Michael Jordan (True) Rookie Cards

With the 3rd pick of the 1st Round of the 1984 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan from the University of North Carolina. Michael Jordan has one XRC card, one true rookie card, and one rookie year sticker card.

My Unqualified and Biased Opinion on Michael Jordan

I will try to restrain myself as I make this declaration.

It is my unqualified opinion and the opinion of many who are qualified, that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all-time!

His accomplishments on the court and his marketing star power put the NBA on the mountaintop for many years.

How dare I make that statement without having facts. Well, let’s look at those facts.

In 1999, an ESPN survey of journalists, athletes, and other sports figures ranked Jordan The Greatest North American Athlete of the 20th Century, above big names such as Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali.

Also, in 1999 Jordan placed second to Babe Ruth in the Associated Press Top 100 Athletes of the 20th Century.

Michael Jordan was the ultimate go-to guy. It seems like he thrived for and shined most when the stakes were highest.

Game 7 in the fourth period with less than 20 seconds left on the clock everyone knew it was going to Michael and he had a way of delivering last-second heroics in the clutch.

Living near Chicago I had the privilege of watching his entire career.

Now we can speak until the sun comes up about his many accomplishments, awards, and jaw-dropping statistics but here’s the bottom line: In my opinion, Michael was the most dominating basketball player of all-time.

He dazzled us with his athleticism, he captivated not only a city but nations. Opponents were left baffled on a nightly basis because they’ve tried everything to stop him but couldn’t.

Michael Jordan’s Early Years

Jordan played at the University of North Carolina for three years and won the National Championship title in 1982.

Jordan was drafted by the Bulls as the third overall pick in 1984. He quickly captivated the league with his explosive play and emerged as an All-Star earning him the nicknames: “Air Jordan” and “His Airness.” 

In 1986-87 he joined the company of Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players to score 3,000 points in a season. Equally, impressive that year was his defensive play, recording 200 steals and 100 blocked shots.

Between 1986-1990 the Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs by the Celtics and three consecutive times by the Detroit Pistons.

But in 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93 the Chicago Bulls were three-peat NBA Champions, and Michael Jordan led the charge.

Worthy of mentioning here Michael has two Olympic Gold Medals the first one was in 1984 and the second as part of the 1992 Dream Team.

The Retirement That Grieved a City

On October 6, 1993, after the death of his father, Jordan announced his retirement. On March 31, 1994, Jordan decides to pursue the dream of his father who always saw Michael playing baseball.

As a fan living on the outskirts of Chicago at the time, I felt that we grieved in the Chicagoland Region. In one hand we grieved for Michael and the pain he was going through with his father’s murder.

And in the other hand we were grieving for his retirement from the NBA. He was hurting and we were hurting for him.

He joined the minor league system of the Chicago White Sox. It seemed Michael was grieving and soul-searching while playing baseball. And after a year it happened…

Michael Jordan called for a press conference and announced to the world, “I’m Back!” Jordan and the Chicago Bulls made it to the 1994-95 playoffs but were knocked out by the Orlando Magic.

Michael Jordan’s Second Wind

Feeling the sting of a playoff loss, Michael began putting in some extra hours in training. The Bulls made some key acquisitions during the off-season and the Bulls went on a second three-peat winning Championship titles in 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98.

On January 13, 1999, Michael retires for the second time. One year later Jordan returns to the NBA as part Owner and President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards.

On September 25, 2001, Jordan returns as a player for the Washington Wizards. He led the team in every aspect of the game but the season and career were cut short due to his knees not holding up.

Michael Jordan’s Marketing Star Power

Michael Jordan had celebrity/star power. He was charming and carried himself like a professional.

He was an ambassador of the game of basketball everywhere he went and was a role model to younger players and children.

Because he carried himself in such a manner he was the spokesman for companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Gatorade, McDonald’s, Ball Park Franks, Rayovac, Wheaties, Hanes, and MCI.  He is the most marketed sports figure in sports history.

In June of 2014, Jordan was named the first NBA player to become a billionaire.

In 2015 Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $1.1 billion and he is the second wealthiest African-American, behind Oprah Winfrey.

