The 2009 Kings of Cardboard
With 2009 now in the books, here is a look back at the top 50 sports card hobby stars of the past year. These outstanding performers have earned the distinction of being the 2009 Kings of Cardboard:
1. Sidney Crosby, 22, Penguins C
2009 saw Crosby fulfill his destiny and win a Stanley Cup. Who on earth does this by age 22? No one does! That's what makes Crosby the most dominant presence in the entire hobby. I saw a crazy stat in Beckett several months ago, Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky account for 1.3% of the total value of every hockey card ever made!
Key Rookies: 2005-06 The Cup #300 Sidney Crosby JSY AU /99 RC ($10,000), 2005-06 Upper Deck #201 Young Guns RC ($300), 2005-06 SP Authentic #181 Sidney Crosby AU RC /999 ($700)
2. LeBron James, 24, Cavs F
LeBron James is perhaps the most talented athlete we've ever seen. As a fan in a small market town (Minnesota), I hate to say this, but I don't know if LeBron can fulfill his destiny in Cleveland. The NBA's Salary Cap is claustrophobic, rigid, and doesn't balance things at all. In what other league can you trade a retired player (Terrell Brandon) for Sam Cassel? LeBron's situation is eerily similar to what Kevin Garnett went through with the Timberwolves. The NBA's gotta get its act together so LeBron can win in Cleveland. Clearing cap space shouldn't be a 5-year plan of trading for expiring contracts! No matter where King James sets his throne down (Timberwolves? We run the triangle, the same version that MJ and Kobe played in), he will remain the NBA's king of cardboard for the next decade.
Key Rookies: 2003-04 Exquisite Collection #78 JSY AU RC ($11,000), 2003-04 Topps Chrome #111 RC ($80), 2002-03 Finest #178 XRC ($180), 2002-03 Finest #178 LeBron James XRC ($180)
3. Kobe Bryant, 31, Lakers SG
Kobe finally answered his critics in 2009 by winning his 4th NBA Championship, more importantly, his first without Shaq. The greatest debate in sports is LeBron or Kobe? Right now, Kobe's cold as ice clutch shooting, championship rings, and track record place him slightly ahead on the court. On cardboard, LeBron is the king of basketball.
Key Rookies: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 ($800), 1996-97 Topps Chrome #138 ($275), 1996-97 Finest #74 Kobe Bryant B RC ($50)
4. Albert Pujols, 29, Cardinals 1B
The only thing that holds sports fans back from fully embracing Pujols is the shadow of doubt cast by the steroid sluggers. Fortunately for Cardinals fans, Pujols will just have to continue to put up mind-boggling numbers to prove his innocence. If Pujols can maintain his dominance for the next decade, I think we can come to one conclusion. That's he's either the best hitter since Teddy Ballgame or a robot that will destroy the human race after he destroys every record in baseball.
Key Rookies: 2001 Bowman Chrome #341 AU RC ($4,000), 2001 Bowman #264 RC ($80), 2001 Upper Deck #295 SR RC ($60)
5. Alexander Ovechkin, 24, Capitals C
The “Anti-Crosby" is one of the most entertaining athletes on Earth. He will forever live in the Hobby shadow of “Sid the Kid", but the Russian Sniper embraces this role. On top of being the NHL's most lethal goal scorer, he sells the sport of hockey as well as anyone. During last season's Conference Semi-Finals, Ovechkin sat in the stands during a Penguins practice and stared down Crosby! That's good stuff. Ovechkin-Crosby is the modern day version of Magic-Bird. It's too bad they play in the same conference.
Key Rookies: 2005-06 The Cup #179 JSY AU /99 RC ($4,500). 2005-06 Upper Deck #443 Young Guns RC ($120), 2005-06 SP Authentic #190 AU RC ($600)