20 Larry Bird Basketball Cards You Need To Own
Larry Bird basketball cards continue to be extremely popular among sports card collectors.
Larry Legend was just that: a basketball legend.
For thirteen seasons, Bird put his heart and soul into the game and put fear into every other team. When all was said and done he’d win 3 NBA championships, 3 MVP awards and be named to 12 All-Star teams.
Because of this, he’s one of the most popular players of all-time and one of the most highly collected in the basketball card hobby.
Appearing on Topps, Hoops, Fleer, Skybox and Upper Deck issues over the years, there are several key Larry Bird cards that any serious collector should own.
Here is a list of his top cards that you should consider for your collection.
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1980 Topps #16 Larry Bird Rookie Card
This entire Topps set has risen to fame mainly because of the legacy that Bird and Johnson went on to leave. They were fierce rivals in college and throughout their NBA careers so Topps was smart to pair them up on this card. While originally the three-panelled card was not a favorite among collectors, this card in particular became an amazing coincidence by showcasing three of basketball’s best known heroes: Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Magic Johnson. The card is extremely difficult to find in decent condition as copies are riddled with print defects. Larry Bird rookie cards are not the cheapest in the hobby, and are near the top of the most valuable basketball cards in the hobby.
Estimated PSA 10 value: $40,000
1981 Topps #4
After finishing 1980 as the NBA Rookie of The Year and making it to the NBA All-Star team, Larry blasted into ‘81 with all kinds of momentum. It would be the first of the three years that Larry would lead The Celtics to win the NBA Championship. The card features a somewhat bland photo of Bird wearing a Celtics jacket warming up pre-game. The border is green, matching the team colors perfectly. The bottom left corner highlights Larry’s position, name and team in an almost comic-like blast.
Estimated PSA 10 value: $750
1986 Fleer #9
1986 was a huge year for Larry Bird. He would win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award for the third year in a row in the ‘86 season. He also would take the Celtics to win the championship for a third time, and be named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for his contributions to the victory. His 1986 Fleer card features an action shot of Bird mid-dribble. The photo is outlined in yellow and placed on a red-white-and-blue striped background. While mint condition cards can go for $700, you can grab a near-mint for around $20 to commemorate this legendary year in Bird’s career. Clearly, the Michael Jordan rookie card is the key to this famous set but Bird’s card is essential, too.
Estimated PSA 10 value: $700
This card came out right in the middle of the ’80s when Bird and Johnson’s rivalry was arguably at its height. Bird and Johnson even appeared in a commercial for Converse shoes with an epic one-on-one match, playing off of the duo’s real life rivalry. The commercial was showcasing Converse’s new “weapon” basketball shoe line.
1987 Fleer #11
While ‘86 was Bird’s big year, the 1987 #11 card is far more valuable. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find a decent specimen of this card. The card was likely in the last row for printing and is notorious for centering issues. The design of this card has Fleer written all over it with its blocky gray borders and overall color scheme. Mint copies of this card can go for triple the price of the 1986 Bird card, usually maxing out around $2,500 – 3,000.
Estimated PSA 10 value: $2,500
1988 Fleer #9
The 1988 Fleer Larry Bird basketball card shows an in-game Larry running down the court with a Laker legend James Worthy close behind. The photo has a border that is both light and dark green. A black and white gradient is set behind the framing of the picture. It’s not as expensive as other Bird cards but a keeper nonetheless.
Estimated PSA 10 value: $50
1989 Fleer #8
Debilitating injuries plagued Larry for much of 1989. He had to have bone spurs surgically removed from his heels and continued to suffer back trouble which he had battled with for most of his adult life. The card has a nice, clean design that matches the Boston uniform perfectly. A close-up, candid shot of Larry fills the front of the card, with a small Boston Celtics logo in the upper right corner. The back of the card features some of Larry’s stats and some facts about his early career.
1989 Hoops #150
While ‘89 wasn’t so great for Bird health wise, it was a great year on a personal level. He married his wife, Dinah Mattingly, who he is still with today. Dinah was an Indiana state native who went to the same college as Bird. The two have raised two adopted children. Hoops burst onto the basketball card scene in 1989 with its unforgettable design featuring players in an arch-shaped photo. While David Robinson’s rookie card is the key to the set, the Larry Bird is also a must-have.
1990 Fleer #8
Health problems continued to plague Bird in the 1990 season. He compressed a nerve root in his back which caused him to miss 22 games that year. He went on to have a disc in his back surgically removed, however his deteriorating spine would push him to retire in the years to come. His 1990 Fleer card shows a nice shot of Bird in the middle of one of his legendary jumpshots.
1990 Hoops #39
Hoops used an action shot of Bird driving hard to the basket. The frame around the shot is a carryover from their 1989 design, but the gradient gray background behind it and position of player name and team info mixed things up. Larry’s name and position are seen in the top left corner of the card.
1990 Skybox #14
The 1990 Skybox set features full color on both the front and back of the cards. A cut out of Bird dribbling the ball is placed over a heavily edited background, not unlike the school photo backdrops of the time. The back shows Larry sitting courtside, watching the game play out, as he would have had to for so many games that season. You can pick up a mint condition card for under $20, so really why wouldn’t you?
