The 76ers and general manager Sam Hinkie had an idea: to build gradually and to build from the very bottom. Some called it tanking, Hinkie said it was a “Process”. The result for the 76ers was clearing huge amounts of salary cap room and accumulating several high draft choices. It was (literally) painful at times but one of them is now among the most talked about players in the NBA. He even nicknamed himself “The Process.” Two years after he was supposed to make his NBA debut, Joel Embiid rookie cards are among the hobby’s hottest.
In a recent three-month period, over 2,000 Embiid-related cards were sold on eBay, many autographed, with the average sale at over $94.
From Cameroon to College to…Ouch
He didn’t stay long.
In 2013-14, he played 28 games for the Jayhawks and after shooting 62.6% from the field and averaging 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, he was regarded as a potential top overall draft pick for 2014.
However, a back injury and foot fracture deemed him too risky to be the #1 overall pick. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker went first and second but the rebuilding Sixers, even with young center Nerlens Noel on the roster, couldn’t pass on the potential of Embiid when their turn came at #3.
The 76ers would have to wait two years for Embiid to play but basketball card collectors still got the chance to buy his rookie cards in 2014-15. Game-used cards would have to wait, but Panini produced plenty of memorabilia cards using ‘event worn’ material. The Black Friday promotion resulted in cards with Embiid-used pieces of towels and Santa Claus hats.
Despite the injury, Panini did offer several autographed rookie cards of the young big man in its 2014-15 products and those are ones collectors and investors zeroed in on.
Embiid’s National Treasures rookie, #103, which is numbered to 99 and includes autograph and uniform patch, is atop the list. There’s a gold version numbered to 25 that has seen sales of over $3,000 since December. That ’14-15 National Treasures release also produced more expensive Embiid cards, like a 1 of 1 NBA logo patch which sold for $27,500 in December.
Some other Embiid rookie year autographs to look for include 2014-15 Panini Gala Cinematic Rookie Signatures with very low print runs and the Gold Prizm autograph which is numbered to 10.
A card with a large piece of Embiid-worn jersey is 2014-15 Panini Court Kings Art Nouveau Jerseys #3. A sought-after rookie card that isn’t as expensive as National Treasures is his Silhouettes card from 2014-15 Preferred. There’s also a 2014-15 Totally Certified relic card that’s usually available for less than $10. Low cost Embiid rookie cards from base sets would include Hoops, Prestige and Select.
On the Court at Last
When it was announced that Embiid would also miss the 2015-16 season, the alarm bells went off for some as there was the idea he could be a player like Greg Oden with a career that fizzled due to chronic injuries. Over 400 cards were made for Embiid’s rookie season, and less than a tenth of that were produced for 2015-16.
The Embiid Era finally began on October 26, 2016. He quickly proved worth the wait. Embiid scored 20 points and added 2 blocks and 7 rebounds in the opener. His first NBA double-double occurred a couple of games later. Against Cleveland a few days after that, big center hit 4 of 4 three-pointers and blocked four shots. Halfway through his rookie year, he was averaging 20 points and nearly eight rebounds per game.
Panini didn’t exclude Embiid in its early season releases. It started with Hoops, which included signed cards like 2016-17 Hoops Great SIGnificance and also 2016-17 Hoops Rookie Remembrance Memorabilia jersey cards. He also shows up in Donruss, Complete, Totally Certified, Prizm and other sets. Collectors could have a lot of fun searching for his 2016-17 Panini Prizm #4 card and its thirteen parallel versions.
Still just 22 as of this writing, Embiid seems in line for a long, productive career if he can stay healthy. He’s in a new group of big men that includes players like Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-AnthonyTowns, who are versatile and mobile. Houston Rockets’ superstar James Harden called him the most skilled big man in the league.
Embiid has an offensive game, can dunk with explosive power and is already one of the top shot blockers in the NBA. Jahlil Okafor can score, Nerles Noel can defend, but with Embiid the 76ers now have a center who does it all. His personality is more fun-loving than many of today’s top NBA stars, which is often endearing to collectors.
The Process, it seems, has begun.
You can see all of his cards on eBay by clicking here.