20 Most Valuable 1991 Upper Deck Basketball Cards

Most Valuable 1991 Upper Deck Basketball Cards


For anyone looking for a burst of early 1990s nostalgia, look no further than the 1991 Upper Deck basketball card set.

It marked the company's first entry to the basketball card market and featured many stars of the era and a few quality rookie cards.

Upper Deck's timing was no coincidence either...

Michael Jordan had just won his first NBA title, and USA Basketball was in discussion of assembling the greatest team to ever step on the hardwood ahead of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Basketball cards were just being to heat up...

With an instantly recognizable design that featured a basketball court border and fantastic full-color imagery, there is plenty to love about this set.

And, in this guide, we'll run through the 20 most valuable.

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

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I do want to be 100% clear that most of the cards in this set sadly have no value these days.

Like the 1991 Fleer, Hoops and Skybox sets, there were just so many of these cards printed.

And to have any value at all, the cards on this list will need to be graded in PSA 10 gem mint condition...meaning they're nearly flawless.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:

1991 Upper Deck #44 Michael Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125

After years of hard work, determination, and plenty of setbacks, Michael Jordan finally reached the top of the NBA and took home a championship ring after beating the Lakers 4-1 in the 1991 NBA Finals.

The tides had shifted, and no longer were the Celtics, Pistons and Lakers the toughest teams to beat.

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were ready to face anyone who dared challenge them.

And, during the 1991-1992 season, Jordan didn't take his foot off the gas for one second as he led the league in scoring (30.1 ppg) for the sixth season in a row while averaging 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

It was enough to secure yet another All-Star selection, MVP Award, All-Defensive Team, and All-NBA honors.

The Bulls charged through the playoffs and once again found themselves in the Finals but it wasn't easy as it took seven games to get past the Knicks and six to get past the Cavaliers.

During the 1991 NBA Finals, the Bulls and Trail Blazers started the series in a back-and-forth sequence that put them at a 2-2 tie before the Bulls finished things off at 4-2 in Game 6 to make it back-to-back titles.

1991 Upper Deck #44 Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #34 Magic vs. Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

Upper Deck hit the nail on the head with this card by documenting the 1991 NBA Finals showdown between the Lakers and Bulls with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan front and center.

The card is almost symbolic, as it depicts a transition from one era to the next and from Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan as the face of the league.

After sending Magic Johnson and the Lakers home in five games during the 1991 NBA Finals, the torch had effectively been passed to Jordan and it was his time to shine for years to come.

1991 Upper Deck #34 Magic Johnson vs. Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #75 Michael Jordan Checklist

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

Card numbers 73 - 99 in the 1991 Upper Deck set are team checklists that feature great artwork of each team's top players on the front.

Each card features a combination of a close-up image of each player and an action shot.

It's only fitting that the Bulls' checklist features Jordan doing what he did best: soaring high above the rim.

The reverse of each card lists each player on the team, with team leaders in assists, blocked shots, points, and rebounds shown in bold lettering.

1991 Upper Deck #75 Bulls Checklist Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #48 Michael Jordan All-Star Checklist

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

Card numbers 49 - 72 in the set feature each player who participated in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game on February 10, 1991, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Card number 48 served as a checklist for those cards, with Michael Jordan shown on the front going up for the score.

The East squeaked out a 116-114 victory over the West that day, with Michael Jordan leading all scorers with 26 points.

However, he was sloppy that day and also led everyone in turnovers with ten.

Charles Barkley put on quite a show that day as well, scoring 17 points and grabbing an absurd 22 rebounds to win the All-Star Game MVP Award.

It shows you how popular Jordan was that he would still be the face of the 1991 NBA All-Star Game on this checklist card despite Barkley being the MVP that day.

1991 Upper Deck #48 Michael Jordan All-Star Checklist Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #69 Michael Jordan All-Star

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

Jordan's 1991 All-Star Game shows a fantastic action shot of him going up and under the outstretched arm of the West's Tom Chambers for the score as Tim Hardaway looks on in the background.

Despite his ten turnovers that day, Jordan was excellent overall as he poured in 26 points while grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists to help lead the East on offense.

1991 Upper Deck #69 Michael Jordan All-Star Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #452 Michael Jordan All-Star

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

As part of the 100 cards in the second series distributed later in the year, Upper Deck issued All-Star cards for each player in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida.

After the East narrowly defeated the West 116-114 in the 1991 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, things didn't go so well for them in Orlando the following year.

Led by the 1992 NBA All-Star MVP, Magic Johnson, the West roasted the East 153-113 in the most lopsided NBA All-Star Game in league history.

Jordan again led the East in scoring with 18 points, but the main problem for the East was that the West seemingly couldn't miss that day.

