When he was drafted, fans of the Knicks booed the pick. Now, only a few games into his NBA career, crowds in Madison Square Garden chant his name and card collectors all over the world are searching for Kristaps Porzingis rookie cards.
The New York Knicks list “The Zinger” at 7’3. Unlike 7-6 Yao Ming he doesn’t have a country of over a billion people as potential fans, but this product of Latvia is turning heads for his versatility, advanced skill set and his highlight plays and both ends of the court.
Skill Set in the Big City
Just 20, Porzingis can shoot the three, get to the basket, isn’t afraid to battle power forwards and is a proven shot blocker. His putback dunks are a signature move. Long and agile, he also has a personality to match his game.
The fourth overall pick, Porzingis is a huge reason why the Knicks won nearly half as many games in the first month of the season than they did in all of 2014-15. Saturday, his 24-point, 14-rebound, seven-block effort made him the youngest player to reach numbers that high in one game.
Rookies Karl-Anthony Towns, Frank Kaminsky, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Willie Cauley-Stein entered the NBA with a big profile due to their college careers but playing for the Knicks has put Porzingis in the media capital of the world and he now overshadows them all. As a Knick, his card values get a boost.
Earliest NBA Cards
Porzingis first appeared in a Knicks uniform in the debut basketball product of the year, Panini’s NBA Hoops.
It’s the autographed rookie cards collectors and prospectors will chase, although so far he seems to only use his last name when signing. Most of the early autographs featured in Panini products have been on stickers.
His 2015-16 Hoops Hot Signatures sell for around $150 with a parallel 2015-16 Hoops Hot Signatures Red #65 numbered to 25 netting around $300. In retail packs there is a 2015-16 Hoops Great SIGnificance autograph card to look for. With eight parallel versions of his #261 Hoops base card, collectors on all budgets can still get in on “KP Mania”. His rookies in Hoops sell for just a few bucks. He has several insert cards too.
Collectors of higher end products will find Porzingis is in the 2015-16 Contenders Draft Picks set. There is a Draft Picks Passports #2 insert card and also an autographed card, which has several parallels. The 1 of 1 Championship Ticket #167 autograph was pulled not long after release and sold on eBay for $695 while a few Cracked Ice autos, numbered to 25, have hit the market, with bids pushing to four figures.
2015-16 Panini Prestige includes numerous Porzingis cards. Some of his 2015-16 Prestige Prestigious Premieres Signatures, with a print run of 299 and an on-card autograph, have sold this week for $350 each.
What’s to Come
Card collectors are only just getting started with Porzingis, as the super premium products from Panini are still to come and will have Porzingis rookies. If he continues to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year, look for the low serial numbered autographs in Flawless, Immaculate and National Treasures rookies likely pushing into the thousands. Before those ultra high-end releases will come his Prizm rookies with all their popular parallels, and then 2015-16 Panini Court Kings which would be expected to have signed cards that Porzingis collectors will spend a lot to acquire.
While the Knicks do need guard help, they are set up front and are getting wins. Porzingis is a very good fit next to forward Carmelo Anthony and center Robin Lopez. When teams double Anthony it means open shots for Porzingis and strong Lopez in the paint keeps Porzingis out of foul trouble as he isn’t forced to defend centers. Surprising for a tall rookie who starts and plays plenty of minutes, Porzingis has not fouled out of a game through the first month of his NBA career.
Few Knicks fans expected Porzingis to immediately bring excitement back to MSG, nor did the hobby anticipate huge interest in his cards right out of the gate, but now most expect he’ll continue to improve his game, get stronger—and it’s possible he could still grow a little.
The number of Porzingis card collectors should continue to grow too, and that stores in New York City and online retailers are struggling to keep up with demand for his #6 jersey and other memorabilia shows his early impact has been enormous.
“I have to do everything in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans,” he acknowledged on draft night. “I was happy about it. Want to be part of this organization. The fans are harsh sometimes. That’s how it is in New York, and I’m ready for it.”
He has won over the local fans, and many others are now on the Porzingis bandwagon too. He now has an autograph deal with Steiner Sports.
You can see the current ‘most watched’ Kristaps Porzingis rookie cards in the live list below.