15 Most Valuable 1969 Topps Basketball Cards
If you were to create a "Mount Rushmore" of basketball card sets, the 1969 Topps basketball card set would certainly be on it.
Though it's 99-card checklist may be small by today's standards, it is absolutely loaded with Hall of Fame and rookie card power...
And don't forget the instantly-recognizable "tallboy" design.
This is easily one of my favorite sets across all sports as there simply isn't any other set in the hobby quite like it.
And in this guide, I'll run through the fifteen most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
1969 Topps #25 Lew Alcindor Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $50,000
After the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns each suffered dismal inaugural seasons in 1968-69, the luck of a coin toss would determine possession of the first pick in the 1969 NBA Draft.
Milwaukee won the toss and hit the jackpot with a generational talent: UCLA center Lew Alcindor.
The future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player each year from 1967-69.
And in his first NBA season, Alcindor was just as dominant as he was in the collegiate ranks.
Following Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell’s retirement in 1969 and with Los Angeles Lakers superstar Wilt Chamberlain in the twilight of his career, the stage was set for a new big man to seize the spotlight.
After one year, Alcindor was undoubtedly the guy, winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors and earning his first of 19 All-Star selections.
The 22-year-old New York City native played all 82 regular-season games for the Bucks, finishing second in the NBA in scoring (28.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (14.5 rpg).
He also led the 56-26 Bucks to their first postseason trip in franchise history.
In ten postseason games, Alcindor averaged an eye-popping 35.2 points and 16.8 rebounds per game.
Milwaukee bowed out with a five-game loss to the New York Knicks in the Eastern Division Finals. But, bigger and better things were coming very, very soon.
This card is far and away the key card in the set and one of the most valuable basketball cards in the hobby.
1969 Topps #1 Wilt Chamberlain
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $5,500
Over the first nine games of the 1969-70 NBA season, Wilt Chamberlain was averaging 32.2 points and 20.6 rebounds before things came to a screeching halt when he ruptured a tendon in his knee against the Suns.
He'd miss the next 70 games of the regular season, returning for the team's final three contests.
In 12 games played, Chamberlain averaged 27.3 points, 18.4 rebounds, making it the first time "The Big Dipper" failed to average 20 rebounds per game and make the NBA's All-Star Game.
The Lakers still finished second in the West with a 46-36 record and remained optimistic that Chamberlain was healthy enough to push them to a third-straight NBA Finals appearance, which he did.
In the Finals, however, Chamberlain often looked a step behind against Knicks star Willis Reed.
Fate intervened when Reed pulled his thigh muscle in Game 5, but the Lakers still lost the game and faced a 3-2 series hole.
Chamberlain responded with one of the most breathtaking single-game performances in NBA Finals history, dropping 45 points and grabbing 27 boards in a raucous 135-113 Los Angeles win.
Unfortunately, the "Willis Reed Game" happened in Game 7 (more on that later) and the Lakers lost their third-straight NBA Finals.
Most of the value of this card is driven by Wilt Chamberlain himself.
But, since it's the first card in the set and collectors would stack them in chronological order (and sometimes even bound them with rubber bands), it was especially susceptible to being damaged than cards in the middle.
1969 Topps #99 Checklist
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $5,000
You may be surprised that this card can be worth so much.
But it's true...
They're so tough to find in high grade primarily because not many of them survived without any tick marks in the boxes next to each player's card.
After all, that is the entire idea of the card in the first place: for collectors to use to keep track of the cards they already have and those they still need to complete a set.
And, in addition to this, it's the last card in the set and positioned in the bottom corner of the printing sheet, which meant it was more susceptible to damage much for the same reasons as the Wilt Chamberlain card mentioned above.
So, if you can find one that survived rubber bands, wasn't dinged up for being on the bottom of the pile, and wasn't marked on, then you potentially have quite some value for a card that otherwise could slip under the radar.
