2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball Review

March 13, 2022

2021-22 Panini Contenders is a return of one of the most iconic card sets of all time, but at $600 per box, are contenders worth the investment? Let’s dive in for our full 2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball review.

Contenders 2021-22 Product Introduction

Contenders 2021-22 basketball hobby boxes are slated to release on March 30, 2022. Much like their football counterparts, Contenders Basketball brings back the rookie ticket autograph, cracked ice cards, and more.

The Contenders Rookie Ticket autograph is probably the single-most iconic rookie autograph from any set. Tom Brady has a Contenders Rookie Ticket Autograph – that’s how long they’ve been around! They predate Panini.

While the basketball product is comparatively newer, it’s still been around for over a decade. 2021-22 will continue the card tradition with a great new set of rookies.

The right Contenders’ rookie ticket can be worth a ton. Look for Luka tickets on eBay. 

2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball Review Of What To Expect

Considering buying a box of 2021-22 Contenders? Here’s what you need to know.

For one, Contenders is an autograph-driven product. That can’t be over-emphasized. It doesn’t include high-dollar rookie card pull potential like Optic, Prizm, Select, and other brands.

You won’t pull a “gold prizm rookie /10” that will sell for several thousand dollars. Most of the rookies are inserts and don’t demand big dollars. In fact, search “Contenders basketball” on eBay and see if you see any recent sales that aren’t an autograph or sealed products that sold for more than $30. If so, that’s a big pull.

The only genuine high-dollar cards you’ll find in Contenders are the rookie autographs (or the occasionally big-name veteran), so those are the cards you’re hoping to find. And the worst news? While Contenders football includes 5 autographs, basketball-only contains 2.

2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball Review Of Release Formats

Get 2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball hobby boxes on eBay. 

Speaking of, here’s how the boxes break down.

Hobby Box

  • 12 packs
  • 10 cards per pack
  • 2 autographs
  • 2 parallels
  • 8 inserts
  • $600 pre-order

Blaster Box

  • 8 packs
  • 5 cards per pack
  • 1 autograph or memorabilia
  • $30 estimated price

While there are no stated odds, the blasters seem to contain memorabilia instead of an autograph in every four out of five boxes, judging by watching a couple of case breaks from last year’s product. It’s a product that’s pretty stingy with autographs.

Is Cade Cunningham the top chase among this year’s rookies? Look for his Contender tickets on eBay. 

2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball Review Of The Checklist

“Tickets” are the theme running through the entire checklist. Of the eight inserts a box, you can find Legenderry Contenders, MVP Contenders, Rookie of the Year Contenders, Lottery Tickets, Suite Shots, and the Superstar die-cut. Bold prediction? None of these sell for too much since they’re not SPs. So don’t get too excited over the inserts.

There are SPs in this set: License to Dominate and Permit to Dominate. It’s tough to say how short-printed they’ll be, but you could expect a decent rookie/veteran to sell for around $50, judging on last year’s sales.

As mentioned, the autographs are the big-money cards here. Of the Contenders Basketball Autographs, parallels include 75th Anniversary, Cracked Ice Ticket, and Championship Ticket. The 75th-anniversary set has small 75s in the background and looks pretty nice.

Veteran Ticket Autographs are on-card autos from big-name veterans. They can include the Playoff Ticket, Finals Ticket, and Premium Edition Gold 1/1, which looks more like a card you might use, expect to come from NBA Hoops basketball, but that won’t stop it from selling well.

While no autograph checklist has officially been released, we expect it to be deep with many big names.

Permit to Dominate is one of the short prints in the release. Look for them on eBay.

2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball Review Of Value

2021-22 Contenders hobby boxes are pre-ordering for $600/box, but are they worth that price?

The most significant caution I’ve mentioned earlier but will repeat in case you’re skimming: the value in this product is in the autographs. There are two autographs per box. That alone should be a huge concern if you’re thinking about buying this product to rip.

Want even more caution? A LaMelo Ball rookie ticket autograph /99 from last year’s set recently sold for $585. That’s one of the best cards you can pull, and it still didn’t sell for as much as this year’s box is asking. Proceed with caution.


Perhaps you’re not buying this product to rip, but instead, you want to stash it and hold for the future.

Here’s how much the last four years of boxes sell for.

  • 2017-18 Contenders Basketball: $325
  • 2018-19 Contenders Basketball: $2,000
  • 2019-20 Contenders Basketball: $865
  • 2020-21 Contenders Basketball: $550

One clear message from these recent sales is that the box’s value significantly depends on the rookie class. Luka and Trae’s rookie year of 2018 sells for nearly 2x as much as the next best year, which Ja and Zion headline.

If you’re buying wax boxes of 2021-22 Contenders to hold, only do so if you believe the rookie class of Cunningham, Mobley, Barnes, and Giddey will hold up to the other great classes on this list.

The 2018-19 Contenders Basketball hobby box has held value well. See if you can get a good deal on eBay. 


Investing in singles is not a bad idea for Draft Picks. After all, the Rookie Ticket auto is one of the most desirable rookie autos to have long-term.

This is a big risk, big reward. If you’re buying an auto from one of the top rookies, you need to be prepared to pay a premium for it. The hope, obviously, is that the card will be worth more over time if the rookie season turns into a successful career. So you might be paying $500 for a top rookie auto today, but if it is eventually worth $6,000 (the current selling price of Luka’s RTAs), then you’ve made a great investment.

The strategy is simple: pay a lot for a player with a great chance of being great, or pick a player that’s not making headlines and hope he turns into a solid starter or even a fringe all-star. Just depends on how much you want to spend.

Bottomline Of The 2021-22 Panini Contenders Basketball Review

2021-22 Contenders Basketball is not a rip. You won’t make your money back, and if you somehow do, please tweet us so we can give you a big shout-out for the monster pull.

It could, however, be a hold if you believe in the 2021-22 rookie class, especially if you see a future where this class rivals its 2018-19 equivalent.

And finally, investing in singles is an excellent approach that could yield nice long-term returns if you pick your player investments carefully and correctly.

In the end, do what makes the most sense for you and your budget. This is a “hobby.” While you can make a decent amount of profit off it, hobbies are also about having fun.

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