The Ultimate Guide To 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball

August 31, 2023

The Contenders set is known for its metallic aesthetic. But above all, the release is treasured for the inclusion of Rookie Tickets.

They are some of the most valuable and attractive rookie tickets Panini has ever made. Because the company is losing its basketball rights in the near future, let’s enjoy these wonderful cards while we can.

But does 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball live up to the standard of the strongest previous releases of this product? Find out in our 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball review.

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The history of Contenders Optic Basketball

Panini first released its Panini Playoff Contenders Football product in 1993. However, it is not a particularly notable release. However, in 1998, Panini first introduced the Rookie Ticket format into the Contenders profile. It was an immediate hit and has since become a significant fixture in the hobby.

The Randy Moss and Peyton Manning Rookie Tickets are classics. For whatever reason, it took Panini an entire decade to start making the cards for basketball. But when the 2009-10 Panini Playoff Contenders Basketball dropped, the company never looked back.

A decade later, the Optic version debuted with the release of the 2018-19 Panini Contenders Optic Basketball. At the time, Panini was growing its roster of products significantly, leading to what some may consider (myself included) its bloated annual release schedule.

It came one year after the company debuted the Contenders Optic concept with the 2017 Panini Contenders Optic Football.

After that experiment had proven successful, it was only natural that they would release a basketball version. The product centered on the availability of auto rookie tickets with a chrome finish. The company bet that collectors would be willing to pay more for Contenders if they were chromium plated, and they proved correct.

Of course, it also helped that Panini Contenders Optic Basketball appeared in time for the biggest rookies of our era, namely Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic. Pursuit of their chrome rookie tickets pushed this product to the forefront of the Panini basketball release pile.

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2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball release date

The 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball release date is September 20, 2023. A bit less than a month before the tip-off of the 2023-24 NBA season. That is, of course, not an optimal date for products for the previous season. Especially not ones as beloved and central as Contenders Optic Basketball.

Since the COVID-19 era and the supply chain issues that accompanied it, Panini has had a consistent problem with its release dates. That has not been fixed. It does not appear they will be able to remedy this problem before their NBA license runs out (assuming it runs its course).

However, since they will no longer have to worry about releasing football products, they may be able to focus on basketball and do better for the 2023-24 release.  

But with Panini in as much trouble as they currently are, it feels mean to pick on them and criticize the release schedule. We don’t like to kick a company when it’s down.

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2023 Contenders Optic Basketball release formats

The 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball release is typically a hobby box-only release. That differentiates it from the standard Panini Optic Basketball release, which also includes retail formats like blasters. It appears that this year will be no different, and we can expect a hobby-only release.

Hobby Box

  • 6 cards per pack
  • 1 Pack per box
  • 20 boxes per case
  • You can expect 1 autograph, 2 inserts, 2 parallels, and 1 base card per box
  • A hobby box is currently preselling for $374.95
  • A case of 20 boxes is available on presale for $7,394.95.

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2022/23 Contenders Optic Basketball pros

The main pro of this release, like any Contenders product, is the inclusion of Rookie Tickets. So many rookie cards are available for young basketball players, and few are guaranteed to maintain value. But a Rookie Ticket of a star will almost always go for a good price.

But of course, Rookie Tickets are available in both the Contenders Optic release and the standard Contenders Basketball release. So, even if you like these rookie cards (and about all of us do), you have options.

If you want the cards in chrome form rather than paper and you want fewer but bigger cards, the Contenders Optic Basketball release is for you. Therefore, it’s a question of preference.

If you look at the product’s resale value over the last two years, the paper version tends to go for about $100 or even $200 more. That means that the Optic version is a cheaper rip. That is good news because you can get a valuable Chrome version of a Rookie Ticket.

We will discuss the fact that these boxes hold fewer autos than the regular Panini Contenders release. But the one auto we find in these boxes is always an on-card signature, while the standard release is all sticker autos.