Career Stats & Accomplishments

According to Basketball-Reference.com Michael Jordan career stats are:

Per Game Averages: 30.1 Points | Rebounds 6.2 | Assist 5.3 per game.

Career Summary: Games 1072 | Free Throw % .835 | Steals 2,514 | Points 32,292

Accomplishments:

  • 1984-85 Rookie of the Year
  • 1984-85 All-Rookie
  • 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year
  • 14x All-Star
  • 11x All-NBA
  • 10x Scoring Champion
  • 9x All-Defensive
  • 6x NBA Champion
  • 6x Finals MVP
  • 5x MVP
  • 3x Steals Champion
  • 3x All-Star MVP
  • 2009 Hall of Fame Induction

Before We Begin

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Pre-Rookie Card

Identifier (PRC) Defined

A PRC identifier is given to cards that feature an athlete BEFORE they’ve participated at the pro level or prior to the designated rookie card release year. These cards are often labeled as minor league cards, prospect, cards, draft pick cards, collegiate cards, etc.

1984-85 Star, #101 (PRC)

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Technically speaking this card is considered an “extended” rookie card. An XRC is a card that was released in an extended or limited set.

According to Star Basketball Cards. These cards were issued to dealers via Star Master Distributors. The were were sold at card shows, hobby shops, or local arenas in team set bags.

It’s for this distribution method the rookie card identifiers at hobby publications deemed this one NOT the true rookie card for Michael Jordan.

Since then this card has found itself in many topics of debate, is this the true rookie card of Michael Jordan? That question has been posed too many influential collectors of the day. The result?

Although fully licensed, the hobby has also decided that because of its limited distribution method it is not considered a true rookie card among the majority of collectors.

At the time Beckett Publications recorded the hobbies result by labeling this one an XRC. Which I don’t agree with but that’s a topic for another day.

Another issue does exist with this card. It’s been heavily counterfeited.

There was also a scandal in 1996-97 as issues of this card were found to be illegally printed, also referred to as backdating cards. The scandal is also known as, “The Shop at Home Scandal”

Because of this PSA Sports Authenticators will not accept this card for grading authentication.

Again, do diligence in investigating before purchasing one of these. To this day these cards are extremely difficult to find because production runs are rumored to be at or less than 5,000 copies.

Graded Population Reports (as of the date of this post)

  • PSA: 10 (No Longer Grades)
  • BGS: 894
  • SGC: 0

True Rookie Card

Identifier (RC) Defined

A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete AFTER that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her respected sport. It must be licensed by both the League and the Players Association. An RC identifier is only given to cards that fit this criteria. Below is an exhaustive list of the featured players true rookie cards.

1986-87 Fleer, #57 (RC)

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The 1986-87 Fleer is the most popular mainstream rookie card of Michael Jordan mainly because the Fleer is the only card company that had the NBA License at the time.

Fleer offered this “Premier Issue” basketball set. It was the first basketball set released by them since early 1961-62.

This card has been given the RC designation for these reasons.

  • It was properly licensed by both the League and the Players Association.
  • Distributed in pack form Nationally.
  • It’s a base card featured in a base set.

A word of caution when purchasing the 1986-87 Fleer card of Michael Jordan, it is one of the most counterfeited cards in the hobby today.

Be sure to do your homework or better yet purchase one that has been authenticated and encapsulated by one of the major authenticators in the industry today PSA, BGS, or SGC. This way you remove all doubt of authenticity.

The card has maintained a consistent increase over the past ten years and has become an iconic card among investors.


Rookie-Year Card

Identifier (RYC) Defined

An RYC identifier is given to the cards of a rookie player that: are not the first card featured in the base set, subset cards, insert cards, print on-demand cards, food and beverage issues, or cards that are not properly licensed by the League and the Players Association.

1986-87 Fleer Sticker, #8 (RYC)

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These stickers should be considered a Rookie Year Card. Technically, it’s a subset card. They were inserted into packs of 1986-87 Fleer and are generally severely miss-cut, finding one with good centering could prove to be challenging.

It’s a more affordable alternative to getting a true Michael Jordan rookie card.

For more detail information on what is and is not a rookie card check out my article The 10 Commandments of the Rookie Card.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.

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