Rookie Card Year: 1986-87
Investment Rating: 6.5
Isiah Thomas was one of the greatest point guards in NBA history and still managed considerable success despite paying in a period that was largely dominated by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. His competitive nature as a player, off-court issues, and coaching and executive stints have hurt his legacy somewhat, but Isiah Thomas rookie cards and memorabilia remain popular with collectors.
A standout at St. Joseph High School, Isiah Thomas chose to play college basketball for Indiana University and Bob Knight. Thomas was a star at Indiana, leading the team to the 1981 NCAA tournament title and winning the Most Outstanding Player award. After just two seasons, he elected to leave the Hoosiers and declared for the 1981 NBA Draft. The Detroit Pistons made Thomas the second overall selection and he spent his entire career with the team.
After making the NBA All-Star team as a starer during his rookie season, Isiah Thomas did not let up for many years. He totaled 12 All-Star sections and two All-Star MVPs during his 13-year career. Thomas' most memorable years took place as the "Bad Boys" of basketball, the Detroit Pistons, won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. Thomas was named the 1990 Finals MVP. After a few more good seasons, Thomas retired following an Achilles tear in 1994. His number was retired by the Pistons and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
From a collecting standpoint, Isiah Thomas did not debut in the ideal period. His rookie season in 1981-82 was the final year for Topps Basketball products for many years and the start of a lean period in basketball card collecting. Since Thomas was not included in 1981-82 Topps, his first NBA card was not available until 1983-84 Star. Although it is not considered his true rookie card by many collectors, this early Isiah Thomas card is a popular option. Thomas would have multiple cards courtesy of Star over the next few years, including various inserts. It was not until his sixth season in 1986-87 Fleer that his official rookie card was available to collectors.
Since that point, collectors have the normal assortment of options for Isiah Thomas until his final season in 1993-94. He was inconsistently included in products for the next decade or so until things picked up again in 2004-05 products. Thomas has been a regular inclusion in basketball products since then and has been a regular card signer for both Upper Deck and Panini in recent years.
Isiah Thomas Rookie Card and Other Key Early Cards
The earliest card available, even if it is not considered a true Isiah Thomas rookie, 1983-84 Star holds a special place for many collectors. The simple all-white design allows Thomas to be the primary focus of the card.
Sporting a crowded image, the live action shot in 1984-85 Star offers a candid look of the game and an inexpensive early card for Isiah Thomas.
The all-white border of 1985-86 Star carries a similar look to Thomas' first Star card. However, the logo for the Detroit Pistons was inadvertently left off, leaving a blank circle.
Released several years after his first NBA card, 1986-87 Fleer still holds the distinction as the official Isiah Thomas rookie card and several other Hall of Fame players. While the design is now part of hobby legend, Michael Jordan's card receives most of the focus and value. This means that rookie cards for most of the other players, including Thomas, can be found for budget prices.
A nice alternative if you are looking for something other than a traditional card, the sticker insert card from 1986-87 Fleer has a more classic design and a larger image of Thomas.