1969 Topps #98 Walt Frazier Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,700
One of the most exciting two-way players in league history, New York Knicks point guard Walt Frazier entered his third year on the cusp of All-Star status.
And with a dizzying array of lightning-quick steals, silky smooth passes, and clutch jumpers, Frazier made the leap in 1969-70.
While averaging 20.9 points on a career-best 51.8% shooting in 77 games, Frazier also posted a career-best 8.2 assists per game while chipping in 6.0 rebounds per contest.
Where the 24-year-old shined, however, was on the defensive end.
Though the league wasn't officially tracking steals and other key defensive metrics during the 1969-70 NBA season, Frazier's impact as an on-the-ball stopper and passing lane nuisance was undeniable.
With the first-time All-Star wreaking havoc, the Knicks led the league with just 105.9 points allowed per game, almost six points better than second place.
Despite a seven-game close call against the Baltimore Bullets in the Eastern Division Finals, the Knicks rolled into the Finals for a date with the Lakers.
After a back-and-forth series, Game 7 at Madison Square Garden was an all-timer. Frazier was the best player on the court, posting game-highs in points (36) and assists (19) to lead New York to a 113-99 win.
With the win, the Knicks captured their first NBA title and looked towards a bright future with Frazier in tow.
1969 Topps #20 John Havlicek Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,300
The Boston Celtics dynasty ended with a triumph in the 1969 NBA Finals as they won their tenth title in eleven years with a seven-game victory over the Lakers.
Following the season, everything changed when Boston lost player/coach/legend Bill Russell and a drastically underrated backcourt scoring threat, Sam Jones, to retirement.
Forced to shake things up, new head coach Tom Heinsohn inserted swingman John Havlicek into the starting rotation and funneled the offense through him.
Playing mostly at the three, Havlicek did everything for the Celtics in 1969-70 and accomplished a true rarity, leading the team in scoring (24.2 ppg), assists (6.8), and rebounding (7.8).
He finished eighth in the NBA in scoring, seventh in assists, and shot a career-best 46.4% from the field.
It wasn’t enough for a Celtics team in transition, though, as Boston finished with a losing record (34-48) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1949-50.
The losing wouldn’t last much longer, though.
With a perennial All-Star in Havlicek and an upcoming influx of fresh talent, the Celtics would reload and taste championship success again as the new decade progressed.
1969 Topps #75 Elvin Hayes Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $750
After pacing the league in scoring his rookie season and leading the San Diego Rockets to an improbable playoff berth in their second year as a franchise, future Hall-of-Fame center Elvin Hayes kept his foot on the pedal in his sophomore campaign.
Finishing third in the league in scoring (27.5 ppg), first in rebounding (16.9 rpg), and first in minutes played per game (44.7), Hayes earned a second-straight All-Star selection in the process.
The trouble was that, other than the "Big E", there wasn’t much to get excited about in San Diego and the Rockets stumbled to a 27-55 record, finishing dead last in the Western Division.
While the offense was more than serviceable, the Rockets’ defense was atrocious, allowing a league-worst 121.8 points per game.
Head coach Jack McMahon was ousted after just 26 games, replaced by Alex Hannum.
Unfortunately, Hannum was a bad personality fit for Hayes, and the two struggled to get along while the losses piled up and frustrations mounted higher and higher.
By the end of the season, the Rockets were at a turning point.
Could Hayes and Hannum’s relationship turn around?
Was there a clear path to build a winner around Hayes in the short- and long-term?
(Both questions, as it turned out, were later answered with a resounding “no.”)
1969 Topps #60 Willis Reed Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $700
A tenacious low post presence with a penchant for rallying his team behind him, New York Knicks center Willis Reed was never better than he was during the 1969-70 season.
With Reed patrolling the block, the Knicks raced out to a 14-1 start and put together a then-record 18-game winning streak during the season.
