Shaquille O’Neal Rookie Cards
Shaquille O’Neal has almost as many nicknames as his size 23 shoe. He is also known as: The Big Aristotle, Hobo Master, Shaq, The Diesel, Shaq Fu, The Big Daddy, Superman, The Big Agave, The Big Cactus, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Galactus, Wilt Chamberneezy, The Big Baryshnikov, The Real Deal, The Big Shamrock, The Big Leprechaun, Shaqovic and…. The Big Conductor. In case you’re wondering that’s 18 total nicknames.
The most fitting and memorable nickname was given to him by his high school and college coaches. For many years he was referred to as “Big-O-Some-Bitch” you can hear Shaq tell this most comical story in his Hall of Fame Enshrinement speech. (that’s 19 nicknames if you’re keeping track). A certain theme is centered around all his nicknames – his size. In his prime, he was listed at 7′ 1″ 325 lbs. A big mass of humanity and as powerful as a locomotive. He established himself with an overpowering low post presence. Twice in his rookie season, The Big Aristotle was going up for one of his famous dunks and shattered the backboard glass by breaking the steel supports.
Shaq was loved and respected by the media. He’s attacked life with as much authority as the basketball court. He’s earned an Ed. D in Human Resource Development. He’s pursued his passion for law enforcement and in 2016 was sworn in as a Sheriff’s Deputy in Jonesboro, Georgia. Early on in his career, he recorded 4 albums under the Hip Hop genre, his debut album “Shaq Diesel” received platinum status. He has been featured in numerous video games, has appeared in many movies, television shows and has even been active in MMA and Pro Wrestling.
On the court, O’Neal was also a capable defender. His presence intimidated many of his opponents. He played for 6 different teams in his 19-year career mainly with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams included: Heat, Suns, Cavaliers, and Celtics.
Shaq’s career stat line: Points 28,596 | Rebounds 13,099 | Blocks 2,732 | 14x All-Star | 4x NBA Champion | 3x NBA Finals MVP
OFFICIAL ROOKIE CARDS OF HOF
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1992-93 Fleer, Card No. 401 (shop eBay)
We begin this review of The Big Cactus rookie cards with a bit of a downer. To me anyways this one is a bit rough to look at. Copper tone border with blue and gray banners just do not match and makes me wonder what the card designer was smoking. However, I can deal with the card back a bit more as they toned down the dark colors for a better balance, it also has a bit of everything that makes a good card back: biographical info, full college stats – a definite plus, and commentary.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$3.00 and graded mint copies (9’s) are selling in the $5.00-$10.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) in the $20.00-$40.00 range.
1992-93 Hoops, Card No. 442 (shop eBay)
Really respectable card design by the wallet-friendly Hoops brand. The condition friendly white borders blend nicely with gold banner and bold font. The defender in the photograph, like so many others, seems to be giving it all he’s got but The Diesel is too much as he appears to be going up for his iconic two-handed dunk. The card back was well thought out as well with solid player info on all white card stock balanced out nicely with a red banner to give it some pop.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$2.00 and graded mint copies (9’s) are selling in the $5.00-$10.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) in the $10.00-$20.00 range.
1992-93 Skybox, Card No. 382 (shop eBay)
This one is considered to be a short print. Some collectors love this card design and others hate it. The biggest complaint is the huge transparent red banner on the card front, personally, I have no issue with it. I like the full team logo on the lower-left corner and the Skybox Rookie emblem on the lower right is placed well.
The card back is a complete disaster. The stat box is extremely difficult to read, and the image of Shaq Rappin takes up almost the entire backside of the card, the kicker is the 7-word sentence that states, “Shaquille majored in business at Louisiana State.” What! Why does it mention that? Why didn’t it mention something about his music career?
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$3.00 and graded mint copies (9’s) are selling in the $5.00-$10.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) in the $10.00-$20.00 range.
1992-93 Stadium Club, Card No. 247 (shop eBay)
Historically, the Stadium Club brand prides itself on quality photography. Not sure what happened here though. Really busy card. Shaq appears to be coming down with a rebound but there seems to be so much of the audience pictured that it distracts me, it’s like I lose him in the crowd. I don’t care for the lower-left emblem either, they vertically stacked Shaq’s name, the card model and manufacturer like a totem pole, but wait there’s more. They topped off the totem pole by stacking a foil stamp that says, “92 Draft Pick” nice touch but you can’t see it, again it gets lost in the crowd.
And the card back? Oh boy… where do I start? Well, taking into consideration that it was early 90’s card design I’ll give them an A for effort. But this ginormous, blurry basketball/net combo is brutal. To compound the issue is the font size, it is so small I’m convinced it has affected my eyesight. And what I’m still trying to figure out is why they opted to include a picture of his Topps rookie card?
This card also has a Members Only parallel that was offered to collectors. As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$3.00 and graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $4.00-$8.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) in the $15.00-$30.00.
1992-93 Topps, Card No. 362 (shop eBay)
The big man is pictured here posting up in the paint, a place where he earned his bread and butter. He was a force to be reckoned with in this position making this a respectable rookie card. Also worth noting here, this was Topps first basketball offering to collectors since their 1981 set.
Topps continued their early 90’s design, as they did in baseball, of big white borders and gold foil. In fact, this card has a gold foil parallel that I believe is extremely undervalued in the hobby today. The card back is not that attractive but does give complete college stats and what it lacks in design is made up for with the card front.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$2.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $3.00-$7.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $12.00-$25.00 range.
1992-93 Ultra, Card No. 328 (shop eBay)
New kid on the block Fleer Ultra gave collectors their first basketball offering after a very successful 1991 baseball debut. By definition, the word “ultra” means – going beyond what is usual or ordinary. If by its very definition they set out to break the mold of mediocrity they succeeded. Crisp, clear photography coupled with an imitation marble banner, highlighted by gold foil makes this a unique card design indeed.
