Although the casual perception is that the Chicago Bulls are nothing more than the vehicle that Michael Jordan rode to the top, the team has a strong assortment of collecting options in addition to their six NBA titles from the 1990s. The following guide counts down the top modern and vintage rookie cards from the history of the Chicago Bulls.
Since it is hard to rank cards from different eras, even based on value, the list was split into two periods. The first and largest rookie card list contains the top rookies from before 2000. The list on the following tab covers those that came after 2000. The actual rankings were based on card values, but when the values were close, the overall relevance of the player was taken into account.
Top Chicago Bulls Rookie Cards of All-Time
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An important part of the early-Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, B. J. Armstrong's rookie card came at a time of overproduction and unimpressive designs. His 1990-91 Fleer is one of several rookie options for Armstrong that can all be found in the dollar bin.
Reggie Theus spent seven productive seasons in Chicago, achieving two All-Star selections. His rookie in 1979-80 Topps is very inexpensive.
One of the first Europeans stars to play in the NBA, Toni Kukoc won three titles with Chicago and the 1996 Sixth Man of the Year Award. While there are several rookie options to pick from, 1993-94 Finest is the top choice and Refractors command a slight premium.
A fan favorite for the Bulls and part of five titles with the team, Ron Harper is remembered fondly for his contributions. His 1987-88 Fleer rookie card is an inexpensive rookie option for a fan or collector of the Bulls.
Another important player during the first three titles of the 1990s, fans of the Bulls likely remember John Paxson for his game-winning shot in Game Six of the 1993 NBA Finals. In addition to being a great budget rookie, Paxson's card in 1987-88 Fleer is an ideal option for mustache aficionados.
A defensive force and four-time champion with the Bulls, Horace Grant is remembered by many fans because of his on-court protective eyewear. Collectors can find Grant's rookie in 1988-89 Fleer, which is also the set for two other key rookie cards.
Easily one of the most colorful players in NBA history, despite his odd off-court behavior, Dennis Rodman was very impressive on the court. Rodman was a crucial part of the second three-peat and a fan favorite. His only rookie card is found in 1988-89 Fleer and offers a more subdued image of Rodman.
A name from the early years of the Chicago Bulls, Tom Boerwinkle was a productive seven-footer for the team in the 1970s. His spot on the list is largely based on the fact that his rookie debut came in the 1969-70 Topps set.
Chet Walker was a four-time All-Star with the Bulls and one of the best players on the team during the 1970s. The rookie card for the Hall of Fame forward is also found in 1969-70 Topps and remains quite cheap.
Known to many as the Hall of Fame head coach for the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan also put forth a strong playing career with the Chicago Bulls. Sloan was a two-time All-Star and four-time All-Defensive First Team with the Bulls and his number was retired by the team. His 1970-71 Topps rookie has a very generic look and features the most awkward image on the list.
Largely unappreciated his entire career while playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen was a legitimate star for the Bulls and a huge reason why the team made the jump from just winning games to winning titles. A large supply keeps his rookie card values in check but high grades can push over $300.
Part of the first three titles for the Bulls, Bill Cartwright may not have been the biggest name but he was a key contributor, especially in his first few years with the team. His rookie values are buoyed by being included with Larry Bird's rookie card. In addition to the version shown below, there are seven other cards which can be found for much cheaper.
Norm Van Lier was a three-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-Defensive First Team with the Bulls. His 1970-71 Topps rookie is part of the short-printed group, which gives it a slight value bump.
Don't let the shorts fool you, Bob Love was a great player for the Bulls. Love was a three-time All-Star with Chicago and one of only four players to have their number retired by the team. His tall boy rookie can be found in 1969-70 Topps.
One of the best players for the Bulls before Michael Jordan, Artis Gilmore was a four-time All-Star in Chicago. Despite being a Hall of Fame player, rookie cards for Gilmore in 1972-73 Topps can still be found for reasonable amounts.
The "Zen Master" did not carry the same aura with his shaggy hair and mustache, but Phil Jackson had a long career with the NBA before making the move to coaching. His second career is where he made his mark on the Bulls, leading Chicago to six titles. Prices for his 1972-73 rookie can get expensive in higher grades, but low grades and ungraded versions go for much less.
Could there be any other choice? Michael Jordan will always be the driving force behind basketball collecting and is a huge reason why the Bulls have such a widespread fan base to this day. His 1986-87 Fleer rookie is a collecting icon and will remain that way as long as card collecting exists.
The turn of the millennium saw a shift to high end cards and nowhere was that more apparent than basketball. Because of this, the top Chicago Bulls rookie cards from 2000 to present are included in the following list.
Top Modern Chicago Bulls Rookie Cards of All-Time
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Part of the celebrated 2003-04 NBA rookie class, "Captain Kirk" has had a good run in Chicago during his two stints with the team. His base rookie in 2003-04 Exquisite still sees decent interest and value.
A key part of the Bulls for over a decade, Luol Deng was a largely undervalued player. The two-time All-Star was eventually traded out of Chicago, but his contributions will not be forgotten. The top rookie for Deng is found in 2004-05 Exquisite.
Ben Gordon only spent five years in Chicago, but these were some of the best years of his career and he was named the Sixth Man of the Year and All-Rookie First Team in 2005. His top rookie is also available in 2004-05 Exquisite, but there are many other options available.
A bundle of energy on the court and a tremendous defender, Joakim Noah has endeared himself to Bulls fans based on his strong play. Continuing a theme from this period of basketball collecting, 2007-08 Exquisite is the top rookie option for Noah.
It still remains to be seen if Derrick Rose can reassert himself as one of the top players in the NBA following several injuries. His limited rookie in 2008-09 Exquisite still maintains strong values and could easily spike if Rose can return to his former dominance.