The 2000s were the height of my basketball card collecting. 2001-02 Topps was a product where I opened several retail boxes, and with an exciting rookie class (at the time) and a design that I liked, I decided to put the set together. The base set was no problem, and I completed it with ease, only having to trade for a handful of cards. The rookies though, were another story. Rookies were inserted with 1:4 odds, at least in the packs I was opening, so you weren’t pulling a rookie out of every pack like a lot of the products today. They seemed to have varying odds depending on what type of pack. I’m finding odds ranging from 1:3 to 1:6. Not sure on odds from jumbo packs, but I’d assume they’d show up in every jumbo pack (38 cards). Since I had the base set minus rookies put together, I tried to complete the set of rookies as well, and over the years, I got pretty close. Only 36 draft picks were included, which made it easier, and as of now I’m just two cards short, Samuel Dalembert #245 and Ken Johnson #254.
And not only were these inserted less frequently than normal base cards, but some were redemption cards, pretty rare for base rookie cards. The Dalembert in question is one of those redemptions, which explains why it’s tough to track down. The Tyson Chandler #2, Eddie Griffin #7, Steven Hunter #15, Jeryl Sasser #22, and Tony Parker #28, at least, were redemptions as well.
A trio of high school prospects went in the top 5 of this draft. Kwame had a tough time as a Jordan teammate, and while he had a solid career, it wasn’t a franchise changing career like teams hope for from a top pick.
Tyson Chandler is technically still an active player, although he wasn’t rostered in 2020-21. For me his most memorable season was starting at center for the 2011 champion Mavericks. What was so baffling for me was the change in his play after leaving the Charlotte Bobcats and moving over to the Mavs. Completely different player from one season to the next. That aside, Tyson had a long and productive career, most of that time starting at center. He also started at center for Team USA in 2012. A career worthy of a #2 pick.
I’m a fan of the draft photos from these guys. Pau Gasol at this point had been playing FC Barcelona for several years before being picked by the Grizzlies. Pau ended up winning rookie of the year and having a hall of fame career, winning back to back titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
I appreciate the alternate images from draft night shown on the back of the cards. Especially the Gasol, which is showing him wearing a Hawks hat. The Hawks drafted him and traded him to the Grizzlies. Different caps between the front and back images.
Three picks in, 3 big men, and a fourth would come through with the next pick in Eddy Curry.
Curry teamed with Chandler on the ‘Baby Bulls’ featuring two frontcourt players right out of high school. By the end of the 2001-02 season, Chandler and Curry were starting, and the Bulls had traded Brad Miller, Ron Artest, and Ron Mercer to the Pacers for Jalen Rose and Travis Best, and the Bulls finished with a 21-61 record, and it didn’t get better the next few seasons.
Richardson had an excellent career with his best years coming on the Warriors and Phoenix. He was part of the ‘We Believe’ Warriors team who upset the Mavs as an 8 seed. He was also part of a Suns run to the Western Conference Finals, and early in his career he won the dunk contest in back to back years. Out of the top 6 cards, I think I like the Richardson the best.
Battier was a guy who everyone knew would come in and help right away. And sure enough, Gasol and Battier scored the most points for the Grizzlies their rookie season. The rest of the team wasn’t great, and they still finished with a 23-59 record.
Picks 7-9 were interesting. J.A. Adande wrote a story for ESPN on Griffin’s life leading up to a fatal car crash in 2007.
Diop had a long career for a player who averaged 2 points per game. He spent most of that time as a backup center but did start 93 games in his career. His biggest asset was his shot-blocking ability. He’s now an assistant coach with the Rockets.
Rodney White played most of his professional career abroad. He was never able to gain big minutes during his NBA career with Detroit, the Nuggets, and lastly with the Warriors.
Looking at picks 10-12, Johnson ended up being a solid player for many years, and a 7-time all-star, something I don’t think about with Johnson necessarily, but he was an all-star with the Hawks almost every year there. Johnson ended up playing in 120 playoff games. Only 101 players in NBA history played in more playoff games than Joe Johnson.
Kedrick Brown didn’t make much traction in the NBA. Radman on the other hand, was a part of some successful Sonics teams as a stretch big. Played with the Lakers and Warriors as well, among other teams, but his best times were in Seattle.
Some solid mid-round picks here. Jefferson made back to back finals appearances with the Nets and ended up being a highly sought after veteran at each stop after, including on the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Speaking of playoff games, Jefferson appeared in 140 of them.
Troy Murphy also had a successful career with Golden State and the Pacers, another stretch big and solid rebounder.
And if you’re looking for value at the 18th pick, look no further than Zach Randolph, a 2x all-star with Memphis. Remember the Knicks 2007-08 Knicks, who started Randolph alongside #4 pick from the same draft, Eddy Curry?
I’m not going through every pick in this draft. As you can see I started skipping some picks in the previous row. In the 20s we saw several Tar Heels picked. Haywood was a serviceable center for many years, a good value for a 20th pick.
Gerald Wallace has to be one of the top value picks of the 2000s. An All-Star at pick 25, an he helped get the Charlotte Bobcats to the playoffs!
Finally, we get into some gem point guard picks. Tinsley is a favorite of mine, and will have a dedicated post coming soon.
The most recently rookie from this set I added to my collection is the Parker. I quietly like to add Spurs like Parker and Robinson to my collection, and I’m really happy to have this Parker.
And I’ll close this post out with Agent 0, a 3-time all-star with the Wizards, and supreme value at the 31st pick.
If you look at the priciest rookies from this set today, it’s the Tony Parker, selling for $15 to $20 when you can find it, and the Pau Gasol is slightly less. But since these are short-printed, even some of the lesser known players aren’t readily available. For example, Ken Johnson, the guy I’m missing, returns 0 results when I search for 2001-02 Topps Ken Johnson. The Dalembert isn’t out there, either. It’s rare to see the Topps rookie less available than the Topps Chrome versions, but that’s exactly what’s happened with these cards.
Flipping through these cards brings back good memories of opening packs of 2001-02 Topps, and the chase and many message board trades that followed to pick up the rest of the rookies.
Are there any other base sets from basic brand sets (Topps/Fleer Tradition/Upper Deck/Panini) where the rookies are short printed like this?