The 1970s was a pivotal time in NBA history, with some of the greatest players of all time joining the league. During this window, some pro basketball teams were in the ABA (American Basketball Association) before the formal merger of the two in 1976. As a result, collectors of basketball cards had greater variation in card styles from each league and huge valuations for the best of the best of them.
The decade saw the rise of legends like Julius Erving, Pete Maravich, Bill Walton, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who helped shape the game of basketball into what it is today and their basketball rookie cards are a big part of this list of the most expensive and valuable cards of the 1970s. The cards from this era represent a golden age of the sport and have become highly sought after by collectors despite them having little in the way of the design ambition that would get sharper in the 1980s and come to full bloom in the 1990s with action shots and more of an effort to capture how deeply physical the game was getting on the courts.
As a result, the 1970s basketball cards don’t have the huge valuation of 2000s Panini Prizm or Topps Chrome cards, with their game relics, autographs, and limited print runs. Instead, the 1970s basketball cards just maintain a basic style that makes use of game photography that would become more compelling in the years that followed. There are still plenty of amazing cards and we’ll show you the biggest sales of valuable 1970s basketball cards there are.
So join us as we will delve into the realm of 1970s basketball, where some of the greatest NBA superstars would shine and dominate the court, setting some records that are still unbroken 50 years later. We’ll walk through the top 15 most valuable basketball cards from the 1970s, along with some insight into why they are worth so much money.
The Top 15 Most Valuable Basketball Cards from the 1970s
The list is composed in the order of least expensive to the most, but all of these 1970s basketball cards are worth at least about $25,000, and they will climb as you read. Keep in mind we only list a card once so we can cover a wider range of cards, but many copies may have sold in the same price range over time so we only list the highest price they’ve achieved.
15. 1977 Topps Adrian Dantley Rookie Card #56 - $25,100
Scoring master Adrian Dantley was a college basketball prodigy that lit up the boards at Notre Dame before making his NBA debut as a first-round draft pick for the Buffalo Braves. In no time, Dantley established himself as a consistent points machine, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Dantley led the league in scoring in the 1981-82 and 1983-84 seasons, with an average of 30.6 and 30.3 points per game respectively.
Dantley played for several NBA teams over the years, including the Utah Jazz, the Detroit Pistons, and the Dallas Mavericks. He was a six-time NBA All-Star and a gold medalist in the 1976 Olympic Games. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
The 1977 Topps Basketball card here is his rookie card and it’s a little odd. In addition to a side-back view of the player, it uses a fairly plain 1970s design that was gone by the time the more stylish 1980s cards started to appear. Yet, 1977 Topps Adrian Dantley Rookie Card #56 is the rookie card of a magnificent player, so its historical significance is justified. That and the fact that this is a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of the card led to it selling in June 2022 for $25,100 - just enough to edge out a few cards for the last spot on our list.
14. 1975 Topps Basketball All-Star Julius Erving #300 - $25,200
Julius Erving, also known as "Dr. J," is one of the most iconic basketball players of all time. Dr. J is known for his electrifying play and gravity-defying dunks - watching him play was a marvel. Erving won three championships across the ABA and NBA during his career and was a 16-time All-Star. You could even play him in a popular video game back in the 1980s called “One on One: Larry Bird and Dr. J”. Erving's impact on the sport is immeasurable, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
This 1975 Topps Basketball All-Star ABA card has one of those electric images that shows you how the 1970s was a formative time for basketball’s evolution into a more deeply athletic sport. Seeing Dr. J flying up past his competition to deliver a layup shot illuminates one of the reasons we love sports cards. 1975 Topps Basketball All-Star Julius Erving #300 has an indelible image that captures the action even in a still photo. That’s surely part of the reason this PSA 10 Gem Mint copy sold for $25,200 back in April 2022.
13. 1975 Topps Pete Maravich #75 - $25,800
The 1970s also gave us Pete Maravich, a dextrous basketball player known for his incredible ball-handling skills. During his 10-year career, he played for the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz, and Boston Celtics. Injury cut his career short but he accomplished a lot while he was there: He was a five-time NBA All-Star, twice a NBA All-First Team member, and was named to the NBA's Anniversary All-Time Teams after his premature passing in 1988. His jersey number was retired by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017.
The 1975 Topps Pete Maravich #75 card itself features a young Maravich in his Jazz uniform, staring down someone out of frame that will surely fall to his skills in a moment. The basic design is common for this era of basketball cards, but this one is still highly-prized due to Pete Maravich’s popularity across so many teams. That sustained interest in Maravich helped sell this PSA 10 Gem Mint copy for $25,800 in May 2022.