I love the cards emblem on the upper right-hand corner in the shape of a first-place ribbon, made complete with “Rookie” insignia. The card back is a work of card design genius, lots of eye appeal but does fall a bit short on player info and stats. The set also includes an insert card of Shaq and its review is below. Overall, the debut of Fleer Ultra basketball is undervalued and overlooked.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$3.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $6.00-$12.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $15.00-$20.00 range.
1992-93 Upper Deck, Card No. 1b (shop eBay)
This card has an interesting back story. Shaq was under contract with Classic, a four-sport card manufacturer back in the 1980s & 1990s. Classic printed cards while players were in the minor leagues or college uniforms because they were not licensed at the pro level. So since Shaq was under contract many of the mainstream card manufacturers had to wait to include Shaq’s rookie into their 92-93 sets.
So to get around this contractual nightmare card manufacturers created redemption cards for Shaq. Upper Deck pushed the envelope a bit creating this card that actually pictured Shaq in three separate frames going into his iconic two-handed dunk. Very unique card design for the ages.
The card back, however, is a real let down. Absolutely nothing appealing, it’s only saving grace is that it gives full collegiate stats. Two versions exist of the exact same card. The redemption card was first available in Series 1 packs with “Trade Card” etched in gold foil across the top front, this was technically a redemption card. In Series 2 packs the official rookie card was included, the exact card front as the redemption except for “#1 NBA Draft Pick” was etched in gold foil across the top front of the card.
This is Shaq’s most valuable rookie card. As of the date of this post raw copies of the Series 2 rookie card can be purchased for $2.00-$5.00; graded mint copies (9’s) are selling in the $15.00-$25.00 range and the gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $375.00-$425.00 range.
NOTABLE ROOKIE INSERTS / DRAFT REDEMPTIONS
1992-93 Hoops Draft Redemption, Card No. A (shop eBay)
NBA Hoops took the redemption detour to get around the contractual issues behind Shaq too. A very popular card among collectors. However, technically can’t be considered a rookie card because it was not a redemption card but a redemption 10 card set, and it’s numbered like an insert set and not part of the base set.
I really like this NBA Draft Day offering Hoops gave to collectors. That large #1 fits really well and the portrait of Shaq really is a great photo. The back of the card mimics the base set almost entirely, differences can be found in the color of the banners.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $15.00-$30.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $25.00-$50.00 range and graded gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $75.00-$125.00 range.
1992-93 Hoops Magic’s All-Rookie Team, Card No. 1 (shop eBay)
This is a second insert card of The Big Conductor offered to collectors inside Series 2 packs with a halfway decent ratio at 1:30 packs. Great photo of Shaq Fu going up for a one-handed dunk. Magic’s All-Rookie Team’s uniqueness can be found in the card back. The 10 card set is Magic Johnson’s top 10 picks for the 92-93 rookie class. He gives commentary for each of his picks and his remarks about The Real Deal hit the nail on the head. The card front mimics the Hoops base with its white borders, gold banner, and bold font. Overall a great card.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $10.00-$15.00; graded mint copies (9’s) are selling in the $25.00-$50.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) are selling in the $75.00-$130.00 range.
1992-93 Skybox Draft Picks, Card No. DP1 (shop eBay)
This is Skybox’s offering to collectors once they mailed in their redemption card. This one also shows Shaq at the NBA Draft Day. I picture this card without the gold text box on the front and I imagine what an amazing card it would’ve been. On a different note, I love the NBA Draft emblem on the lower-left corner of the card and that exact image as the backdrop of the stage is flat-out cool. Not much to brag about the card back, good player commentary and that about does it for me.
These were not hard to pull from packs with a 1:8 ratio. As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $3.00-$6.00; graded mint copies (9’s) are selling in the $10.00-$20.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) are selling in the $30.00-$50.00 range.
1992-93 Stadium Club Beam Team, Card No. BT21 (shop eBay)
I remember the hobby buzz going around when this card first came out. Everybody wanted one and at one point was selling for several hundred dollars. To this day there is still interest within the hobby for this one. The reason? Well, look at it. Absolutely stunning insert card designed to mimic the laser light show that occurred during half-time. There is also a Member’s Only parallel that was sold in a factory set format. This premier of the Beam Team insert has held its own over the years.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $30.00-$50.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $75.00-$90.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $190.00-$360.00 range.
1992-93 Ultra All-Rookie, Card No. 7 (shop eBay)
New kid on the block Fleer Ultra offered collectors their first basketball offering and scored highly in my book. A great product at a great price. 1992-93 was the year of the insert card, also known as “chase” cards. They were increasing in popularity among collectors. Ultra included this All-Rookie insert set, it featured 10 cards of that year’s best rookie class, card No. 7 is of our headliner and did not fall short in quality, card design or uniqueness.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $2.00-$5.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $10.00-$20.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $20.00-$30.00 range.
1992-93 Ultra Rejectors, Card No. 4 (shop eBay)
I struggled including this one onto this list but with Shaqovic having 2,732 career blocks how do you not include a “Rejectors” insert card that was released his rookie season. In his last year at LSU, he averaged 5.02 blocks per game. He averaged 3.5 blocks per game his rookie season at the pro level. For these reasons, collectors have taken a liking to this card.
I really appreciate the theme of this card and it’s so fitting since he was such a dominant shot blocker. I struggle with the photo used in the front because to me it looks more like a rebound than a rejection and the card back is really dark but I like the photo used on the back because it looks like he’s looking right into the camera.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $3.00-$5.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell in the $6.00-$14.00 range and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $24.00-$43.00 range.
Happy Collecting, Collectors
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