Like the 1990s, the first decade of the 21st century had a bit of a dynasty feel at the start. The Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen Bulls had faded into history, replaced by Shaq and Kobe. While they didn’t win every NBA Finals MVP of the 2000s, their rookie cards were at the top of collector want lists.
Some of them date back to the previous decade while others were relatively fresh.
Here’s a look, then, at the 2000-2009 NBA MVPs and their rookie cards.
2000, 2001, 2002: Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers
1992-93 NBA Hoops, Skybox, Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck
Shaq didn’t really “look up” to them, but he was shorter than the two centers he faced off against in 2000 and 2001: Rik Smits and Dikembe Mutombo. He had little trouble against taller centers, though, shooting 61.1% shooting against the Pacers and 57.3% against the 76ers. In 2002, he manhandled the Nets, averaging an incredible 36.3 points a game in the Finals.
Shaq’s rookie cards were partly responsible for the huge rise in interest basketball cards enjoyed in the early to mid-1990s. You have your pick of several, including some inserts and the special redemption sets that were issued. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the early Stadium Club issue is popular.
2003, 2005: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Duncan had won his first Finals MVP as a youngster in the 1990s, but he was back again in the 2000s (and again in the current decade). Duncan also averaged 24.2 points, 17 rebounds, 5.3 blocks and 5.3 assists per game in 2003–a huge reason San Antonio dispatched the Nets in six games.
With some help of Robert Horry’s big shots, San Antonio emerged as a champion again in 2005, beating Detroit in seven games. Duncan had 25 points and 11 boards in Game 7.
Again, you have your pick among numerous issues but it’s hard to go wrong with the Chrome. Even PSA 10s often sell for under $100 with 9s barely over $20 if you’re patient.
2004: Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons
When the Pistons won in 2004 the voters didn’t know who deserved the MVP award for Detroit. Tayshaun Prince? Rip Hamilton? Ben Wallace? Rasheed Wallace? William Wallace?
Billups was the choice after he shot 51% from the field, 47% from long range and 93% at the free throw line, averaging 21 points and 5.2 assists in the Pistons’ five game win over the Lakers.
He’s got several rookie cards and none are really expensive. Chrome is usually a safe pick.
It was Dirk and Nash against Shaq and Wade. Miami lost the first two games, and then Wade exploded. The Heat won four in a row to bring home their first title as Wade scored 42, 36, 43 and 36 points to finish the series. Wow. Seems like a long time ago.
Rookie cards were really complicated by this time, especially with Exquisite, Upper Deck’s new ultra-high end concept, Exquisite. Wade rookie autos from Exquisite will cost plenty. Best to take a look at the most expensive and work your way down.
2007: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
2001-02 Topps Chrome Refractor #155
If someone blinked they missed this matchup, as it was a quick sweep. There was no player quicker than Parker, and in the Finals he averaged 24.5 points a game on 56.8% shooting. Parker even showed some range against LeBron and the Cavs, hitting 4 of 7 three-pointers in the series.
There are a lot of autographs, relics and auto relics for Parker in that 2001-02 season. You can nab a mint Chrome Refractor for under $40.
2008: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
1998-99 SP Authentic (# to 3500)
The Celtics used picks and players like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to surround Pierce with talent and the team went all the way to the title. Pierce won the Finals MVP award with averages of 19.7 points and 4.6 assists. It came 11 seasons after his debut year.
Amid the myriad choices thanks to multiple manufacturers, we’re a little partial to the SP Authentic, which is numbered to 3500 but fairly easy to procure. Even a PSA 10 can be found for $80 or less.
2009, 2010: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
After the Lakers had reloaded following Shaq’s departure, it was Bryant who led the team to wins over the Magic in 2009 (and we’ll include his Finals MVP effort the next year, just for good measure).
Kobe was already a star but took his game to the next level against Orlando in 2009, playing nearly 44 minutes a night, averaging 32.4 points and 7.4 assists a game in the five-game title series.
2010 was a seven-game war with Boston, but Bryant’s 15 rebounds in the deciding game sewed up the title and his second straight Finals MVP honor.
The 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor is one of the hobby’s modern holy grail cards but even the regular Chrome rookie is one everyone wants to own. You’ll pay $250 and up for a really nice one.