In sports, a Hall of Fame career isn’t always defined by flashy showmanship and highlight reel athleticism. Sometimes, it’s a rigid adherence to fundamentals, otherworldly consistency and longevity that carve out a path to the Hall of Fame.
When it comes to basketball, Tim Duncan, “The Big Fundamental,” is that athlete. It’s even in his nickname. He ditched the flashy dunks, showmanship and me-first mentality, favoring instead a fundamentally sound, if not underwhelming at times, game that relied on a grounded approach and propping up his team before padding his stats.
But say what you will about Duncan’s lack of panache; you don’t play a 19-season career that spans three decades if you aren’t among the game’s greats. And the stats and accolades were certainly there, too, in the form of five NBA Championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, 15 All-Star selections and so much more. There’s no denying Duncan’s subtle dominance.
With his impending Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction set to take place in September, Duncan’s trading cards are apt to dominate the hobby, too. So, we posted up in the paint and plucked four affordable Duncan rookies to get you started on his 18-card Rookie Set.
1997 Fleer #201
- PSA population: 434 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $70
Just like Duncan himself, who often spared flashy antics and focused on fundamentals, this simple, no frills card layout spares the reflective bells and whistles of its contemporaries. Instead, 1997 Fleer features an action shot of Duncan making his way up the court. The gold foil “Tim Duncan” is about as flashy as the card gets. This grounded issue also comes in Tiffany and Crystal parallels.
Collectors also dig the stripped down style of 1997 Fleer.
1997 SkyBox Z-Force #111
- PSA population: 149 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $50
From reserved minimalism to, hands down, the visually loudest card featured in this entry, there’s something unabashedly ‘90s about this disco ball-colored Duncan rookie issue. Still, noisy aesthetics and all, Z-Force is a necessary and affordable addition if you’re compiling Tim Duncan’s rookie set. PSA 10 examples will run just around $50. This colorful card also comes in a Rave and Super Rave parallel. Though it’s hard to imagine the company cramming more visual elements into an already busy design.
1997 Stadium Club #201
- PSA population: 141 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $35
Unlike its customary card layout where the photo speaks loudest, Stadium Club employed a snazzy foil design for its 1997 basketball rookie cards, while veteran cards saw the traditional, non-foil format. Another affordable Duncan rookie, collectors needn’t dig too deep in their pockets for this card; PSA 10 examples run just around $35. The card is also available in a handful of rarer parallels, including Members Only, First Day Issue, One of a Kind, Printing Plates Black, Printing Plates Cyan, Printing Plates Magenta, and Printing Plates Yellow.
The action shot of Duncan … dunking … is a draw for collectors.
1997 Topps #115
- PSA population: 397 PSA GEM-MT 10
- Average cost for PSA 10: $235
Wrapping up our four featured Duncan rookies is his most popular card in the entry, at least according to value and PSA Population numbers. At 909 examples graded by PSA as of this writing, 1997 Topps has the largest PSA Population of any card featured in this article, with his Fleer card close behind at 605 examples currently.
In terms of value, averaging just around $235 in PSA 10, this card is also the priciest of Duncan rookies in the entry. Still, you can’t argue with that relatively modest price tag when it comes to the rookie card of such a successful player.
If you don’t feel like chasing the more inflated prices of his popular Topps Chrome version, which averages figures in the $600 range, this is the Duncan rookie to target. It also employs the same image and design as his Topps Chrome counterpart.
We shared these four cards to our social media platforms and asked which our audience preferred. With its great shot of Duncan overpowering defenders, It looks like the Topps card won.
Easily the Topps 115, action photo with a basic design that works so well
— Richard Hardy (@BossHardy202) June 11, 2020
When he was selected first overall in the 1997 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, no one could have imagined the success the silent 6’11’’ big man would enjoy. But he enjoyed NBA success often, and for almost 20 years.
With all of his good fortune came a treasure trove of accolades. Yet, somehow, his cards remain surprisingly affordable. With this in mind, enterprising collectors might want to swoop up his rookie cards before Duncan’s name is enshrined in the Hall of Fame in September and these approachable price tags become less, well, approachable. Head to the PSA Set Registry and try your hand at the Tim Duncan Rookie Set. It’s a fundamentally sound hobby goal to pursue.