The Fundamental Rookie Cards of Tim Duncan

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With the 1st pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Tim Duncan from Wake Forest University! Throughout the 1997-98 NBA season card manufacturers printed 18 true rookie cards along with 37 parallels.

Describing Tim Duncan

Tim is somewhat of a hard read because he’s by nature a quiet, well-mannered, gentleman. In fact, he’s been accused of not being very exciting or that he lacks personality.

So I came across a list of nicknames, and I figured, this would perhaps give me a glimpse of who he is. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his documented nicknames are Timmy, The Big Fundamental, Groundhog Day, Old Man Riverwalk, and The Stone Buddha. I’m sure there are some great stories behind these but they didn’t really help.

Listening to the testimony of those who knew him best, I noticed one reoccurring adjective that kept popping up to describe Tim Duncan, FUNDAMENTALS. On and off the court he was a master of the fundamentals.

Keys to Tim Duncan’s Success

Besides his over the top dedication to the fundamentals of the game he never skipped steps, he stayed the full four years in college and fully developed in every stage of his game. He was teachable, coachable, and he took his time to enjoy the journey.

On and off the court there was never any drama in his life. Most importantly, he was awesome on both sides of the ball. Most of the great ones are. Tim Rinaldi, a reporter for ESPN, explained Tim Duncan this way,

“Substance over style. Excellence over attention. Team above self and winning above all else …everything he accomplished he did it with such dignity and class, without fanfare or flash. A leader by example, a selfless teammate, a gentleman and we may never see his likeness again.”

Career Stats & Accomplishments

Averages: 19 Points per Game | 10.8 Total Rebounds | 3.0 Assist

Accomplishments: 1997-98 Rookie of the Year | 15x All-Star | 2x League MVP | 5x NBA Champion | 3x Finals MVP | 15x All-NBA | 15x All-Defensive

Totals: Rebounds 15,091 (15th All-Time) | Defensive Rebounds 11,232 (4th) | Blocks 3,020 (6th) | Points 26,496 (17th).

Tim Duncan played for 19 seasons all with the San Antonio Spurs!


ROOKIE CARDS OF HALL OF FAMER

TIM DUNCAN

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1997 Bowman’s Best, #106

Leading us off is the Bowman’s Best brand. It’s a 125 card single series set. This is a great photo as it features the rookie Tim Duncan and the veteran Hakeem Olajuwon (both HOFers). The card back is absolutely stunning as well and gives us everything a good card back should have, player photo, player bio, stats, and commentary.

There are two parallels, the beloved Refractor comes 1:12 packs and the Atomic Refractors are seeded 1:24 packs.


1997 Collector’s Choice, #323

The budget-friendly Collector’s Choice is a 400 card set that was split up into two series with this RC found in Series 2 packs. The first thing that grabs our attention is the colors. Very nice palette assembled here. The front photo is full of game time action but it appears to get lost in the background of the people in the stands. There are no parallels in this set.


1997 E-X2001, #75

E-X2001 is a collector favorite. It’s an 80 card set and was released in a single series. It’s a multi-layered card that sits on a clear plastic foundation. Gold foil inlays give this one lot of eye-appeal. As if all this goodness wasn’t enough, it also offers two parallels.

First off is Essential Credentials Future parallels, these have an orange and pink color design and are serial-numbered to 80 in descending order. For example, card #1 is serial-numbered to 80, card #2 is numbered to 79, etc.

Also, Essential Credentials Now parallels, these have a yellow and green color design and are serial-numbered to 80 in ascending order. For example, card #1 is serial-numbered to 1, card #2 is numbered to 2, etc.


1997 Finest, #101

Another collector favorite is the Topps Finest brand. It’s a 326 card set split into two series and this RC can be found in Series 1 packs. The set has three tiers in its design, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. They can also be identified as Common, Uncommon, and Rare.

Tim Duncan appears to be bursting through a paper bag or a tin can, this is very similar in design to the 1996-97 Finest set. Because of that, it loses points with me.

However, the card quickly redeems its lost points in the design of the card back. Fantastic layout, photography, and everything a good card back should have. There is one parallel, Refractors come 1:12 packs and are not serial numbered.


1997 Flair Showcase, #Row-3 Seat 5

If you like parallels then this is the set for you! Flair Showcase is an 80 card set released in a single series. The card has quality card stock and is nicely designed but like the Topps Finest brand, it also has two ways to identify them.

Row 3 is considered the base set, Row 2, Row 1, and Row 0 are parallels and vary slightly in design. It can also be identified by these four themes, Showtime, Showstopper, Showdown, and Showpiece.

Finally, there is also the Legacy & Masterpiece parallels which are serial-numbered to much lower quantities and also feature the four tired concepts. Does anyone need aspirin yet? I know I do.


1997 Fleer, #201

Within hobby circles, the Fleer brand is considered the king of the basketball hill because of its rich history in NBA licensed products. This 350 card set was released in two series and this RC can be found in Series 2 packs. The cards in this set have a matte finish which makes them perfect for autographs. Fantastic design, photography, and full college stats are given.