As a unit, the West shot an unbelievable 65.3% while the East shot a more typical 43.6%, pretty much the same as the year before when they shot 43.1%.

The starting five for the West (Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, and David Robinson) went 37 - 50 or 74% from the field and just couldn't be stopped.

1991 Upper Deck #452 Michael Jordan All-Star Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #173 Shawn Kemp

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

Shawn Kemp didn't make the All-Star Team on the 1991-1992 season, but he was sure beginning to look like one.

It was the first of six straight seasons in which Kemp would average a double-double in scoring and rebounds after scoring 15.5 points and grabbing 10.4 boards per game.

He was also tough on defense, averaging 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

Clearly, Shawn Kemp had arrived and established himself as one of the league's best power forwards and top players overall.

By the following season, Kemp would rattle off six straight All-Star Game appearances and earned three straight Second-Team All-NBA Honors from the 1993-94 to 1995-96 seasons.

One of the most exciting things about Kemp's game was his ability to jump through the roof, and this card perfectly captured his incredible leaping ability.

It's one of the best-looking cards in the set. 

1991 Upper Deck #173 Shawn Kemp Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #254 Hakeem Olajuwon

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

The 1990s started a bit rough for Hakeem Olajuwon as he took an elbow from Chicago's Bill Cartwright to the eye socket that caused him to miss significant time during the 1990-91 season.

After returning, he helped lead the Rockets into the playoffs, but the Los Angeles Lakers quickly swept them in the first round.

His per-game averages of 21.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks (tops in the league) were as solid as ever, but the season ended in disappointment for the Rockets.

An accelerated heartbeat forced Olajuwon to miss several games early in the 1991-92 season but, despite being named to his seventh All-Star Game, the Rockets were terrible as a team. Barely finishing above .500 at 42-40, Houston missed the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Olajuwon's relationship with team ownership went south in a hurry as he expressed frustration in what he perceived to be a lack of desire to build a championship team.

Fortunately, that relationship improved and he stuck around as the team would win back-to-back titles just a couple of seasons later. 

1991 Upper Deck #254 Hakeem Olajuwon Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #3 Dikembe Mutombo Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Looking to shore things up on defense, the Denver Nuggets took Dikembe Mutombo with the fourth pick of the 1991 NBA Draft and changed their franchise immediately.

After ranking dead last in the NBA during the 1990-91 season by allowing an absurd 130.8 points per game, Mutombo's presence down low helped the team reduce that mark to 107.6 points per game.

At 7'2" and 245 pounds, Mutombo utilized his size and athletic ability to average three blocks, 12.3 rebounds, and 16.6 points per game and made the All-Star Team and All-Rookie Team in the process.

Over the years, Mutombo became notorious for his signature move where he wagged his finger at opponents after blocking their shots, something he did 3,289 times during his twenty seasons in the NBA.

By the time he retired, Mutombo was an eight-time All-Star, won four Defensive Player of the Year Awards, two rebounding titles, and led the NBA in blocks three times to solidify himself as one of the best big men of his era

1991 Upper Deck #3 Dikembe Mutombo Rookie Card

1991 Upper Deck #446 Dikembe Mutombo

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Along with his rookie card released in the first series, Mutombo also appears in the "NBA Top Prospects" subset in the second series.

And, it's one of the best-looking cards in the entire set.

Featuring two of the greatest shot blockers in NBA history, Mutombo is captured posterizing the 7'7" Manute Bol with a huge dunk.

Bol blocked 205 shots during the 1991-92 season, but this wasn't one of them...

1991 Upper Deck #446 Dikembe Mutombo Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #2 Larry Johnson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

After starring at UNLV during his college days, Larry Johnson took the NBA by storm when the Charlotte Hornets drafted him with the number one pick in the 1991 NBA Draft.

During his rookie season, Johnson did not disappoint, as he posted 19.2 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.

Fans soon knew Johnson as "Grandmama," a character he played on television commercials to help advertise Converse shoes.

Johnson paced the league by playing 40.5 minutes per game during his sophomore season in 1992-93, which helped him average 22.1 points and 10.5 points per game on his way to earning his first of two All-Star Game appearances.

At the height of his game during the early 1990s, Johnson was one of the most dominant power forwards in the league.

But after five seasons in Charlotte, Johnson left for New York to finish off the remaining five seasons of his career with the Knicks, where he didn't have to shine as much and moved to the small forward position.

Johnson probably didn't quite live up to the huge expectations placed on his shoulders but was still one of the most popular players in the NBA during his era.

And, when it first hit store shelves, his 1991 Upper Deck rookie card was one of the most popular in the hobby.

