The numbers don’t lie. When it comes to top selling NBA jerseys for this past season, the sales correspond with the biggest storylines of the year. From championship winners to the out and injured to the massive movers – this list has them all. Of course there are always a few surprises and maybe even a few jerseys you’ll never see again amidst the rest of the perennial top sellers.
Not only do sales reflect the top storylines, but they also are more obviously indicative of a player’s popularity. LeBron James – the 2012-2013 NBA champion and MVP, who unsurprisingly makes this list – said he’s still taken aback whenever he sees someone in his number 6 jersey. “Every time I see someone in my jersey, a complete stranger,” shared LeBron, “it's a 'wow' factor.”
The sales come from national counts by the NBA online store (NBAStore.com) and Adidas (the official uniform provider of the NBA). This year the league says they saw the percentage of sales grow by double digits.
Here’s a look at the NBA’s top 10 best selling jerseys of 2012-2013.
10 Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics
With the demise of Boston’s Big 3, Celtics fans are now looking at a new and considerably younger team. Rondo, who led the league in assists with 11.1 per game, now has the chance to step out from behind the shadows and is easily the Celtics’ best and most marketable star. Boston is one of the larger (and more storied) NBA markets so while the Celtics are in a rebuilding year, sales of Rondo jerseys should remain strong during his time there.
9 Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers
Thanks to Griffin (and Chris Paul) the LA Clippers finally won the franchise’s first Pacific Division title last season. They officially put the Clippers (aka “Lob City”) on the map and have usurped the Lakers as Los Angeles’ true basketball power.
One of the more marketable stars in the league, Griffin has parlayed his success on the court (including his famous slam dunk over a Kia) into endorsements and commercials that have re-affirmed him as the global star that he is. As a result, it's no surprise that his jersey is as hot as it is.
8 Deron Williams - Brooklyn Nets
Williams is without a doubt All-Star caliber: he scored 18.9 points making 78% of his free throws and 37% of his three-pointers in 2012-2013. He’s been fairly consistent throughout his career too, but hasn't shown up in this annual best seller list for a few years.
He makes his way into the top ten now thanks to his new-look Nets. The New Jersey Nets became the Brooklyn Nets in 2012, trading in their red and blue jerseys for sharp-looking black and white ones. The Nets are backed by Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov who vowed fans would see a championship within three years. The promise of a championship from a team now located in a major metropolis certainly would bolster Williams' sales. Should the point guard and co. secure a ring in the next few years, we may just see him on this list again.
7 Dwight Howard - Los Angeles Lakers
Here’s a jersey we’ll most likely never see on this list again. Authentic purple and gold number 12s are selling for just $20 in the Team LA store at the Staples Center. Whether it was back and injury issues, lack of chemistry with the team/coach or simply ego, Howard looked out of place during his one-year stint in Los Angeles. Despite an All-Star performance in his eight years with the Orlando Magic, his time in LA was hardly memorable, with near career-lows in certain statistical categories.
To get out of LA, he took over a $30 million pay decrease in his contract. But it seems money can’t buy happiness for Howard who’s improving from his injuries every month. (On the whole, his points and rebounds per game are the same as last season, but slowly creep up thanks to better output every week). Although this jersey probably will never make the list again, we’re sure we’ll see Howard on it again – just maybe this time in the Houston Rockets' red and white.
6 Dwyane Wade - Miami Heat
Wade had the hottest selling jersey in the NBA from the 2005 playoffs until midway through the 2006-2007 season. The three-time NBA champion and 10-time All-Star has played for Miami since he was drafted in 2003. Alongside the other members of the Big 3 (LeBron James and Chris Bosh), Wade’s in search of a threepeat championship for Miami that, if achieved, could see sales of his jersey soar.
When looking at worldwide sales, Wade’s number 3 jersey comes in at no. 5 while Melo’s is no. 6.
5 Carmelo Anthony - New York Knicks
Melo comes in at No. 5 on our list but started the season at the top. According to NBA.com, the perennial All-Star had the most popular jersey at the tip-off of the 2012 season but slunk down by the end. One reason for that may be, despite returning to the Empire State for the first time since his Syracuse days, what was expected to be a fairy tale homecoming has left Knicks fans wanting. While Melo has continued to score at an impressive rate, his defense is considerably lacking and his Knicks have been no better than a middle-of-the-pack team during his tenure there.
Although there have been rumors that Melo might want out of New York, it's safe to say that a change in market for him would more than certainly impact his jersey sale rankings in the future if he were to leave. If he goes to a smaller market team, for example, he just wouldn't have the broad national appeal that he currently gets from playing in the Big Apple.
4 Kevin Durant - Oklahoma City Thunder
Here’s a name we could see ranking much higher on the list next season. Kevin Durant stormed the court in what could very well be a career year that ends with him as MVP. The OKC’s star player is averaging over 30 points (31.5 to be exact) per game – making him tops in the NBA in scoring – and has had eight games with 40 or more points so far. No matter what you call him (The Servant, Slim Reaper, KD, etc), it’s safe to say he’s definitely the driving force behind the Thunder.
Aside from the standard Thunder home and away jerseys, there's his Revolution 30 jersey, and All-Star game jersey. We wouldn’t be surprised if these start flying off the shelves with each and every new record this All-Star sets.
3 Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
It’s no surprise to see the purple and gold number 24 near the top of this list. Sales of Bryant’s jersey have stayed strong throughout the majority of his nearly two-decade long career with LA. Bryant has become synonymous with the Lakers, their fearless leader and the face of the franchise, so it’s not really a surprise. His five NBA rings really say it all.
Despite rupturing his Achilles' tendon, Bryant was able to return to the court even sooner than the most optimistic projections. Unfortunately his return to the court was short-lived as he was again sidelined with a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee.
There's no real rush for Bryant's return this season as the Lakers sit in dead last in the Western Conference and will miss the playoffs. Despite all the missed time, Bryant was once again voted a starter in the NBA All-Star game, which bodes well for the continued success of his jersey sales.
2 Derrick Rose - Chicago Bulls
Even though he's been battling injuries, the marketing of the return of Rose (as well as being the last player not named LeBron James to win the MVP Award) has helped lead him to no. 2 on this list. The Bulls point guard has been MIA for nearly two years after hurting his left knee. After a long-awaited return, recovering to play for just a few weeks, Rose was sidelined again but this time by an injury to his right knee. During that year on the sidelines, between interviews on his injury status and commercials for Adidas, the hype regarding Rose's return to form was huge.
Fans were no doubt enthusiastic about the anticipated comeback (snatching up Rose jerseys) and no doubt disappointed and sad for the young rising star to be out again. He dropped to number three in sales between October and December 2013, and will likely stay there or plummet further in his sales on the season if he doesn't recover soon.
Rose topped the jerseys sold in China, Europe and Latin American, surpassing LeBron in these countries this past season.
1 LeBron James - Miami Heat
King James has a new record to be proud of. His number 6 jersey has not only topped this list five times over in the US, but it's the first time it's the number one best seller worldwide. LeBron was shocked by the sales: "For me to be the No. 1 guy, to have the most jersey sales, it’s crazy.” We don't think it's so surprising though; after all, he is a 10-time NBA All-Star, four-time MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA champion, two-time gold medal Olympian and the list certainly goes on.
LeBron may find himself topping this list again next year. The Heat have since released three different jerseys for the elite forward: the Christmas Day jersey (sleeved), the Name Collection (featuring the star's nickname King James on the back) and the All-Star jersey (sleeved, Eastern Conference). He was top of the list as well for sales running from October (start of the new season) to December (Christmas purchases) in 2013.