12. 1971 Topps Rick Barry Rookie Card #170 - $28,975
Rick Barry was a pro ball player in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) during the 1970s. Barry is considered as one of the greatest small forwards in the history of basketball due to his versatile scoring ability and his tenacious upfront defense. He was famously one of the best free throw shooters by tapping into his youthful skill to perform a ‘granny shot’ underhand basket.
Barry won the NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 1975, also nabbing the MVP for his performance. He was a 12-time All-Star (across both ABA/NBA) and a two-time NBA scoring champion. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 on the strength of his runs in both basketball associations.
The 1971 Topps Rick Barry Rookie Card #170 is from his time with the New York nets and the card has the trappings of the early 1970s basketball cards: Weird font choices and questionable font color choices. Thankfully, this style didn’t last for long but a couple of cards from the year are on this list because of the superstar player involved, not the design elements. Despite all that, this PSA 10 Gem Mint copy sold in October 2021 for just shy of $29,000.
11. 1971 Topps Nate Archibald Rookie Card #29 - $31,558
1970s basketball great Nate Archibald, also known as "Tiny," earned his nickname due to his relatively small stature for an NBA pro. Standing just 6 feet and weighing only about 150 pounds, he was dwarfed by his competitors and teammates alike, but that didn’t stop him from being one of the best point guards of his time. Archibald played for the Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, and Boston Celtics, where he was part of the team to win the NBA championship in 1981. Archibald earned many accolades throughout his career, including being a six-time NBA All-Star and leading the league in both scoring and assists during the 1972 season. Unfortunately, injuries led to a shorter than expected career in the NBA. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
This 1971 Topps Nate Archibald Rookie Card #29 card features a young Archibald in his Cincinnati Royals uniform looking contemplative. Again, it’s a pretty simple design, although the top font is certainly quirky. As usual, it’s his most valuable card being that it was his rookie year and this copy, in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, sold in October 2021 for a jaw dropping $31,558.
10. 1975 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #90 - $33,600
The mighty Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will show up a few times on this list, both with his Islamic name and with his previous one, Lew Alcindor. Whatever his name, Abdul-Jabbar is undoubtedly one of the all-time basketball greats and he delivered exceptional performances for twenty years in the league.
His impressive list of accomplishments includes a whopping six NBA championships, six Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, and 19 All-Star selections. It feels like an understatement to just say Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest basketball players ever. When you watched him play, he was the ideal embodiment of the sport and we didn’t see his equal until the 1980s, when a certain Mr. Michael Jordan joined the NBA. Abdul-Jabbar, of course, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.
While a few earlier cards will show up later in the list, this 1975 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #90 is taken from his long run with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team where he made his mark and his incredible run is part of the reason this team is so loved and well-respected. Abdul-Jabbar was known to be a hard-working, fair-minded player who set the standard for those around him. As to this card from the 1975 Topps Basketball cards collection, it’s saved from feeling standard because if you know about Abdul-Jabbar’s 7’2” height, you know he’s holding that ball well above most of his competitors. Abdul-Jabbar’s cool head under pressure and his wrap-around glasses are signatures of his play, and they’re gorgeously captured here. That’s some of the reason a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of the card sold in July 2022 for a huge $33,600.
9. 1974 Topps Bill Walton Rookie Card #39 - $36,900
In the history of the NBA, there are few centers like the mighty Bill Walton. During his sixteen-year career, he started with the Portland Trail Blazers after being picked first in the draft that year, then moved to the Clippers, and finished his time with the Boston Celtics. Walton’s accolades were many, including one NBA Finals championship each with the Blazers and the Celtics, plus many All-Star team assignments. Walton was sensibly inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Trail Blazers retired his jersey number as well.
The 1974 Topps Bill Walton Rookie Card #39 card features a young Bill Walton in his Trail Blazers uniform, with his shaggy 1970s hair in a basic portrait shot. As with so many cards on this most valuable 1970s Basketball cards list, the design is simple but the interesting element is how they seemed to color in the image with day-glo hues more reminiscent of the design of the early 1980s. It’s kind of an anomaly here: A more intriguing design among a list of pretty static designs so common in this era of the game.
Once again, this is a card that PSA notes as having few in their record books in the way of additional copies. That is why a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy fetched an impressive $36,900 when it was purchased in May 2021.