Therefore, the autos you hit in Contenders Optic Basketball are better looking and likely to have better value in the long term. And we must say, this release’s autos tend to be exceptionally crisp and beautiful.

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2022-23 Optic Contenders Basketball cons

Many fans of the Rookie Ticket format and the Contenders line prefer the original release to this one. They claim that the chrome versions of the cards have less of a unique identity than their paper ones.

The finish and style available in Contenders Optic Basketball seem more like other signature Panini releases like Prizm than anything special. Of course, if you are a set collector and enjoy a product with a good base checklist, you will likely prefer the Contenders Basketball paper version.

The resale value of the Contenders Optic Basketball releases is certainly a con. The boxes are truly overshadowed in importance by their paper counterparts.

The reason for that is another drawback. While Contenders Optic Basketball only includes one guaranteed autograph, the paper version guarantees two. Therefore, most collectors prefer those boxes, and the market evaluates them accordingly.

Finally, many collectors have expressed reservations over the recent designs of the ticket format cards. While the original cards had that old-school stub look, the new ones feature what looks like bar codes on the front. That may reflect what tickets look like nowadays, but it is less aesthetically pleasing.

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2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball checklist

The full checklist for this product has not been released yet. Therefore, we are not yet in a position to fully evaluate it. Still, Panini’s information gives us some idea of what to expect.


The Rookie Tickets come in the following parallels. There are certainly releases with more variety and more original colors. But it doesn’t matter. Getting a parallel of these great cards is always a delight.

  • Silver
  • Red
  • Black Pandora SSP
  • Blue – #/99
  • Pink – #/75
  • Orange – #/49
  • Green Pulsar – #/25
  • Purple – #/15
  • Gold – #/10
  • Gold Vinyl – 1/1


The Contenders Optic Basketball is beloved for its Rookie Tickets and on-card autos. No one is going after these in order to pull inserts. But you will get two inserts in each 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball hobby box. A lot of the well-worn inserts are back for the new release.

One discontinued classic is back as well. Finally, there are two new inserts to enjoy. So, let’s see what you can expect to pull.

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Hoop Dreams

These cards are named after the seminal basketball biopic Hoop Dreams. They feature rookies, and the back of the card showcases their draft selection info.

The dramatic designs showcase the players appropriately taking the ball to the hoop. They are almost all beautiful. However, they do not enjoy particularly high values. Only those numbered very low, like the Gold /10, have any real value. And even then, they usually go for under $200.

Legendary Tandems

As the name suggests, this series showcases veterans (usually retired) with their best-known criminal partners. The back discusses their achievements together and separately. Previous years have seen cards feature Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler or Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabar.

I am a big fan of this insert and cards of this sort. But the market doesn’t necessarily agree. Even PSA 10 items with low numbers aren’t worth very much.

Lottery Ticket

These cards are lovely. They play on the ticket theme of the Contenders release and feature scratch lottery ticket designs. This could easily be misplayed, but Panini has generally done an excellent job of creating these cards.

But the values have not been great, especially compared to the prices fetched by some of their football counterparts. Even Luka’s rookie versions are not going for much.

Playing the Numbers Game

The designs for Playing the Numbers Game are very lovely. But the concept behind it is not all that impressive. The cards feature players with big numbers they put up in the background and an explanation on the back.

Collectors aren’t all that impressed with these cards, either. Therefore, they receive relatively low returns on the open market. It’s even less than most other inserts from this release.

Suite Shots

The idea behind the card appears to be showcasing angles you might see from an executive suite. Who knows. Many of the action photos do not fit this description either way. Values are the same as the other inserts. Therefore, someone must like these.


An insert featuring players with a large image of their uniform in the background. Get it uniformity? It’s a pun that doesn’t work because the word has nothing to do with the card. But I am probably overthinking.

It’s worth noting that a LeBron 2019 insert got the highest price of any 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball insert card I have seen, at $611.58.