Also, two parallels are given, Crystal Collection comes 1:2 packs and has a glossy finish to them. In the same vein, there are the Tiffany Collection 1:20 packs.


1997 Hoops, #166

A second historic brand among basketball card collectors is the Hoops brand. This one is a 330 card set split into two series. This Tim Duncan RC can be found in series 2 packs. The wallet-friendly brand offers collectors a computer graphics background and a not so pleasant card back. There are no parallels in this set.


1997 Metal Universe, #66

Metal Universe is a 125 card set released as a single series. These have been taking off in popularity as of 2019 due to the high value of the parallels. Some auctions have sold in the six figures, causing a ripple effect and demand for even the base cards. Especially, the rookie cards of Hall of Famers like Tim Duncan.

The parallels previously mentioned are, Precious Metal Gems which have a red foil background and are serial #’d /100. There is also a Precious Metal Gems Emerald and has a green foil background and are also serial #’d /100.


1997 Metal Universe Championship, #72

Gaining traction Skybox released a Metal Universe retail version. It was a 100 card set and was released in a single series. The card theme is astronomy and it depicts planets, moons, and stars. The design of the card backs is out of this world too. One parallel to speak of, the ever-popular Precious Metal Gems #’d /50.


1997 Skybox Premium, #112

Skybox Premium is a 250 card set split evenly into two series. This RC of Tim Duncan can be found in Series 1 packs. It is a fantastic design with deep, rich colors. The photo shows Tim Duncan with his money shot. The rookie logo gives it a classy look. There are lots to appreciate on the card back as well.

There is one parallel in this one, Star Rubies are serial #’d /50 and have red foil highlights on the card front.


1997 SP Authentic, #128

SP Authentic is a premium product. This was the debut of this product and it offered collectors many relics and autographed cards. There are 176 cards in the set and it was released as a single series. The card design is very unique, great photography, and colors. There are no parallels for this one.


1997 SPx, #37

Upper Deck continued to rain premium products. This SPx brand has a fantastic oval-ish, die-cut design. Wonderful presentation, photography, and card stock. It’s a small set at only 50 cards, so it’s only logical that it would be released as a single series.

However, making up for that small set size are the parallels. There are plenty of them. Let’s begin with Sky, this one comes 1 per pack and has a sky background. Bronze came with bronze borders 1:3 packs, Silver 1:6 packs, Gold was 1:17 packs. Finally, there is the Grand Finale parallel which is serial-numbered to /50.


1997 Stadium Club, #201

1997-98 Stadium Club made some significant design changes. The brand really needed a shot in the arm as they came off of a disappointing 1996-97 product release. For starters, the set size came in at 240 cards split into two series. Slightly thicker card stock, a new brand logo, and more detailed information on the card back. This Tim Duncan RC can be found in Series 2 packs.

There are three parallels. One of a Kind 1:69 packs and #’d /150. First Day Issue, found only in retail product 1:24 packs with a “stated” print run of 200 copies. Finally, Members Only Parallel 1 was a parallel set available via mail order.


1997 Topps, #115

Topps offered collectors a 220 card set evenly split into two series with the key rookie cards found in Series 2 packs. A clean, classic card design as only Topps can consistently offer. Fantastic photography and presentation.

Likewise, the lone parallel in this set is Minted in Springfield and was inserted 1:6 packs. They feature a gloss finish and a commemorative foil stamp on the card front.


1997 Topps Chrome, #115

May I introduce to you the “creme de la creme” meaning the top choice. This is the card that has been embraced most by collectors. In other words, “the key” rookie card for Tim Duncan.

It’s a 220 card set released in a single series. It mimics the Topps base brand almost entirely, with the key difference being the chromium technology.¬†There is one parallel, the beloved Refractor comes 1:12 packs.


1997 Ultra, #131

Personally, this has always been one of my favorite products. The quality card stock used fantastic photography and just everything the product had to offer made me look forward to its release. This 275 card set was split into two series. Duncan’s RC can be found in Series 1 packs.

Likewise, there are three parallels. Gold Medallion found 1 per pack. Masterpieces also came 1 per pack but were found in Hobby products only. And Platinum Medallion, randomly inserted in both retail and hobby, they are serial #’d /100.


1997 Upper Deck, #114

The basketball product of Upper Deck in the 1990s was second to none. The best players sponsored their brand and when it came to the design they seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else.

The 1997-98 Upper Deck Basketball was a 360 card set evenly split into two series. Our featured HOFer can be found in Series 1 packs. There are no parallels for this set. This design is unique because it is the only True RC that features Duncan on Draft Day.


1997 Z-Force, #111

The final card in our Tim Duncan RC Gallery is Z-Force. The background design on this card mimics the 1995-96 Hoops brand. However, both cards are manufactured by Skybox so no harm no foul. This psychedelic design features a borderless action photo of Tim Duncan and the palette of colors is quite impressive.

There are two parallels, Rave – are not serial numbered but it has a “stated” print run of 399. Super Rave is randomly inserted and #’d /50, respectively.

Happy Collecting, Collectors

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Sources:
Tim Duncan Stats | Basketball-Reference.com https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/duncati01.html (accessed April 23, 2020).
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