8. 1974 Topps Wilt Chamberlain #250 - $37,200
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most dominant basketball players in history, renowned for his towering height and incredible athleticism. Chamberlain’s list of awards is as long as he is tall: four regular-season MVP awards, two NBA Finals championships, and seven scoring titles. He holds numerous NBA records, including the most points in a single game (100) and the highest career scoring average (30.1 points per game). He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and is routinely named one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
This 1974 Topps Wilt Chamberlain #250 card is much like the intriguing 1974 Bill Walton card just one rung behind on our list. The superstar center and coach is portrayed with a colorful design that feels a little ahead of its time in the 1970s. The color scheme is bright and the background imagery abstract in a way that looks more like a 1980s image.
Looking at the back of the card, it’s intriguing to see “The Big Dipper’s” late-career card note him as both a coach and the center for the San Diego Conquistadors. Contractual obligations with the Lakers kept him from being much of a contributor to the SD squad, but this valuable 1970s basketball card still lists him for his coaching that year. It’s an unusual card and that helped this PSA 10 Gem Mint condition copy, one of only 5 to achieve that level of quality according to PSA, sell for such a princely sum. In July 2022, it fetched a considerable $37,200.
7. 1974 Topps George Gervin Rookie Card #196 - $39,846
Shooting guard extraordinaire George Gervin played in both the ABA and the NBA. Known as "The Iceman" for his cool head under pressure on the court, he spent his best years with the San Antonio Spurs, even working as a coach with the team for a time. He was a nine-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA scoring champion, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996 for his strong career.
This 1974 Topps George Gervin Rookie Card #196 card is considered his NBA rookie card despite a couple of years in the ABA first, and it is one of the best-looking on the list. This fantastic action shot shows Gervin airborne above all others in the shot, ready to take down a rebound.The 1974 Topps Basketball card set was definitely one of the best of the 1970s, with intriguing color schemes and some abstract images. In this case, it’s just a great shot that predicts the way most basketball cards would go in the 1980s and especially the 1990s, when the real physicality of the game was captured most effectively.
This 1974 basketball card was sold in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition in March 2021 for a massive $39,846, and more copies in similar shape have sold in the same price range. Gervin’s most expensive card certainly looks to be trending up in value over time.
6. 1973 Topps Wilt Chamberlain #80 - $41,985
The 1973 Topps Basketball card series had some excellent action shots on their cards and who better to show off on the court than the amazing Wilt Chamberlain? Since this isn’t his first appearance on the list, we’ll just add that Chamberlain was a dominant rebounder, leading the league in rebounding 11 times during his illustrious career and he was a 13-time NBA All-Star.
The 1973 Topps Wilt Chamberlain #80 card is a solid card from his Lakers period and shows him in motion on the court, which is a lot more exciting than a lot of the headshots Topps used during this period of time. This copy was sold with a note proclaiming that PSA has never graded another one of these cards as PSA 10 Gem Mint. That detail propelled this 1973 card up to $41,985 before the bidding ended in October 2022.
5. 1972 Topps Julius Erving Rookie Card #195 - $50,000
“Dr. J” Julius Erving was a pioneer of modern basketball, and his engaged style of play was a precursor to the high-flying, acrobatic style of basketball that is so popular today. Erving's impact on the game was also from his leadership and sportsmanship. He was a role model for younger players and was respected by his peers for his dedication to the sport. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
This 1972 Topps Julius Erving Rookie Card #195 card is his rookie card and undoubtedly his most valuable card. It features a young Julius Erving, then a member of the Virginia Squires in the ABA, on a simple background that is reminiscent of much of the early 1970s Basketball cards. While not a perfect condition card, this PSA 9 Mint copy is the best we’ve seen and that’s why it went for $50,000 in February 2021. While a few versions of the same card at the same grade sold later for a bit less, we can expect to see those numbers rise over time. People won’t soon forget the immortal Dr. J and his exceptional efforts on the court.
4. 1971 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) #100 - $66,610
Known then as Lew Alcindor, as on the card, the man we know as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was another truly iconic basketball player and coach. His 20-year career in the NBA is full of thrilling games and awards galore. His signature "skyhook" shot was just one of the many things that made him famous with fans and, when he retired, he had the record for the most games ever played in the NBA.
After retiring from playing, Abdul-Jabbar was a coach and a bestselling author and activist. He is also a champion for education and frequently promotes the importance of literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. His impact off the court is almost as impressive as his impact on it, and he continues to pursue these interests despite contracting cancer in the early part of the century.
This 1971 Topps Lew Alcindor #100 card is from the 1971 Topps Basketball card series, which sported a funky font at the top, but the shot of Abdul-Jabber in his Bucks uniform still looks good. Although his time with the Lakers was his biggest period of success, he propped up the Bucks for a few years before making so much history with the storied Los Angeles Lakers. This card was graded in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition and PSA notes that only five have achieved that lofty level. Thus, selling for $66,610 seems like it makes sense for a card this historic in ideal condition.