First Class Ticket and Optical Illusions

These are new inserts featured for the first time in the current release. Unfortunately, Paini has not released pictures or info related to them. So, we know very little.

2023 Contenders Optic Basketball autos

The big 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball draw-in boxes are the on-card auto tickets. You really want to get the Rookie Tickets and Rookie Ticket Variation cards. But these are not the only signed cards lurking in this product.

You can also pull the Veteran Ticket cards, featuring mostly big stars in the latter stages of their career. Finally, you can get a 1985 Tribute autograph card. The autos here are placed on These signed cards featuring the classic junk wax era 1985 Donruss Baseball card design.

While these are lovely auto cards, let’s get real here. Anyone springing for a hobby box of 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball will want to pull a Rookie Ticket. These other auto cards are definitely disappointing to get.

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2022-23 Optic Contenders Basketball value

The Contenders Optic Basketball, in theory, offers a good deal. You can pull one of the most desirable cards in the hobby for an investment of $375. There are definitely worse deals in the hobby right now. But let’s crunch the numbers a bit more closely and see what we find.


We have already mentioned that boxes of Contenders Optic Basketball tend to sell for considerably less than their paper counterparts. Let’s see how these boxes have performed over the years.

2018-19 Contenders Optic Basketball$999.95
2019-20 Contenders Optic Basketball$529.95
2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball$384.95
2021-22 Contenders Optic Basketball$370.95

The first box goes for a relatively strong price. However, compared to other top Panini basketball hobby boxes from the pre-COVID era, it doesn’t do all that well by comparison.

Meanwhile, packages from the last two years are selling for around the price of the original sale. Therefore, we do not see the appreciation we would like from a substantial wax investment.

With Panini soon leaving the basketball business, boxes of Contenders Optic Basketball will likely receive a boost eventually. People will miss these old Rookie Tickets.

But it appears that collectors prefer the regular Contenders boxes with two sticker autos over the Optic version with one on-card. That will probably continue to be the case in the future.


We knew wax wasn’t going to the where Contenders Optic Basketball performs best. The real test is how well those on-card tickets do. After all, we are pretty much only buying the hobby boxes for that reason. So, they better be worth it.

2021-22 Panini Contenders Optic Evan Mobley Rookie Gold Vinyl Auto 1/1 #138 (BGS 8)$6,850
2021-22 Panini Contenders Optic Gold Rookie Ticket Auto Alperen Sengun Rookie Card 1/1 (PSA 10)$5,999
2018-19 Panini Contenders Optic Luka Doncic 1981 Tribute Autographs Gold /10 (BGS 9)$5,500
2020-21 Contenders Optic Gold Ticket Auto Tyrese Maxey Rookie Card /10 (PSA 10)$4,725
2022 Panini Contenders Optic Gold Chet Holmgren Rookie Card /10 (PSA 10)$4,600

These are the numbers for when you hit big and get a /10 version of an auto ticket of one of the big rookies. The cards are, as expected, worth several times more than the box. These are genuinely good cards, and most of them are beautiful to boot.

Just as important, it seems every release has several rookies who get solid prices for their numbered rookie cards. That is the sign of a strong overall release. It is worth buying these if you want the excitement of ripping to hit a big card.

However, it is worth noting that even the most significant cards aren’t life-changing. You are very rarely (if ever) going to hit a card worth over $10,000 here.

Final word of the 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball Review

The Contenders Optic Basketball occupies a particular niche. You can get a box under $400 and hit a beautiful chrome Rookie Ticket with an on-card auto. That is a pretty good deal with the prices of sealed wax today.

The new release looks like a pretty good one. However, its eventual value probably depends on the quality of the rookie class of 2022-23. This will be a robust set if Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and the gang turn into superstars.

It is worth noting that this is one of the last releases to have on-card Rookie Tickets (maybe the last; things are changing fast). Therefore, these are good cards to invest in. Collectors will likely miss them greatly in the future.

But the best way to approach this is to invest in singles (pricey as they may be). Ripping wax is not the play here.