The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Card and Other Vintage Cards

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Cards

When collectors think of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie card it’s the 1969-70 Topps card that comes to mind. However, it’s not the only Topps issue in 1969 that can fairly be considered a Kareem rookie and some other cool “first” Abdul-Jabbar cards are worth discussing. I’ll walk you through all of those in this article.

Note: As most of you probably know, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Lew Alcindor. In 1971, at the age of 24, he legally took the Muslim name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Most of the cards in this article display the name he was given at birth, but in this article, I’ll refer to him only as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - The Best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie
1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – The Best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie

1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Card #25

The 1969-70 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card #25 is one of the most sought-after and unique basketball cards of all time. In 1969 he still went by his given name Lew Alcindor, but in 1971 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would convert to Islam and take an Arabic name. This is one of the few rookie cards where the name of the athlete printed on it was not his name when he achieved most of his success. It is important to note, though, that Kareem had already achieved a lot before 1971. He was one of the most decorated college players in history, was named the Rookie of Year, and was named an NBA All-Star all before changing his name.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar kept a very high profile during his career and after. While he was still playing he was a huge star in the gigantic Los Angeles media market playing for the Lakers dynasty. He regularly achieved accolades like being named an All-Star, winning scoring titles, and winning championships. He finished his career as the all-time scoring leader in NBA history. After his playing career was over he continued to keep a high profile by acting in movies and on television, writing and producing. He found success as an author and culture critic. Most of his published books were on the topic of Black history.

With all that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar accomplished you would expect his rookie card to be valuable and highly sought after, but there are other factors that enhance the collectability of his rookie card even more:

Other factors that make this card iconic:

  • Eye-Popping Statistics: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is regularly mentioned in conversations around all-time NBA greats. He finished his career as the all-time scoring leader with 38,387 points. All-time great offensive players Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Kobe Bryant all failed to catch Kareem’s mark. He also finished his career with the most blocked shots. That record was surpassed by Hakeem Olajuwon, but he still ranks very highly on that list. The massive statistics ensure that Kareem will continue to be discussed alongside the best current players.

  • Cultural Significance: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did not leave the public eye after he retired. He acted in the 1980 move Airplane! and has played himself in several other movies and television shows. He has written several books, is a vocal advocate for minority issues, and is still very active in the basketball community. Athletes who stay in the public eye for positive reasons continue to gain fans among people who are too young to have seen them play. This increases the interest in their cards and collectibles.

  • Rare and Unique Set: The 1969-1970 Topps basketball set is very unique and memorable. It has an odd size, just like the 1970-71 set, measuring 2 1/2” x 4 11/16″. The design of the card is unique as well. It features a large white border with basketball-themed clipart around it. When sets are memorable it enhances their collectability.

1969-70 Topps Basketball Set Details

The 1969-70 Topps Basketball set is a classic set that ranks high with collectors due to the great design and a checklist full of Hall of Famers. Within the hobby, the cards are called “tallboys” due to their oversized height. The set contains 99 cards and is best known for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card (#25), but it also has several rookies for other Hall of Famers including John Havlicek (#20), Bill Bradley (#43), Dave Bing (#55), Wes Unseld (#56), Willis Reed (#60), Earl Monroe (#80), Don Nelson (#82), and Walt Frazier (#98).

  • Year: 1969-70
  • Manufacturer: Topps
  • Size: 2 1/5″ x 4 11/16″
  • Number of cards: 99
  • Subsets
    • Checklist (#99)
  • Insert Sets
    • 1969 Topps Rulers

1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Card #25 Details

  • Card no: #25 of 99
  • Name on card: Lew Alcindor
  • Height: 7′ 1 1/2″
  • Weight: 235
  • Years Pro: R
  • Born: 4/16/47 – New York, N.Y.
  • College: UCLA
  • Home New York, N.Y.

Front of the card

Design: This 1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar card #25 has a very distinct look. The defining characteristic of this set is the odd size that Topps chose this and the following year’s set. The card is 2 1/5″ wide by 4 11/16″ inches high. It has a white border with an oval photo of a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar preparing to shoot a basketball. The name “Lew Alcindor” is at the top of the card in red letters and his position, “center” is just below his name. The bottom of the card has his team’s city “Milwaukee” in larger red letters with a black outline. The card has four different clipart images filling the empty corner spaces around the oval photo. The clipart was an odd choice, but it gives the card a memorable look.

