The Dream Team’s excellence in the 1992 Olympics led to massive appeal among collectors. But is the sum greater than the parts?
In this case, probably not, considering 11 of the 12 Dream Teamers are Hall of Famers who have forged permanent places in the hobby.
Here’s how sports auction insider Simeon Lipman ranks the individual Dream Teamers in terms of collectible appeal.
1. MICHAEL JORDAN
No surprise here — and no explanation needed. MJ was in his prime during the Olympics and, as such, had an explosive presence on the court. It’s worth noting that Jordan was also a member of the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal team, as were Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing. Jordan’s pro career is defined by his individual honors (Rookie of the Year, 10 scoring titles, 14 All-Star selections, five MVP awards) and even more so by his six NBA titles.
NBA career stats (per game): 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists
Rookie card: 1986-87 Fleer #157
Current pricing: When the hobby was bubbling over in 2021, Jordan Fleer rooks were going well north of $500,000, with the price hitting $738,000 at Goldin Auctions and reaching $1.008 million in June 2022 at Christie’s. In more recent months, market conditions and a decent supply have steered 10-grade prices to a range of $180,000-$300,000. Settle for a 9 grade and you’ll see them selling for $20,000-$25,000.
Note: In 1984, Jordan appeared on a limited-distribution trading card issued by Star. While some in the hobby consider it to be his true rookie, most cite this Fleer issue, his first nationally distributed card.
2 (tie) LARRY BIRD and MAGIC JOHNSON
Chronic back pain was limiting Larry Legend during the Dream Team’s summer, but he rallied to take part on the iconic team. Nothing would have kept Bird from joining forces with his friend Magic Johnson. During his 13-year pro career, Bird won Rookie of the Year honors and earned 12 All-Star nominations, three All-Defensive nominations and three MVP awards. He also won three NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards.
Johnson also played 13 years, earning three MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards and 12 All-Star nominations. He also piled up five NBA titles. As the driving force behind the Lakers’ Showtime style of play, Magic was a magnet for NBA fans, with his smile and charisma lighting up every court on which he operated.
Bird’s NBA career stats: 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists
Johnson’s NBA career stats: 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists
Rookie card: 1980-81 Topps. The first Bird and Magic cards came in this odd set. Each card in the set features three detachable panels. The most popular configuration is the variation where Bird and Magic appear with Julius Erving. But you’ll find all three stars pictured with other players, too.
Current value: One Gem-Mint PSA 10 example of the card sold for $513,565 in a 2021 sale; another soared to $799,500 in 2022. And here’s a “kick-yourself” note: Up until 2011, we were seeing 10-grade examples of this card sell for well under $10,000. However, if you drop your sights to 8 or 9 grade, you can still pick up a Bird/Dr. J/Magic rookie for under $10,000.
4. CHARLES BARKLEY. The so-called “Round Mound of Rebound” is one of the NBA’s most entertaining players ever — and also one of its best. He was an 11-time All-Star and MVP of the 1992-93 season.
NBA career stats: 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists
Rookie card: 1986-87 Fleer #7
Current value: Barkley’s rookie card is overshadowed by Jordan’s in the same set. It’s also far less expensive. Recent auctions show it selling for prices between $8,000-$10,000 if in Gem-Mint condition. Compared to Jordan’s card, it’s clearly undervalued — good news for Barkley collectors.
5. SCOTTIE PIPPEN. When you’re in Jordan’s shadow but still good enough to play near his level, you end up high on lists like this. Pippen played 17 seasons, 12 of them with the Bulls. He was a seven-time All-Star and won six championships. He was a disruptive force on D, earning All-Defensive honors 10 times. Pippen is the only player in NBA history to twice win an Olympic Gold Medal and an NBA title; he did it in 1992 and again in 1996.
NBA career stats: 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists
Rookie card: 1988-89 Fleer #20
Current value: Expect to pay $2,500-$3,000 for a Gem-Mint, 10-grade Pippen rookie.
