Manute Bol — the only player in NBA history to record more blocked shots than points in his career — died on Saturday at age 47, leaving behind a legacy of trying to help people in his native Sudan.
His legacy on cardboard, despite playing 10 seasons in the NBA? Not so lengthy.
The 7-foot-7 center played for four NBA teams but appears on just 98 cards, his lone Rookie Card coming in the landmark 1986-87 Fleer set — it’s worth just $2.
He has just 15 certified autographs. His most plentiful signed card — so far — is his 2009-10 Rookies & Stars Retired NBA Team Patches Signatures set from Panini America, which is limited to just 199 copies.
Bol’s most expensive autograph card is found in the 2006-07 Topps Full Court Co-Signers set, a release that he shares with Golden State Warriors legend and Hall of Famer Rick Barry.
Five of Bol’s autographed cards are 1/1s, so there are really only 10 signed cards one will reasonably find when hunting for his memorabilia. And of those cards, all but two have known print runs — and there are fewer than 300 autographs to be had.
Bol is indicative of a trend that Panini is starting to change as it’s now the exclusive manufacturer of NBA cards — players who are under-represented on cardboard, despite having a memorable place in the game.
Several products this year have included autograph and memorabilia cards from players that collectors haven’t seen in some time. They’re not always necessarily superstars — like Manute Bol — but there just might be collectors out there who would want their cards since they have so few.
For example, former Alabama star Robert Horry went his entire NBA career without signing a certified autograph. His lone signed cards can be found in the 1992 Star Pics Autographs set, which shows him in a Crimson Tide uniform. In contrast, LeBron James appears on 930 different autographed cards, while Michael Jordan appears on 1,152 — and that’s not including his 13 autographed baseball cards, either.
Would there be interest in his autographed cards? Perhaps, considering he played for a few memorable championship teams — the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs — winning a total of seven rings. He’s tied for fourth-highest in league history — ahead of guys like Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. (Sounds like he would be a logical inclusion in a championship-themed set despite not having the Hall of Fame credentials of these guys, right?)
Bol (and Horry) are not alone in being under-represented on cardboard — there are many other players who have too few card appearances considering their successes.
However sometimes you don’t realize it until it’s too late.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.