) September 27, 2019
When the gigantic center entered the league, Diesel was larger than life, literally. Defenders tried in vain to stop the powerful rookie, but once that locomotive was in motion, all you could do was watch. His rookie cards caught a similar head of steam, as collectors ran to local card shops to chase them down.
Fortunately for those who missed out on Shaq’s rookies back in the day, he entered the league during the cardboard craze that marked the early ‘90s. That means you don’t have to search too hard to track down any of these examples. In fact, if you think you can take on the big man, you can buy these four cards of his six-card set for just $413. More than halfway there, all PSA 10s, and you won’t even have to sink any free throws to land them. See if you have what it takes and give Shaq’s six-card rookie set a shot on the PSA Set Registry.Start Your Set Today