by James Morisette
To many young basketball fans, the name Mark Landsberger does not register in the memory bank. But to many older fans of the game, Landsberger is best known as the Los Angeles Lakers defender that got immortalized by Philadelphia 76ers star Julius Erving (AKA Dr. J) in one of the most memorable plays in NBA history. It would have been a great image for the Julius Erving rookie card, but this move happened seven years later.
Jerry Crowe of the LA Times best described Erving’s near non-human layup during that 1980 NBA Finals game between the Lakers and 76ers.
“As Dr. J [palmed] the ball in his right hand and majestically [soared] toward the basket, lowering the ball below his waist from behind the backboard before lifting it again and kissing it off the glass on the left side, Landsberger all but [faded] from view.”
Sadly, more than 30 years after Dr. J’s gravity-defying layup he too seems to be fading from thought.
Realizing this, NBA TV recently launched a 90-minute documentary on Erving called “The Doctor.” This documentary, which chronicled Erving’s achievements, was so much more than basketball.
It was about life. More specifically, it was about Erving’s rise to greatness in the face of adversity. This included Erving losing his dad when he was nine, his younger brother when he was 19, and his son in 2000.
Instead of cashing in his chips, however, Erving’s faith helped him endure these hardships, en route to becoming one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history.
A man of great humility, Erving was feared on the basketball court. But off the court Erving was well-respected for being both a gentleman and devoted ambassador of the game. To many, Erving was as graceful with youth as he was during his famous layup.
To young basketball fans watching Erving’s documentary, it was a terrific introduction to a man who represented everything that was good about the game of basketball.
But even before Erving’s documentary, this Hall of Famer’s 1972-73 Topps rookie card fared well in the marketplace. For example, the average place for a mint, graded Erving Virginia Squires rookie is $865. 8’s sell for around $300 and 7’s for around $160. Supply is relatively strong with 121 9’s in PSA’s Population Report alone and more than 600 8’s.
Erving also appears on an ABA All-Star card and a rebounding leaders card that same year.
Erving’s second year Topps card, picturing him as a ‘2nd Team All-Star’ can be found in NR MT/MT condition for around $35 and one would think there is room for growth. Graded 9’s usually average around $135. There are just 42 9’s on PSA’s Pop Report and only 196 8’s which would indicate a possible long-term opportunity.
Erving’s first actual NBA card is from the 1976/1977 Topps set. Dubbed the ‘tall boy’ set, Erving is seen rocking a huge afro while taking a break on the bench with a paper cup raised to his lips. It’s the #1 card in the set, revealing the status with which he was held during the ABA/NBA merger era. Pop numbers are similar to the ’73-74 issue.
Also, Erving appears in the famous 1980/1981 Topps Magic Johnson/Larry Bird rookie card. This trio card is very popular with collectors. It can also be
expensive to own. Erving is also featured in this same Topps set with other player combinations that are much cheaper.
As far as more modern cards are concerned, Erving has had many patch, relic and autographed cards issued in his honor. Upper Deck, which holds a license to sell NCAA products regularly produces cards showing Erving in his UMass uniform.
One of Erving’s most valuable autos is his 2006/2007 Dual Enshrinements. This card, #’d to 25, shows Erving side by side with Michael Jordan. Even in ungraded form, this card can fetch a pretty penny at auction.
Overall, Erving’s checklists are fairly straightforward during his playing career. And he does not appear in many oddball or regional type sets.
Here is a look at Dr. J basketball cards on eBay.
James Morisette is a contributing writer for Sports Collectors Daily.