1991 Fleer #8
Coming back after surgery, Larry just wasn’t the powerhouse that he once was. He had to sit out more games in the ‘91 season than the previous year. In total, he would miss 37 games that year due to severe back pain. The Fleer card features Bird mid game, coming down with a hard-earned rebound. The thick blue border on the left was an interesting design choice at the time making the 1991 Fleer set easily recognizable.
1991 Hoops #9
The ‘91 season did have a true moment of glory for Larry. In one of the few games that he was physically able to play, he scored a whopping 49 points! The Celtics went on to win in double-overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers. This card shows Larry barreling down the court with the ball, determined to score. If he scored on that particular play, surely there’d be some trash talk to follow. Bird was as infamous for his trash-talking as he was famous for his skills on the court.
1991 Skybox #12
Heavily edited photos were a staple of the nineties. Computer graphics were taking off in leaps and bounds, and no sports cards were safe. This card has an image of Bird taking a shot with a giant, green, three-dimensional star behind him. A large pink beam lays behind the star. You can own some of these excellent graphics yourself for around $15.
1991 Upper Deck #344
This Upper Deck card features Bird fighting off a defender in the post on his way to score. The 1991 Upper Deck set was beautifully designed with its great action shots and hardwood graphic design along the right and bottom of the cards.
1992 Fleer #11
In 1992, the Celtics would make it to the semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bird was having an exceptionally bad time with his back, and ended up missing 4 out of 7 games. Cleveland would beat Boston in the 7th game, winning the Eastern Conference. This card features some neat textures in the border. The space behind Larry’s name looks like a painted basketball, which was kind of an interesting touch to the design, although it does make it harder to read the lettering.
1992 Hoops #10
In a time of overused graphics, Hoops got it right with a clean design over a sharp action photo. These cards are easy to come by for under $10, so what better way to honor the year Bird took home the gold medal than with this fine piece of sports memorabilia.
1992 Skybox #10
Larry once again got to make history in the summer of ‘92. He was one of the players chosen to be on the very first Olympic basketball team from the United States that featured pro NBA players–the infamous “Dream Team”. Michael Jordan and Bird’s rival-turned-friend, Magic Johnson would join Larry in Spain. The greats came home sporting gold medals around their necks. The 1992 Skybox set put the focus on the photos by eliminating borders and backgrounds altogether. The result looks great, relying on excellent action shots instead of computer graphics. They also gave a nod to the “Dream Team” with the “USA Basketball” logo in the bottom right. Taken in his last season of professional basketball, this card is an affordable, good-looking piece to any Larry Bird basketball card collection.
1992 Stadium Club #33
Stadium Club took a similar route, showcasing borderless photos as their card fronts. In the case of this card, the result is less eye catching. The image would actually be much more impressive as poster than a pocket sized picture. Due to the low price of this card, it is an easy one to find autographed, with multiple sources selling signed specimens for around $30.
1992 Topps #1
The final Larry Bird Topps card features a photo of Bird just moments before shooting the ball. In the summer of 1992, he would announce his retirement from the NBA, mainly because of his never-ending back problems. He would go on to have a very successful career in the basketball world off the courts as a coach and president of the Indiana Pacers.
1992 Upper Deck #3A
The final card on our list today has a fairly traditional design with a mid game action shot on the front. The colors on the bottom border match the jersey colors in the photo perfectly, which is a nice touch. It’s the sixth card available from his retirement year, and an excellent conclusion for any fan’s set.
Larry Bird Basketball Cards Wrap-Up
Larry Bird is a true basketball legend from the golden age of the sport. He is an Olympic gold medalist, a three time NBA champ and a three time NBA Most Valuable Player. He rose from a difficult family life in Indiana to being one of the greats alongside Michael Jordan and Bird’s long time friendly rival, Magic Johnson. While his impressive career was cut short due to a progressive back injury, Larry has still remained as an important Basketball figure.
In the years that followed Larry’s retirement, he became a very successful coach for the Indiana Pacers, even winning the NBA Coach of the Year award. Bird had signed on to coach under the agreement that he would do it for three years, no more and no less. After his three years were up, he came back to the Indiana Pacers as the President of Basketball Operations. He serves in this position today, and makes his business decisions just as cutthroat as his game playing. He’s even managed to win awards in this role, taking home the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year title.
The Celtics retired Bird’s number 33 shortly after he retired as a player. In 1998, Larry was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. A crowd of fans joined him for the induction, chanting his name as he joined the ranks of the everlasting basketball greats. As far as stats go, Larry was the first ever player to shoot 50% or higher on field goals. His player efficiency rating ranks him at 18th of all time. He is ranked 5th of all time for triple doubles. Larry has been described as the epitome of loving the game of basketball and playing it passionately. It’s not hard to see why so many have added Larry Bird to their list of basketball card must-haves.
Since his retirement as a player, Bird has served as a coach and then as the president of basketball operations for his home state team, The Indiana Pacers. We’ve brought together some of the best Larry Bird basketball cards out there with this list. These cards commemorate the 13 seasons of glory he had playing for the Boston Celtics. Any true basketball fan’s collection just wouldn’t be complete without Larry. We hope you’ve enjoyed the list.