A lot of basketball fans like high-scoring guards. Plenty of young fans like players who stand out from the crowd, and this guy gets noticed off the court in his bright and unusual clothing and on the court for his attacking drives to the basket and his very large beard. Basketball card collectors who stocked up on James Harden basketball cards when he was a bench player for the Thunder really like him, as he has fulfilled his potential by becoming a superstar for the Houston Rockets.
The 2009 NBA Draft had Blake Griffin at the top and Harden was picked third overall by Oklahoma City. Memphis went with center Hasheem Thabeet with pick 2 and it’s safe to say they regret that move every day.
Harden had shown his versatility for two seasons at Arizona State and the Thunder expected he would cause problems in the NBA as a rare left-handed shooter. The Houston Rockets at the time didn’t know it but the 2009 NBA Draft would provide their future backcourt with Harden and Patrick Beverley, who was a second round pick of the Lakers.
Harden joined a young Thunder team on the rise. After building through the draft OKC was about to win 50 games. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the big stars, and they were joined in the starting unit by center Nenad Krstic, versatile forward Jeff Green and defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha. Harden would play 23 minutes a game off the bench as a rookie, and it was a talented Thunder bench that also included Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison.
While Harden’s first-year cards are worth more than they were three or four years ago, many quality examples are still affordable compared to other NBA stars, especially considering he may well be on a Hall of Fame track and some of those rookie cards carry low serial numbers.
Let’s start at the high end, though.
There is one rookie card that Harden collectors want more than most and that the 2008-09 National Treasures auto patch. Back in 2009-10, National Treasures was the only high-end hoops product made by Panini. The #203 card numbered to 99 can sell for between $700 and $1,000 while two graded BGS 9.5 cards sold on eBay recently at prices close to $1,500 each. One of the Colossal Materials NBA Logoman #4 Harden cards from that same set sold for $510. There are only five examples of that card and another five that are autographed.
The Harden NBA Gear cards in that year’s National Treasures are also some of his best cards, featuring two or three memorabilia pieces. His Limited auto jersey patch cards, numbered to 299 have been a favourite with Panini collectors. Harden also appears on a 2009-10 Upper Deck Exquisite auto patch with those numbered to 225 selling for $175-400 depending on grade.
Following his rookie season, Harden didn’t appear on very many cards during his second and third years thanks in part to the push on new rookies but that just means he has some bargain priced cards for 2010-11 and 2011-12. Recently a BGS 9.5 2010-11 Playoff National Treasures Colossal Materials Jersey Numbers Signatures #9 Harden card, numbered to 15, sold for only $45.44. Collectors can also look at the 2010-11 Totally Certified checklist for fun Harden cards, including great parallel sets and some cards with multi-color memorabilia patches. The 2011-12 Harden cards are very reasonable, too, with low-numbered autograph cards often found for under $30.
Fans of the Thunder may or may not want Harden cards that he shares with former teammates. 2012-13 Panini Threads Triple Threat Materials #7 has Harden on it with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Not only is Harden wearing his OKC uniform but the card has three pieces of memorabilia from the three Thunder players, and sells for around $20. The 2012-13 Preferred Finals booklet #3 has a look back to the Heat versus Thunder series, and not only are the three Thunder stars on it but also the Heat’s James, Wade and Bosh with memorabilia pieces. Another ‘what could have been’ card is the 2013-14 Elite Face 2 Face #5, with James Harden versus Kevin Durant.
The Thunder had their core of Durant and Westbrook, and they were not sure if they wanted to spend big to keep everyone else. Shotblocker Ibaka got a lot of money to stay and there was talk that Harden wouldn’t be getting the contract he wanted from the Thunder. The Rockets had been hoarding assets, draft picks and ending salaries, and they pounced on Harden who had won the 6th Man award. Harden got the big contract, and all the shots he ever wanted, and the Thunder really only ended up with Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams.
The deal was a steal for Houston, and Harden has been an All-Star every season for the Rockets since he joined them officially via trade on October 27, 2012. His scoring average jumped by nearly 10 points a game, to around 25 as a Rocket. It wasn’t just his minutes that increased, but due to getting away from Durant and Westbrook, his statistics per minute have risen dramatically.
There are newer high-end products featuring Harden as a Rocket including numerous Flawless and Immaculate cards, many low numbered but still yet to really explode in price. The Harden Black 1 of 1 2014-15 Prestige parallel card sold for only $29. A 2013-14 Panini Spectra Game Time Materials Black card ended at $78.
The 1/1 logoman patches from 2013-14 Immaculate and Flawless sold for over $1,000 each earlier this fall but parallels, even 1/1, have sold recently in the $200-325 range. Possibly the best design for his recent cards is that for the 2013-14 Immaculate Collection Team Logos. The patches with “O” and “C” from the front of the Rockets shirt sold for around $150 each with the card with the more elaborate “R” going for $300.
At their best, the Rockets with Harden leading the way can beat anyone. Deep playoff runs are expected while Harden’s name will be brought up when MVP votes are being considered. If he does become the number 1 shooting guard in the NBA, or if he is already there, it seems as if some of his cards are underpriced right now.
Below is a list of the hottest James Harden cards in eBay bidding right now.