Before the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James dunked their way into iconic highlights, it was the human highlight reel Julius “Dr. J” Erving that truly perfected the art of the dunk. If Jordan is the Plato of slam dunk, he learned from Dr. J, his Socrates.
That’s right, before NBA stars were hurtling over people and cars – even mascots – during the NBA Slam Dunk contest, and before Michael Jordan executed his legendary dunk from the free throw line, it was “The Doctor” who paved the way. In fact, Erving first defied gravity in a free throw line dunk three years prior, during the 1984 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
But it wasn’t just his incredible athleticism and acrobatic dunks that led Erving to a Hall of Fame nod in 1993. He was an undeniable force on the court. Selected to the NBA All-Star team during each of his 11 seasons in the league, he also garnered two MVPs during his ABA days (1974 and 1976) and one NBA MVP in 1981. Along the way, he scored an incredible 30,026 points (many of which were, of course, highlight-reel slam dunks), a total that placed him third on the all-time scoring list when he retired in 1987.
It goes without saying that Julius Erving is one of the all-time greats, and he is instrumental in perfecting the slam dunk, an integral part of the game as we know it today.
With such a pedigree, you would expect Julius Erving cards to command impressive trading card value these days. And in some cases, like his celebrated rookie card, they do. But collectors might be surprised to see the relative affordability of some of his key cards in mid-grade.
With that said, let’s explore four key cards in Dr. J.’s 12-card Basic Set.
This is the only mainstream recognized rookie card of Dr. J., and as such it is the Erving chase card for collectors. Even in a set packed with Hall of Fame talent, including the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West, Erving’s true rookie card is the key to the set. The image depicts The Doctor mid-jump shot among a bright yellow background. Interestingly, Topps noted his position as center on the back of the card and forward on the front. Weird position gaffe aside, this is the Erving card to own.
In terms of grading, the white borders and yellow background make for tricky condition obstacles. As such, only one PSA 10 example resides in the PSA Population but has yet to hit auction. We can only imagine what value that card will bring. And remember, the card can feature a very common print dot next to Erving’s left elbow, which should not affect the overall grade of the card.
PSA Near-Mint Mint 8: $1,000
PSA Mint 9: $4,250
Skipping the in-game action, 1973 Topps features the exciting dunk artist in warm-ups and about to take a shot. The most interesting visual element comes in the form of a random, floating profile shot of Dr. J, hovering above his larger image in warm-ups. Despite one of the stranger card designs in the set, PSA 10 examples can grab some impressive values, at around $5,200. Centering can be tough to handle with this Dr. J card.
PSA Mint 9: $320
PSA Mint Gem Mint 10: $5,200
Taking gravity-defying, powerful dunks to the next level … that’s what Dr. J. was known for, and that’s what 1974 Topps features. Just look at the other players on the court, almost captivated by Erving’s athleticism. Aside from the dunk, this card has lots going on visually, with neon-pink borders framing the action shot and a giant pink “NETS” positioned to the right of the frame. In terms of grading, 1974 Topps is fraught with condition issues. Quality control was seemingly off that year. Centering and overall poor cuts afflict cards in this set.
PSA Mint 9: $660
PSA Mint Gem Mint 10: $4,100
If you find yourself wanting a flagrantly ‘70s card of Erving, look no further than his 1975 Topps issue. The card depicts Dr. J. flying over opponents and highlighted by a bright pink “NETS” and text box. For added visual ‘70s flair, a strip of multicolored stars emblazons the top-right of the card, just for good measure. In terms of value, the cards have come a long way since collectors could purchase a 10-card wax pack for 15 cents. Centering is one condition issue with this set that even Dr. J would have trouble jumping over.
PSA Mint 9: $140
PSA Mint Gem Mint 10: $1,200
Julius Erving Cards Required to Complete the Set
- 1972 Topps #195 Julius Erving (10.00)
- 1973 Topps #230 Julius Erving (5.00)
- 1974 Topps #200 Julius Erving (4.00)
- 1975 Topps #300 Julius Erving (3.00)
- 1976 Topps #1 Julius Erving (2.50)
- 1977 Topps #100 Julius Erving (2.00)
- 1978 Topps $130 Julius Erving (2.00)
- 1979 Topps #20 Julius Erving (2.00)
- 1980 Topps Hayes/Erving/Brewer (1.50)
- 1981 Topps #30 Julius Erving (1.50)
- 1986 Fleer #31 Julius Erving (1.50)
- 1987 Fleer #35 Julius Erving (1.50)
Browse through each card in the set on the photo gallery section of the PSA Set Registry.
Collecting Julius Erving Cards on the PSA Set Registry
When the Doctor decided to call an end to his incredible career in 1987, he laid the foundation on how to best execute a move that is an integral part of the game: the powerful slam dunk. Before Erving flew from the free throw line, before he embarrassed opposing defenders with his signature tomahawk jam, a dunk was no more than a high-percentage shot, essentially the gentle placement of the ball in the basket. Erving made the move an art form and redefined the way the game was played with it.
Collectors can pursue the slam dunk that is Dr. J.’s Basic Set. With just 12 cards to track down, and approachable price tags in mid- and low-grade, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t head to the PSA Set Registry and take on the Julius Erving Basic Set.Start Your Set Today