1991 Upper Deck #2 Larry Johnson Rookie Card

1991 Upper Deck #445 Larry Johnson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

Johnson also appeared in the "NBA Top Prospects" set as he backs down an opposing Denver Nuggets defender.

It's tough to tell who's guarding Johnson, but it almost looks like it could be Mutombo, given the wrist bands, knee pads, and spandex shorts.

After doing some research, Orlando Woolridge also wore similar game gear when he played for the Nuggets, but he only played with them during the 1990-91 season.

Larry Johnson didn't play until the 1991-92 season, so it couldn't have been Woolridge as this photo would've had to have been snapped during the 1991-92 season.

If it is Mutombo, which seems likely, it would've been great to see this card zoomed out a bit more to get a look at both players, similar to the Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan card earlier.

Oh well, it's still a great-looking early card for Larry Johnson anyway.

1991 Upper Deck #445 Larry Johnson Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #125 Scottie Pippen

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

In his fifth year in the NBA, Scottie Pippen turned in one of the best seasons of his seventeen-year Hall of Fame career and made his second All-Star Team for his efforts.

Pippen turned things up another notch that season, playing 38.6 minutes per game and upping his production to 21 points, 7.7 rebounds, and a career-high seven assists per game.

All the while, he continued to morph into one of the top defenders in the league and earned his first of eight-straight First-Team All-Defensive honors.

As if he and Michael Jordan weren't big enough headaches to deal with on offense, they were an absolute nightmare for opposing teams on defense.

Ultimately, Pippen and the Bulls were too much for the rest of the league to handle.

For the second-straight year in a row, they brought home an NBA Championship to their adoring fans in the city of Chicago as their dynasty gained momentum.

1991 Upper Deck #125 Scottie Pippen Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #4 Steve Smith Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

After a standout collegiate career at Michigan State, the Miami Heat drafted Steve Smith with the fifth overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft looking to capitalize on his excellent perimeter shooting skills.

The young team already had an outside threat in Glen Rice, but Smith would make things twice as difficult for opposing teams to defend.

The plan worked as the Heat finished fourth in the Atlantic Division, earning a playoff spot against Michael Jordan and the defending champion Chicago Bulls.

Smith played well in the series, averaging 16 points and 5 assists per game while shooting 7-11 from beyond the arc.

However, the Bulls outclassed the Heat, sweeping them in three games.

Smith would continue to be one of the best perimeter shooters in the league for years to come and is best remembered for his time with the Atlanta Hawks, during which he appeared in the only All-Star Game of his career in 1998.

1991 Upper Deck #4 Steve Smith Rookie Card

1991 Upper Deck #45 Magic Johnson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Throughout the 1980s, with Magic Johnson leading the charge, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the most dominant franchises in the NBA.

And by the time the 1990-91 season rolled around, Johnson had already picked up three MVP Awards, five NBA Championship rings and three Finals MVPs.

That season, he and the Lakers fought their way back to the NBA Finals, but Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls quickly shut the door in the face, signaling a transition to a new era in basketball.

But no one could have known that it would be Magic's last full season in the NBA.

In a shocking announcement before the 1991-92 season kicked off, Johnson announced that he had contracted HIV and would retire in his early 30s after just twelve seasons in the NBA.

Johnson did return play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and took home the MVP Award in the process, but he would never again play an entire season of NBA basketball, making only a brief comeback during the 1995-96 season.

Basketball historians and fans will look back on Magic Johnson as arguably the greatest point guard who ever played, but sadly, his career was cut way too short.

1991 Upper Deck #45 Magic Johnson Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #344 Larry Bird

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

While Johnson and the Lakers ruled the West during the 1980s, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics were busy tearing up the East.

Ever since Bird and Johnson went head-to-head during the 1979 NCAA Championship, the two had been arch-rivals on the hardwood.

And, that rivalry spilled over into the NBA and led to many heated showdowns between the Celtics and Lakers throughout the 1980s.

Like Johnson, however, Larry Bird didn't play too far into the 1990s as chronic back problems continued to nag at him, forcing him to retire after the close of the 1991-92 season.

However, during his thirteenth and final year in the NBA, Bird still put up impressive numbers, averaging 20.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game while earning a spot on the East All-Star Team roster for the twelfth time.

With three MVP Awards, two Finals MVP Awards, three NBA titles, ten All-NBA selections, three All-Defensive Team selections to his name, the 1979-80 NBA Rookie of the Year dominated over thirteen incredible seasons.

1991 Upper Deck #344 Larry Bird Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #185 Dennis Rodman

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

To say that Dennis Rodman's career took off during the 1990s is an understatement.

