Hobby Musings: Rookies part of intrigue for 2021-22 NBA cards – Basketball has been prominent in the hobby’s boom over the past few years. Driven by superstars and newcomers alike, collectors can’t seem to get enough of the cards. With an incoming rookie class that includes Cade Cunningham and Jalen Suggs, it’ll be interesting to see how this year’s card perform. I had the chance to catch up with Panini brand manager Keith Hower to discuss what’s in store for the 2021-22 NBA card year.

HowerKS: Keith, the NBA is underway for another season. What is the state of the basketball trading card market as we stand now?
The basketball market is still incredibly strong. The strength of the modern market has trickled down into previous years, and the vintage market too. A key indicator of the strength of the current market has always been strong box prices, and the presence of count lots for rookies on the secondary market; and we’re seeing both now. Typically, in a weak market, we’d see people purchasing current releases only, and once something new comes out, collectors migrate to the newest releases, and leave previously released products behind. Right now, there are solid sales for boxes, packs, and singles, from vintage to present in this market.

Hobby Musings: NBA Rookies are Driving Force for 2021-22 PaniniKS: Rookies are always such a big part of things each year.  Who do you think will be the top rookie in this year’s class for cards?
Rookies have traditionally been the key drivers of our market. And while they’re still the most speculated on, and purchased cards, they aren’t the only cards pushing our market. Currently, veteran singles, inserts, and autographs are performing strong right now too.

That said, we’ve got a very solid rookie class coming in 2021-22 products. A typical rookie class will have two or three players that move product. This year, we predict that there will be five to seven players. Obviously, we expect strong sales for Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley, but we think Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga, and Josh Giddey are going to be studs too. I have especially high expectations for Jalen Green. Incredible talent, incredible athleticism, and magnetic personality—he’s the full package. He’s also been labeled the Pinoy Pride—and the Philippines have built up a strong collector base over the past two decades.

Hobby Musings: NBA Rookies are Driving Force for 2021-22 PaniniKS: Who’s an under-the-radar rookie you could see having a big impact in cards?
Bones. If you don’t know Bizzy Bones Hyland yet, you will. He’s already emerging as a fan favorite in Denver for his hard work, great handles, and fun-loving attitude. Plus, he loves looking at, and signing “Bones” on his cards. We did a signing at Summer League in Las Vegas, and he kept telling me his cards looked “tough!”

KS: From the veteran side of things, who’s a player who could have a breakthrough year with his cards?
Some of these guys have been simmering for years, but I think this trio is due to break through as true cardboard stars this season: De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Bam Adebayo.

KS: Of all the players who changed teams this offseason, which one do you think benefitted the most from a card value standpoint?
Russell Westbrook. Although, it’s a double-edged sword for him. Fair or not, he’s been labeled as not being a team guy. Well, he’s been thrown into the ultimate team scenario with the Lakers. Egos have to go out the window for things to work in LA. If Russ can make it work, his card values will be golden. On the other hand, if it doesn’t, his cards might find their way into the NBA League MVP obscurity box, joining players like Steve Nash, Bill Walton, and Moses Malone. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those guys and see them as a bargain, but most collectors just flip on by, looking for something else.

KS: The NBA really has turned into such a global game with global appeal.  From a card standpoint though, how do you think the NBA translates on an international stage?
That’s a great question. Generally, we would see collectors from other countries only collect heavily in the players from their country. That is not the case anymore. We’re seeing diverse collecting groups evolve in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Philippines, Italy, Spain, and China. While it’s still superstar-heavy in China, Spain, and Italy, the collectors in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Philippines are collecting everyone—from rookies, to fan favorites, and right up to the league’s best and brightest.

KS: Are there any new developments we should be looking out for with NBA cards this season?
I knew you’d slip this one in there. We’re always bringing in new ways to collect, and old ways that are resurgent in the market. There’s a few surprises and curveballs—all for the better, coming in new programs, inserts, and technologies for many of our sets this year. We’ll keep you posted on this one!

KS: What does Panini having coming in the near future for NBA releases?
We’ll kick off the season with Hoops again this year. I can tell you that the collab with SLAM is returning for all Hoops Retail SKUs. There will also be a strong presence, that evolves during the release year, celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the NBA, and the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team. More to come on this…

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Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.

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