Basketball is a team game, but the NBA is a player’s league. This is increasingly more apparent in recent years as elite players are taking control of their careers. It seems only natural in a business where player popularity is the driving force behind the profits.
Much of the league’s revenue comes from merchandising, such as the sales of NBA jerseys. This can be mainly credited to its more prominent players. And among its many stars, the following shine brightest, at least in terms of jersey sales:
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
When LeBron James took his talents, yet again, this time to the City of Angels, the stars aligned literally. The most valued player of the league went to one of its most valuable teams. This move is now paying dividends for both parties as the Los Angeles Lakers have soared back at the top of the tough Western Conference, and LeBron’s jersey is back atop merchandising sales.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The “Greek Freak” and his Milwaukee Bucks came up short last season in the Eastern Conference, and it seems he will have to settle for second in this year’s jersey sales. But at 25, he is already one of the most accomplished players of his generation. He has plenty of time to catch up with all the game’s GOATs, both in jersey sales and championship rings.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
NBA fans missed Stephen Curry’s dribbling acrobatics for most of last season due to injuries. He was out of their sight, but apparently not out of their mind. Despite missing most of last year, Stephen Curry’s jersey remains one of the most coveted merchandising items in the league, and he manages to land third in this year’s sales of NBA jerseys so far.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum is one of the NBA’s rising stars, among the rare who are expected to take the reins once the LeBrons and Durants of the league hang their jerseys up. He is one of the very few who stood toe-to-toe with LeBron, even managed a thunderous dunk over him, and he did it as a rookie in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. NBA fans love his cool and calm demeanour, especially under pressure, belying his rookie status in the league.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden’s game is polarising. Some of his moves are so groundbreaking that both defenders and referees do not know what to make of them. Each step back three is testing the limit of his defenders and the boundaries of the league rules.
Whether you love or hate his game, there is no question to his popularity, and it shows in his jersey sales. A championship with the Houston Rockets would probably silence critics once and for all and catapult him at the top of GOAT conversations.
Some may wonder why Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard is not in the top five. Both are NBA champions and great players in their own right. However, this is a ranking of NBA jerseys, not of player skills or accomplishments. For some reason, NBA fans covet the jerseys of those players over theirs.
Kawhi almost made it at 7th despite being notoriously aloof with the media. Durant is a little lower at 12th, maybe due to his infamous “cupcake” move to Golden State. If they play their cards right this year, a revamp of the list might be needed.