Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Cards
Like with most basketball players from this era, it can be tricky determining which Hakeem Olajuwon cards should be considered rookies. None of the major card makers issued basketball sets between 1983 and 1985. Olajuwon’s first card from a major release is his 1986-87 Fleer card, but there are a few other cards that were made in smaller numbers that predate it. In this article, I’ll walk through all the early Hakeem Olajuwon cards and discuss whether or not they should be considered rookie cards.
Note: In 1991 Olajuwon decided that he wanted to go back to the intended Acerbic spelling of his name and be called Hakeem instead of Akeem. For this article, I will refer to him as Hakeem even though the cards all say Akeem. This is not a misprint on the cards or a typo in the article.
1986-87 Fleer Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Card #82
Hakeem Olajuwon is regarded as one of the greatest basketball centers of all time. The Nigerian-born center played in more than 1,200 games in the NBA, almost all for the Houston Rockets except for his last season where he played in Toronto. He won the NBA championship twice and was the Finals MVP both times. He was a 12-time All-Star and 6-time All-NBA first team member. In 2008, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and then was later inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2016.
He ranks in the top 50 of the greatest NBA players of all time, ended his career as the all-time blocks leader with 3,380, and is one of only four players to record a quadruple-double. This card, like most Hall of Fame rookie cards, is extremely valuable, but other factors make this card even more sought after by collectors:
Other factors that make this card iconic:
- Dream Team II: One of Olajuwon’s nicknames was “Hakeem the Dream”. However, Hakeem was not eligible for the first Dream Team since he was not a U.S. citizen in 1992, but four years later in 1996, he won gold with Team U.S.A in Atlanta, Georgia. NBA card collectors are primarily Americans, and Hakeem’s citizenship and effort for the US Olympic team drastically increased his standing in the United States.
- A True Dual Threat: Hakeem was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team 5 times and was twice the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also finished his career as a historically great scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker – making him a formative offensive and defensive player. Very few players have excelled to this level on both sides of the ball. Olajuwon’s well-rounded game ensures he’ll always be ranked among the few best centers in history.
- First Great Foreign Player: When Olajuwon made it to the NBA he quickly established himself as the greatest player to come from outside the United States. Before him, no non-American player started the All-Star game or won the NBA MVP award. Hakeem accomplished both of those feats and paved the way for all the great players from other countries who would follow. The collecting hobby often honors and remembers trailblazers who made it easier for future star players to emerge.
1986-87 Fleer Set Details
The 1986-87 Fleer Basketball card set was the first Fleer set since 1961, a 25-year gap, and is one of the most important and collectible basketball sets of all time. This set had a clean design with crisp red, white, and blue fonts with a simple back that is absent of player bios. The set contains 132 cards, because of the gap, many of the cards are rookie cards. The set is loaded with Hall of Fame rookie cards including Charles Barkley (#7), Clyde Drexler (#26), Joe Dumars (#27), Patrick Ewing (#32), Karl Malone (#68), Chris Mullin (#77), Isiah Thomas (#209), and Dominique Wilkins (#121).
Each pack of 1986-87 cards came with a sticker that featured one of the 11 NBA stars. The insert checklist included a handful of players above. This gave Jordan, Olajuwon, Thomas, and Wilkins each a 2nd rookie 1986-87 Fleer rookie.
- Manufacturer: Fleer
- Year(s) Issued: 1886
- Number Cards: 132
- Card Size: 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ high (standard)
- Insert Sets
- 1986-87 Fleer Stickers
- 11 stickers inserted 1 per pack
- 1986-87 Fleer Stickers
- Card no: #82 of 132
- Name on card: Hakeem Olajuwon
- Team: Houston Rockets (logo)
- Born: 01/23/1963
- Height: 7’ 0”
- Weight: 250
- College: University of Houston
Front of the card
Design: The front of the 1986-87 Fleer Hakeem Olajuwon card #82 features an action shot of Hakeem versus the Los Angeles Lakers. In the photo, Olajuwon is boxing out Lakers All-Star power forward Maurice Lucas. Olajuwon is wearing the classic red with white and yellow trim Houston jersey. The picture is bordered by a thin yellow oval. Behind the picture is a design pattern of rectangles that are red at the bottom and top, then followed by two blue shapes and a solid white middle line. Hakeem’s name, position, and team are written at the bottom of the card in white lettering on top of a sky-blue background. The Fleer logo with the word premier just below it is in the top right of the picture of Olajuwon.
Shop for the 1986-87 Hakeem Olajuwon Fleer card #82 on eBay (affiliate links)
Back of the card
The back of the 1986-87 Fleer Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card #82 has a simple and clean layout. The top left has the Fleer logo, and the top right has the #82 of 132 cards. The top section of the card has a centered logo of the Houston Rockets. The entire back of the card is printed in dark blue lettering. Below the Rockets logo has Hakeem’s name and biography details. Directly below that are his 1984-85 and 1985-1986 stats. Below that is a lighter red empty spot with the NBA logo in the bottom left corner. This empty spot is so large because Hakeem only has two years of statistics at this point in his career.
Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Card Value
The 1986-87 Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card is one of the most valuable basketball cards made in the 1980s. The chart below was pulled from the popular card grading site PSA on 11/29/2021. It shows prices for the Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card in various conditions.
Keep in mind that prices fluctuate. While PSA is a great way to find out the value of a card, we recommend going to eBay to see what cards are currently selling for on the world’s most popular auction site. Click here to view current auctions for the 1986-87 Fleer Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card #82
Other Relevant Hakeem Olajuwon Cards
The 1986-87 Fleer #82 card is the most well-known Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card, but there was also an insert card (sticker, actually) in that set and several early Star cards – some of which are considered rookie cards.