There's no question that he was a key contributor to many great Detroit Pistons teams during the 1980s, but he really came into his own when he became Detroit's official starting small forward during the 1990-1991 season.

Rodman started 77 games that season and averaged double-digit rebounds (12.5) for the first time in his career, establishing himself as one of the top rebounders in the league.

But, no one could have predicted what he'd do during the 1991-92 season...

Whether he made a mental adjustment, technique change, or both, it paid huge dividends as he averaged an incredible, league-leading, and career-high 18.7 rebounds per game.

Three times during the season, Rodman surpassed 30 rebounds when he grabbed 32 on the road in Charlotte, 34 at home against the Pacers, and 31 on the road in Sacramento.

Rodman's 1,530 rebounds during the season were a career-high and nobody has come anywhere close to surpassing that total since then.

1991 Upper Deck #185 Dennis Rodman Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #256 Reggie Miller

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

Known as one of the greatest shooters of all time, Reggie Miller spent his 18-year career with the Indiana Pacers and was beloved throughout Indiana.

However, he wasn't as well-liked in neighboring Illinois, where he and the Pacers gave the Chicago Bulls and their fanbase in that region plenty of headaches over the years.

And he was absolutely despised by New York Knicks fans (especially Spike Lee) as his clutch play against them over the years earned him the nickname "Knick Killer."

Unfortunately for Miller, he and the Pacers never did get over the hump to earn an NBA Championship but came very close when they fought the Los Angeles Lakers tooth and nail in the 2000 NBA Finals before losing in six.

As a 1996 USA Men's Olympic team member, he did get a gold medal.

Miller retired in 2005 as a five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA member, and the all-time leader in three-pointers made with 2,560 from downtown.

Eventually, Ray Allen would snap that record in 2011.

But Miller is still regarded as one of the greatest shooters from beyond the arc, or anywhere on the court for that matter.

1991 Upper Deck #256 Reggie Miller Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #345 Charles Barkley

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

For the sixth season in a row, Charles Barkley made the All-Star Team during the 1991-92 season as one of the top players in the NBA.

And for the seventh season in a row, Barkley averaged a double-double in points (23.1) and rebounds (11.1).

Barkley remained elite, but the 76ers were terrible that year, finishing 35-47 and failing to make the playoffs.

With a burning desire to win a championship and growing frustration at the lack of success in Philadelphia, Barkley demanded a trade following the season.

Barkley found himself with the Phoenix Suns by the following season and quickly thrived there, winning the MVP Award in his first season with the team.

Unfortunately, he never did get an NBA Championship ring with Phoenix nor with the Houston Rockets with whom he played the final four years of his Hall of Fame career.

This card is one of the best-looking in the set as Barkley goes up for the jam with a determined Michael Jordan right behind him trying to stop Sir Charles.

1991 Upper Deck #345 Charles Barkley Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck #343 Patrick Ewing

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

Patrick Ewing was dominant throughout the 1991-92 season and continued to solidify his legacy as one of the best big men in the game's history.

Averaging 24 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game, Ewing was a nightmare for opposing teams to defend, and his notorious fadeaway didn't make things any easier.

Unfortunately for Ewing and the New York Knicks, however, they were at their best when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were becoming a dynasty.

The Bulls knocked the Knicks out of the playoffs in 1989, 1991, and 1992.

However, the Knicks didn't go down without a fight during the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals, as they took the Bulls to seven games in one of the most grueling series of the 1990s.

Ewing averaged 22.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game during the Semifinals, but the Knicks fell apart in Game 7, losing to Chicago on the road in a 110-81 blowout.

Ewing is on a list of great players who never got a ring, primarily due to Jordan and Scottie Pippen collecting so many.

1991 Upper Deck #343 Patrick Ewing Basketball Card

1991 Upper Deck Basketball Cards In Review

The 1991-92 Upper Deck basketball card set contained 500 cards in total that were released in two series, 400 in the first series followed by another 100 in the second.

When they were first released, collectors went nuts over the Larry Johnson rookie card as he was supposed to be the next big thing after a dominant run at UNLV.

Though he didn't quite live up to expectations, he still had a solid career.

And, for years after, this set kind of faded into a distant memory.

Unopened Box of 1991 Upper Deck Basketball Cards

However, with the resurgence of the sports card market, these cards have started to draw collectors in again who are full of nostalgia for this era.

And, collectors looking for Michael Jordan cards are drawn to this set as there are many to be found inside.

Still, it's important to note that they'll need to be graded in top condition for them to have any respectable value.

Value and condition aside, though, this set remains one of my favorite basketball card sets from the early 1990s as it's packed with so many great players.

Ross Uitts

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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