3. 1975 Topps Moses Malone Rookie Card #254 - $90,000
The incomparable Moses Malone played in the NBA for 21 seasons. Nicknamed ‘The Chairman of the Boards’ for his incredible rebounding skills, Malone was a nomadic player who shifted teams a lot. Yet, he added his ferocious energy and deeply physical play to every club he joined. He was a 12-time All-Star and won an NBA championship with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. When he retired, he led the league in all-time offensive rebounds. Malone was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.
This 1975 Topps Moses Malone #254 card is considered his ABA rookie card and it’s a dazzler. Showing Malone’s 6 '10' ' frame leaping higher while a player from the other team stumbles below is perhaps an ideal way to remember Malone’s dominant play when a rebound was on the line. This action shot is perhaps the best on this list since it shows the player at his best and on the court.
The card here that sold for this huge amount is a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy and it sold in April 2022 for $90,000, putting Moses Malone near the top of the most valuable basketball cards from the 1970s. Since then, a few copies in similar shape sold for less, so watch for trending price information on Cardbase or in the Cardbase App before you invest.
2. 1970 Topps Pete Maravich Rookie Card #123 - $130,054
The exceptional shooting guard, "Pistol Pete" Maravich, already appeared on this list, but he’s back again because his rookie card has proven to be one of the most valuable basketball cards from the 1970s. After an illustrious career in college ball, Maravich was drafted third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1970 draft and spent four seasons with the team. He then played for the New Orleans Jazz and the Boston Celtics before retiring in 1980. Maravich's NBA career was awesome despite being cut short by injuries. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and an All-NBA First Team selection twice. Maravich sadly passed away at the age of 40 in the middle of playing the game he loved due to an undetected heart defect. He was posthumously honored as a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary team in 1996 as well as the 75th Anniversary NBA team in 2021.
The 1970 Topps Pete Maravich Rookie Card #123 is a “Tall Boy” card, which is taller than the average sports trading card. While Topps stopped producing these cards in the mid-1970s, this year was a particularly good one for key players and rookies. Pete joined the NBA as one of the most promising of the bunch after a career in college ball that had ESPN name him the greatest college player ever in 2005. On the 1970 Topps Basketball card, Pistol Pete looks unassuming enough, but once he was on the court, he was a dominant player who was an expert in long-distance shots. Sadly, the 3-point rule only showed up officially in the NBA in the last couple of years of his play. This sale is the only known instance of a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of the card and it dates back to December 2015 and it went for a massive $130,054. Since then, many other copies with lower grades have sold. If someone else comes up with a pristine copy like this one, we can expect Pistol Pete to set another record for valuation.
1. 1970 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) #75 - $158,400
Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is regarded as one of the finest basketball players of all time. Known for his towering height (7 foot 2), incredible scoring ability, and unmatched skills on the court, Abdul-Jabbar dominated the courts during his 20-year NBA run, particularly with the Los Angeles Lakers. We’ve just waxed on about this exceptional player so let’s focus on this amazing card that tops our list.
The 1970 Topps Lew Alcindor #75 card is the most valuable basketball card issued in the 1970s and it’s not even his rookie card. This “Tall Boy” card, which is larger than typical sports cards, seems fitting for the incredibly tall Abdul-Jabbar. Better yet, the laid-back look on his face feels just right for a player who worked hard on the court all while making it look so easy for him. Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhooks were delivered with confidence every game and his commitment to effective play of the game was an inspiration to other players and fans alike.
According to PSA, this second-year card from Abdul-Jabbar is the only copy to reach the lofty PSA 10 Gem mint condition, which is why this copy sold in April 2021 for $158,400.
A Smooth Seventies Collection Of The Most Valuable Basketball Cards
Collecting basketball cards from the 1970s allows enthusiasts to connect with a truly golden era of the sport. As we look back on this era, it's worth noting that basketball in the 1970s was a different game than what we would see in the 1980s. The NBA and ABA merged in 1976, and with it came a new era of basketball with new stars and new rules. However, the players and cards from the 1970s continue to hold a special place in the hearts of basketball fans and collectors alike because superstars like Dr. J, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would inspire the next two generations of players with their increasingly physical style of play.
The most valuable basketball cards from the 1970s reflect this unique period in basketball history and offer collectors a chance to own a piece of this rich heritage. Whether you are a seasoned collector or a new enthusiast, these cards offer an exciting opportunity to connect with some of the greatest players of all time. Happy collecting!