1984-85 Star Hakeem Olajuwon #237
The 1984-85 Star Hakeem Olajuwon #202 is the first Hakeem Olajuwon card, but some collectors have issues with considering it a rookie. This set was never sold in packs and could only be purchased in polybagged team sets. Also, because the print runs for these cards were so limited, there aren’t many of them out there. Low-quality production procedures resulted in easy counterfeiting of Star cards. As a result, PSA does not rate these cards, even though some card-grading services do. Collectors should exercise caution when purchasing Star cards, especially if they are not graded. However, I consider this to be a rookie card while also considering the 1986-87 Fleer #82 card to be a rookie. There simply weren’t enough of these distributed widely enough to negate the initial major-issue Fleer card’s rookie designation.
Shop for the 1984-85 Star Hakeem Olajuwon #237 on eBay (affiliate link)
1984-85 Star Hakeem Olajuwon Court Kings #47
The 1984-85 Star Hakeem Olajuwon Court Kings card #44 is an enlarged 5″ x 7″ issue produced the same year as the previously mentioned 1984-85 Star #237 card. There are fewer of these cards, but collector interest is also lower because of the oddball nature of these cards. When buying these cards in their raw form, proceed with caution, as Star cards are notoriously easy to counterfeit.
Shop for the 1984-85 Hakeem Olajuwon Score Court Kings #47 on eBay (affiliate link)
1986-87 Fleer Sticker #9
The 1985-86 Fleer set came with one sticker in each pack. In this photo, Hakeem, who ended his career as the all-time blocks leader, is defending a Magic Johnson shot. These cards were originally overlooked by collectors, but have increased significantly in value during recent years. In addition to Olajuwon, this sticker insert set featured 10 other players including insert rookies for Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, and Isiah Thomas.
Olajuwon was a two-time All-American center at Houston who many believe is about to become tops at his position in the NBA’s Western Conference after just two fool seasons… He led Houston in scoring in 1985-86 with 1,597 points, a 23.5 points per game average… He also was No. 2 in rebounding (879) on the Rockets behind Ralph Sampson… Akeem and Sampson form Houston’s “Twin Towers” that got the Rockets to the NBA finals…Olajuwon finished third with 231 blocked shots in the NBA, but he is more than just an imposing target in the middle – he also had 134 steals, and is a quick, strong center who can dominate the middle of the court…He helped the University of Houston into two NCAA finals, losing to North Carolina State and Georgetown… Akeem is a native to Nigeria who never played basketball until 1979.1986-87 Fleer Sticker Akeem Olajuwon #9
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Other 1985-86 Star Cards
During the few years when Star was the dominant NBA card manufacturer, they released several different sets. I’ve just gone over the first two cards I’d classify as rookies. Star released several cards after the two 1984-85 cards but before the 1986-87 Fleer #82 card. Because of the earlier-issued Star cards, I’m hesitant to name any of these rookie cards, but they are still important to discuss and are sometimes called rookies by people selling them.
1985 Star Super Teams Hakeem Olajuwon #HR4
This is an oversized Olajuwon Card that measures 5″ x 7″. It was released in 1985 as part of a 40-card set.
1985-86 Star Hakeem Olajuwon #18
This is the 2nd regular-issue Star Hakeem Olajuwon card. There aren’t many pictures of Hakeem where he looks short, but on this card he does. That’s because his Hall of Fame teammate Ralph Sampson is standing behind him. Sampson was a 7′ 4″ power forward. He and Hakeem were nicknamed the “twin towers” when they played together in Houston.
1985-86 Star All-Rookie Hakeem Olajuwon #1
This Olajuwon card is part of an 11-card set that featured the best rookies from the previous year. The card uses the same design as the 1984-85 Star set.
1986 Star Best of the Best Hakeem Olajuwon #11
1986 Star Best of the Old/New Hakeem Olajuwon
This 8-card set features four young stars and four veteran stars. In addition to Hakeem, the checklist includes Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, George Gervin, Bill Walton.
1986 Star Court Kings Hakeem Olajuwon #25
This set of oversized 5″ x 7″ cards includes 33 star players. In this photo, Hakeem is guarding Hall of Famer James Worthy. Both Olajuwon and Worthy rank among the best defenders in NBA history.
Search for the 1985-86 Hakeem Olajuwon Star cards on eBay (affiliate link)
Hakeem Olajuwon’s Legacy
Hakeem was born in 1963 in Lagos, Nigeria. He left Nigeria to play basketball at the University of Houston for coach Guy Lewis. During his college career, he went to the Final Four three times, leading him to be the first overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. That same draft included players such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. Playing college basketball for Houston, he was then drafted by the Houston Rockets where he play for 17 years before concluding his career with one season for the Toronto Raptors. Here is a list of some of his career accomplishments:
- 1983 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (on losing team)
- Consensus first-team All-American 1984
- 2 time NBA rebounding leader (1988-89, 1989-90)
- 2 time blocks leader (1989-90, 1992-93)
- 12 time NBA All-Star12 time All-NBA
- 9 time All-Defensive Team
- 2 time Defensive Player of Year
- NBA 50th Anniversary Team
- NBA 75th Anniversary Team
- 2 time NBA MVP winner (1993, 1994)
- 34 retired by Houston Rockets
- Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2016
Get Your Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie
Do you want to add a 1986-87 Fleer Hakeem Olajuwon rookie to your collection? If so, we recommend starting your search on eBay – the world’s #1 card trading place. Even if you’re not planning to buy one just yet, it’s fun to look at all the great cards currently for sale.
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All About Hakeem Olajuwon Rookies Infographic
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