While the NBA is the top league in the world today, professional basketball actually began before its creation. And while there aren’t a ton of pre-war basketball issues floating around out there, the multi-sport 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set featured some of the earliest pros in that sport. Here’s a look at the four basketball players in the release.
Eddie Burke suited up for various teams in different semi-pro and professional leagues. Most notably, he is featured with the Original Celtics on his Sport Kings card. The Original Celtics did not play in Boston. Rather, this was a barnstorming team from New York that participated in various leagues.
Burke’s career, highlighted here, shows him primarily playing in the northeast in New York in Pennsylvania with stops in Brooklyn, Wilkes-Barre, and Philadelphia, among other cities. His card is desirable since it is an early basketball issue. But, as the only player not in the Hall of Fame, it is not quite as sought after as the others. In mid-grade condition, his card starts around $150.
Holman was a famed player and coach during a long career in basketball. Like Burke, he also suited up for the Original Celtics as a player. He has the distinction of being the only coach to lead a team to NCAA and NIT championships in the same season.
Holman coached CCNY for nearly 40 years. While there, he became a staple at that program and was successful, winning 421 games while losing 190. Holman is also known for leading the 1951 CCNY team that was involved in point-shaving. His name remained clean, though, as he was not found to have done anything wrong. His card is highly desirable as he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. His card starts around $200 in mid-grade condition.
Joe Lapchick was yet another player for the Original Celtics in the 1920s. Following his time there, he played for the Cleveland Rosenblums of the American Basketball League. Lapchick’s card is particularly notable because his name is misspelled as ‘Lopchick’ on his Sport Kings card.
The Hall of Famer would go on to become a head coach at St. John’s and also with the New York Knicks in the early years of the NBA. He was a four-time ABL champion, four-time NIT champion, and was a head coach for three NBA All-Star teams. Safe to say, he was successful just about everywhere he went. His card is probably a little more desirable and, of the four. It also seems like the rarest as it is the one graded the fewest times in the PSA population report. His card starts around $250 in mid-grade condition.
Wachter played professionally from 1899 through 1924. Born in 1883, he was the oldest basketball player featured in the set. By the time it was released, he would have been about 50 years old. Wachter is credited by some as creating the bounce pass and he would go on to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He did not play high school or college basketball and instead went straight to the pros. His Hall of Fame profile suggests he was one of the top scoring leaders on his teams. That career included a stop with the Troy Trojans, among others. A similar path for the professional players was to then get into coaching. That is where Wachter ended up, as he would coach at five different colleges, including Harvard. Wachter’s card starts around $150 in mid-grade condition.