Reed finished the season with a career-high 21.7 points per game on a cool 50.7% shooting while grabbing 13.9 rebounds and dishing out 2.0 assists per contest.
As a huge star in the league’s biggest market, Reed swept MVP honors for the regular season, All-Star Game, and eventually, the NBA Finals.
It didn’t seem like that would be the case in Game 5, though, when he went down with a leg injury, throwing New York’s championship hopes under a shroud of worry.
After missing the team’s Game 6 loss, Reed hobbled onto the court in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Improbably, he hit the first two shots of the game and whipped the crowd (and his team) into a frenzy.
The Knicks rode the emotional high to a championship, and Reed took home MVP honors with averages of 23 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest.
1969 Topps #15 Connie Hawkins Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $650
After being linked to an early 1960s point-shaving and gambling scandal, the NBA virtually blackballed Connie Hawkins from the league early in his career.
While never directly implicated in any wrongdoing, the dynamic scorer and next-level athlete was forced to ply his trade elsewhere.
As a result, Hawk turned in two breakthrough seasons in the ABA, including a league MVP campaign in 1967-68.
However, before his ABA days, Hawkins had filed a $6 million lawsuit against the NBA, claiming that he had been banned from competition under unfair pretenses.
Realizing they were likely headed for a losing battle in court, the NBA paid Hawkins a $1.3 million cash settlement before the 1969-70 NBA season and assigned his rights to the Phoenix Suns following a coin toss.
And despite recovering from a knee injury sustained in his last ABA season, he was electric for the Suns in his first NBA season.
Finishing sixth in the league in scoring (24.6 ppg) while averaging 10.4 rebounds and nearly five assists per contest, he earned All-Star and First-Team All-NBA honors.
With Hawkins at the helm, the Suns improved from 16-66 in their inaugural season to 39-43 in 1969-70.
1969 Topps #80 Earl Monroe Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $650
Drafted number two overall by the Baltimore Bullets in the 1967 NBA Draft, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe wasted no time making his presence felt at the professional level.
Monroe cruised to Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game during his first season in the league.
Monroe and Hall of Fame big man Wes Unseld gave the Bullets a nice 1-2 punch as the pair even took the team as far as the 1971 NBA Finals for a shot at a title against the Milwaukee Bucks.
However, thanks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, the Bucks handled the Bullets with ease and sent them home after a four-game sweep.
Frustrated, Monroe began to demand a trade, and after playing in only three games in the 1971-1972 season, the Bullets sent him to the New York Knicks, where he and fellow superstar Walt Frazier formed the infamous "Rolls Royce Backcourt."
Monroe spent nine years as a New York Knick, eventually getting a championship ring after the Knicks dominated the Lakers 4-1 in the 1973 Finals.
1969 Topps #50 Oscar Robertson
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $550
After missing the playoffs two years in a row and attendance in dire shape, the Cincinnati Royals were desperate to drum up interest heading into the 1969-70 NBA season.
To spark things, the Royals hired 41-year-old legend Bob Cousy as their head coach.
And in what amounted to a glorified publicity stunt, they had him play seven games next to star point guard Oscar Robertson in the backcourt.
Regardless of the tumult and weirdness around him, Robertson continued to excel as a hardworking, multifaceted superstar playmaker.
While a Second Team All-NBA nomination snapped his streak of nine-straight All-NBA First Team selections, Robertson did it all for a mediocre Royals squad.
Breaking 50% shooting for the third and final time in his Hall-of-Fame career, "Big O" scored 25.3 points per game on 51.1% from the field, dished out 8.1 assists and grabbed 6.1 boards per contest.
He did anything and everything to keep Cincinnati respectable.
Nevertheless, the Royals finished 36-46 and out of the playoffs for the third-straight year.
And in one of the most shocking and bewildering moves in NBA history, Cincinnati traded Oscar Robertson to the Milwaukee Bucks in the offseason, effectively putting a final nail in the coffin of NBA basketball in the city.