6. DAVID ROBINSON. This 7-foot-1 force quietly won two NBA titles and earned 10 All-Star selections. His impressive numbers would have been even better if he hadn’t devoted two years of service to the military (U.S. Navy). When he entered the NBA in 1989-90, he was an instant success, winning Rookie of the Year honors by averaging 24.3 points and 12 rebounds per game. He went on to become a 10-time All-Star while earning All-Defensive honors eight times. Robinson also was the NBA’s 1994-95 MVP.
Career stats: 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Rookie card: 1989-90 Hoops #138
Current value: This Dream Teamer is criminally undervalued. You can pick up Robinson’s rookie for $250-$400 in Gem-Mint condition. It made a huge splash in the hobby upon its release, but it was part of a set produced in great quantity — hence its humble value today. The card’s photo shows Robinson in suit and tie on draft day. He also shows up in an action photo on a later card (#310) in the same set.
7. PATRICK EWING. This dominant center played 17 seasons, the first 15 with the New York Knicks and his final two with Seattle and Orlando. Ewing was the NBA’s 1985-86 Rookie of the Year, and he went on to earn 11 All-Star selections. His excellence in the Big Apple gave him extra visibility and cache in the hobby.
NBA career stats: 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Rookie card: 1986-87 Fleer #32
Current value: Ewing’s rookie sells for $5,000-$6,000 in Gem-Mint condition.
8. KARL MALONE. This Utah Jazz legend was the prototypical power forward — a rock on defense and unstoppable force on offense. When he retired, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had scored more points than his 36,928. (LeBron James has since passed him.) Malone made the playoffs every year of his 19-year career. A two-time MVP, he was selected to the All-Star team 14 times.
NBA career stats: 25.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists
Rookie card: 1986-87 Fleer #88
Current value: Here’s another undervalued Dream Teamer. Malone’s rookie card can be had for around $400, even in Gem-Mint condition.
9. JOHN STOCKTON. Malone’s partner in crime with the Utah Jazz was this durable point guard. Stockton retired after 19 seasons as the NBA’s all-time leader in assists with 15,806 (which was nearly 4,000 more than what runner-up Jason Kidd totaled). Stockton was a 10-time NBA All-Star.
NBA career stats: 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 10.5 assists
Rookie card: 1988-89 Fleer #115
Current value: You can pick up a Gem-Mint Stockton rookie card for $500-$600.
10. CHRIS MULLIN. This New York City born-and-raised star wound up playing most of his career all the way across the country, starring for the Golden State Warriors for 13 seasons. He then spent three seasons with Indiana before returning to Golden State. A five-time All-Star, Mullin was a sharpshooting 2-guard and small forward, hitting 51% of his field goals.
NBA career stats: 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists
Rookie card: 1986-87 Fleer #77
Current value: Mullin’s rookie card — from that iconic 1986-87 Fleer set — sells for anywhere from $2,500-$4,500.
11. CLYDE DREXLER. This explosive shooting guard was known by a most apropos nickname: “Clyde the Glide.” Drexler was consistently productive, scoring exactly 20.4 points per game in regular-season play and in the playoffs. The 10-time All-Star was part of the NBA title-winning Houston Rockets in 1995.
NBA career stats: 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists
Rookie card: 1986-87 Fleer #26
Current value: Still another gem from Fleer’s 1986-87 set, Drexler’s rookie is an undervalued classic. Find it for $2,000-$2,500 in Gem-Mint condition.
12. CHRISTIAN LAETTNER. He may be the only non-HOFer on this roster, but Laettner was no slouch. He followed up his stellar college career at Duke with a 13-year pro career. He made the NBA’s All-Rookie team in 1992-93 and was selected to the 1997 All-Star team.
NBA career stats: 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists
Rookie card: 1992-93 Fleer Ultra All Rookies
Current value: Laettner appeared not only on the Fleer Ultra card noted above but on 1992-93 cards from Classic, Front Row, Skybox, Topps and Upper Deck. The Fleer Ultra rook usually sells for around $75 but can push $100. The others are typically $25-$50.