1969 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) Rookie Card Front
1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Card Front
Verdict: Rookie Card

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Back of the card

The back of the 1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar card #25 has a clean and simple design that is indicative of this era. The card number is in the upper left corner in a circle. The top of the card has the name “Lew Alcindor” and biographical information including his size, home, and college. The middle of the card, in a pink rectangle, contains a bio paragraph, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s college statistics from UCLA, and a blue circle that has a cartoon inside of it. The circle is meant to be basketball about to fall through a hoop. The cartoon shows a basketball player holding a long piece of paper that was folded. It reads, “Lew came to the NBA with the most impressive set of credentials in history”

1969 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) Rookie Card Back
1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Card Back

The phenom turned pro for estimated 5-year, $1,250,000 contract. At UCLA, was 3-time All-America, scored 2,325 pts (26.4 avg.), hit record 63.9% of field goals and led Bruins to three straight NCAA titles.

1969 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie card #25

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Card Value

The 1969-70 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card is one of the most valuable basketball cards made in the 1960s. The chart below was pulled from the popular card grading site PSA on 09/28/2021. It shows prices for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card in various conditions.

1969 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) Rookie Price Guide
1969 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie Price Guide

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 1969-70 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card #25

Other Relevant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Cards

The 1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar card (#25) is the only card in the hobby that is widely considered a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card. However, Topps did issue another collectible in 1969 that warrants discussion. There are also a few other cards that make worthy “first” cards for your collection, but not because they are Kareem’s first year. Here are a few I think you should know about:

1969-70 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Topps Ruler #10

1969 Topps rulers were inserted, one per pack, in the 1969-70 Topps basketball cards. They measure 2 1/2″ x 9 7/8″ and had to be folded three times to fit in the pack. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of 23 cards in the set that also included stars such as Walt Frazier, Wilt Chamberlain, and John Havlicek. The rulers are made of paper and have a blank back. They are relatively rare and it’s especially hard to find them in good condition because the paper becomes brittle with age. This is a cool collectible that can reasonably be considered a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie.

1969 Topps Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) Ruler
1969 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Ruler #10
Verdict: Insert Rookie

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1970-71 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #75

The 1970-71 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar card #74 is another classic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar card. This set is 2 1/2” by 4 11/16″, like the 1969 set, and is Kareem’s 2nd-year card.

1970 Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) Topps
1970-71 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #75
Verdict: Not a Rookie

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1972-73 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #100 (First card with changed name)

This isn’t a rookie card, it’s not even that close. But it is the first major issue card that has the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar instead of his given name, Lew Alcindor. Bing the first “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” card makes it an interesting collectible.

1972 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #100
1972-73 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #100
Verdict: Not a Rookie

Shop for the 1972-73 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on eBay (affiliate link)

1975-76 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #90 (First card as Laker)

The 1975-76 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar card #90 is noteworthy because it is the first card as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1975, the Lakers acquired Abdul-Jabbar and reserve center Walt Wesley from the Bucks for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, rookies Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman, and cash.

1977 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #90
1977-78 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #90
Verdict: Not a Rookie

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Legacy

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest basketball players who has ever lived. As a professional, he played at a high level for an extremely long time, which is demonstrated by the 19 times he was named an NBA All-Star. In 1984 he became the NBA’s all-time scoring leader when he passed the mark previously held by Wilt Chamberlain. He wasn’t just an offensive threat, though. He was also named to the NBA’s All-defensive team 11 times throughout his illustrious career. Kareem also ranks as one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. During his collegiate career, he received many accolades and won three NCAA Championships with the UCLA Bruins.

  • 2 time Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year (1967, 1969)
  • 3 time First Team All-American (1967–1969)
  • 3 time NCAA champion (1967–1969)
  • Inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007
  • 1969-1970 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 19 time NBA All-Star15 time All-NBA
  • 11 time NBA All-Defensive Team
  • 2 time NBA scoring champ
  • 2 time NBA rebounds champ
  • 4 time NBA blocked shots champ
  • 2 time NBA finals MVP (1971, 1985)
  • 6 time NBA champion (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
  • 6 time NBA MVP (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980)
  • Inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1995

Get Your Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Rookie

Do you want to add a 1969-70 Topps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 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.

Want Kareem Abdul-Jabbar merch? is the world’s largest eCommerce marketplace. They have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar books, memorabilia, and so much more. See what you can find today.

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