1969 Topps #90 Jerry West
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $550
No matter how cursed the Lakers seemed to be for most of his 14-year career, future Hall-of-Fame point guard Jerry West remained defiant, scratching and clawing every game to give Los Angeles a chance in the 1969 Finals.
And while they fell to Boston in seven, West became the only player in league history to earn Finals MVP honors as a member of the losing squad.
As the 1969-70 season arrived, he was determined to bring a title home.
On a team loaded with scoring threats, West shined brightest, leading the NBA with 31.2 points per game on 49.7% shooting.
West also played a career-high 42.0 minutes per contest, notching 7.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds a game while serving as a backcourt version of a Swiss Army knife.
In the playoffs, he was brilliant once again, averaging 31.2 points, 8.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds in 46.1 minutes per game.
No matter what the odds, West did everything in his power to will Los Angeles to a title, including his infamous miracle shot in Game 3 of the NBA Finals to send the game to overtime, a game the Lakers eventually lost.
“It was a beautiful thing wasted,” West said later.
And after losing yet another Game 7, the Lakers once more let a title opportunity slip by in the prime of West’s career.
1969 Topps #10 Nate Thurmond Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $450
With an ugly 30-52 record, the San Francisco Warriors snapped a three-year streak of playoff appearances in 1969-70, finishing sixth out of seven in the NBA's Western Division.
To be fair, expectations for a playoff run weren't high after star center Nate Thurmond suffered a serious knee injury in the middle of the season.
Though he played in just 43 games, Thurmond did earn his fifth All-Star selection in six years, averaging 21.9 points, 17.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Following his knee operation, Thurmond announced his retirement from basketball at the age of 28.
He even, half in jest, listed three potential conditions for his return to the Warriors, including the then-improbable return of ABA star forward Rick Barry to the franchise.
However, it appeared to be a flight of temporary frustration as he'd play all 82 games for the Warriors the very next season, earning his third career NBA All-Defensive First Team selection thanks to his lane-clogging dominance.
1969 Topps #35 Elgin Baylor
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $400
The last All-Star season of his extraordinary career was a bittersweet one for legendary Los Angeles Lakers small forward Elgin Baylor.
On the one hand, Baylor averaged a double-double for the fourth-straight season, posting averages of 24.0 points and 10.4 rebounds in 41 minutes per game while once again playing a pivotal role in the Lakers’ run to an NBA Finals appearance.
On the other hand, Baylor’s body was giving out.
In his age-35 season, Baylor’s knees were all but wrecked, limiting him to just 54 regular-season contests and looking visibly bothered while on the court.
By sheer force of will and determination, Baylor made his 11th All-Star appearance and provided Los Angeles with elite-level scoring and clutch rebounding on their road to the Finals.
In what would be his last postseason, Baylor averaged 18.7 points (on 46.6% shooting), 9.6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 18 games played.
After the Lakers’ seven-game loss to the Knicks, Baylor’s played just 11 more games in two seasons before injuries forced him to retire.
1969 Topps #43 Bill Bradley Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $400
One of the true renaissance men in basketball history, New York Knicks small forward Bill Bradley eventually parlayed his on-court achievements into success as an author, activist, and politician.
Back in 1969-70, though, his primary focus was on helping the Knicks to their first-ever NBA championship.
A key role player who provided great secondary scoring, playmaking, and tenacious defense at the three, Bradley averaged 14.5 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.6 rebounds over 67 regular-season games.
In the playoffs, Bradley's production dropped just a bit as stars Walt Frazier and Willis Reed extended their workloads, as he averaged 12.4 points, 3.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds.
A supporting cast member and a fantastic team player, Bradley won two rings with the Knicks in his decade-long stint with the team.
While he was rarely the primary option over those ten years, he was a pivotal contributor to the franchise's rise to prominence.
1969 Topps #40 Billy Cunningham Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $350
Just as star small forward Billy Cunningham ascended to the next level as an NBA superstar, the Philadelphia 76ers franchise took a few big steps backward.
In Cunningham’s second season in 1966-67, the Sixers dominated the league en route to a 68-13 record an NBA title.
Fast forward three seasons and Philadelphia just barely scraped their way into the playoffs at 42-40.
Without Cunningham’s heroics, they probably wouldn’t have sniffed the postseason.
The 26-year-old firebrand played and shot his heart out, finishing fourth in the league in scoring with a career-high 26.1 points per game on 46.1% shooting.
Cunningham also pulled down 13.6 rebounds and dished out 4.3 assists in 39.4 minutes per game, spurring a team offense that finished first in the NBA in points per game (121.9).
However, in the playoffs, the divide between the Sixers and the elite teams in the league became brutally apparent as they fell to an ascending Milwaukee Bucks team in five in the Eastern Division Semifinals, including a disheartening 36-point drubbing in Game 3.
Cunningham was excellent, scoring 29.2 points in 41 minutes per game with 10.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
But, the 76ers were outgunned and faced a lengthy rebuilding project over the next half-decade or so.
1969 Topps #2 Gail Goodrich Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $250
Gail Goodrich gained notoriety as a sharpshooter early on during his playing days at UCLA, where he helped lead them to back-to-back championships in 1964 and 1965.
Originally picked by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1965 NBA Draft, Goodrich spent three years in L.A. before the Phoenix Suns took him in the 1968 expansion draft.
While he was in L.A., he didn't play nearly as much as he would've liked since Jerry West and other guards already made for a crowded backcourt.
In Phoenix, he became a full-fledged starter and broke out to show the NBA what he could really do as he averaged 23.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, earning his first of five career All-Star selections in the process.
Goodrich played two seasons in Phoenix before being traded back to Los Angeles ahead of the 1970-1971 season, during which he would start alongside Jerry West instead of backing him up as he had in previous years.
"The Stump" was at his finest during the 1971-1972 season when he led that remarkable Lakers team in scoring with 25.9 points per game.
That was the team that rolled to an NBA Championship over the Knicks after going 69-13 during the regular season, at one point winning a still record 33 games in a row.
1969 Topps #44 Lenny Wilkens Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $250
Most modern NBA fans are acquainted with Lenny Wilkens for his exploits as the second-winningest coach in league history.
But his extraordinary talents as an on-court assist machine earned him nine All-Star appearances in 15 seasons as a player.
And arguably, his work as a player/coach for the Seattle SuperSonics in 1969-70 ranked as his finest work in uniform.
Asked by general manager Dick Vertlieb before the season to pull double duty as the team's starting point guard and head coach, Wilkens initially refused before finally giving it a shot.
The Sonics finished fifth in the Western Division with a 36-46 record, missing the playoffs by three games.
That was a huge step forward for an expansion franchise that won just 53 combined games in its first two seasons.
Alternating between his role as a coach and the team's primary offensive conduit, Wilkens led the NBA with 9.1 assists per game while scoring 17.8 points and grabbing 5.0 rebounds per contest.
The Sonics did not make the playoffs in Wilkens' three years as player-coach, but it wasn't for lack of effort (or otherworldly playmaking.)
Wilkens was later inducted into the Hall of Fame three times: as a player, a head coach, and assistant coach on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
1969 Topps Basketball Cards In Review
While its checklist may be small by today's standards with only 99 cards, the importance of this set cannot be understated.
The plethora of key rookie cards and star power makes it one of the most highly coveted basketball card sets in the entire hobby.
And, while the "tallboy" design may present a bit of a challenge when it comes to keeping them from getting dinged up, it certainly offers a unique aesthetic appeal that you just won't find anywhere else.
For those collectors on the lookout for great Hall of Famers of the era and a checklist that isn't daunting in terms of its size, then this is one of the best basketball card sets you could hope to put together.