The National Basketball Association, NBA, came into existence in 1949 after the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League. According to Britannica, when you look at the NBA photos of the 1950s and 60s, you will not see fans donning their team jerseys. However, as the game became common in the United States and different parts of the world, fans started identifying with specific player jerseys. Today one can tell the most famous player of a given basketball club by looking at what the players are wearing.
The fame of the jersey came in equal measure with the success of the particular player and club. Jerseys have also become one of the best ways clubs generate profits and have determined which player a given sports club will sign or not. There is a direct relationship between the jersey value of a given player and their market value. Whereas the most expensive ones are for the players who are active in the NBA, some NBA legends still have their jerseys selling at competitive prices, and they are worn by fans of the clubs in which they played last. These articles will examine the best-selling NBA jerseys of all time.
The Mystery of Total Number of Jersey Sales
As far as we wish to get the exact number of jerseys sold by a given entity and their value, the information has remained scanty. The confidentiality clauses in the club and player contracts have made it almost impossible for media outlets to report the exact number. Fans interested in the same are only given general sales details and, at most, the contract that a given player/club will have with a jersey sponsor. However, there is a general agreement that they are one of the best sources of income for clubs and players.
10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Jersey Number: 33, Lakers)
Sometimes, a comparison of jersey sales may appear like the one for the greatest player in a given field. Kareem closes our top 10 best-selling jerseys in NBA history. He played professional basketball for Milwaukee Bucks (1969-1975) and Los Angeles Lakers (1975-1989). Throughout his career, he wore the number 33 jersey. The top sales for Abdul’s jersey were attributed largely to his success. He won the NBA Championships 6 times (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988) and went ahead to win the NBA MVP in 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1980. Pundits argue that they would have sold better if he could have changed his jersey number.
9. Allen Iverson (Jersey Number: 3, Sixers)
The Sports termed his jersey to be the most iconic number ‘3’ in the NBA history. Allen Invasion is among the top Point Guards in NBA history, commonly referred to as AI. AI was among the smallest players to have won the MVP award. He also featured in the ALL-NBA team seven times with three first-team selections and remained the top offensive player of his time, scoring an average of 30 points in 3 seasons before ending his career at 24,368 points. Whether he was playing for the Philadelphia 76ers (1996-2006), Denver Nuggets (2006-2008), or the Detroit Pistons (20008-2009), AI never changed and predominantly wore the number 3 jersey.
8. Julius Erving (Jersey Number: 32, Philadelphia 76ers)
For those looking for an NBA throwback jersey, you can go for Julius Erving #32; Philadelphia 76ers. His success on the pitch boosted the player’s jersey sales. He bagged one NBA Championship in 1983 and was Most Valuable NBA Player in 1981. Erving played for the New York Nets, where he wore jersey number “6,” but when he switched to the Philadelphia 76ers, he switched to the famous #32.
Colleagues called him the best dunker to have been seen in the game. The players’ cool personalities and aerial acrobatics were something the NBA had never seen since its arrival. Sports pundits comment that he played a huge role in demonstrating to the young generation how they should play the game. The high sales of his jersey were attributed to his success and the fact that he changed numbers, making fans purchase new ones.
7. Shaquille O’Neal (Jersey Number: 32, Miami Heat)
Going by the nickname Shaq, Shaquille O’Neal was not only a basketballer but also a rapper. Shaq was one of the heaviest players at his time, with a height of more than 7 feet and weighing almost 150 kgs. The player dropped out of college to pursue his basketball career in 1992. By the time he was signing for the Los Angeles Lakers, he had already established himself by winning a gold medal with the USA National team in 1996. His span at the Lakers was short-lived but also successful, with world championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
After disagreements with the Lakers’ management, he joined the Miami Heat and helped them win the NBA in 2006. While at the Lakers, he wore number 34, but when he joined the Miami Heat, he switched to ’32.’ This helped boost his total jersey sales though the ’32’ one for the Miami Heat was the most successful. Shaq loved the jersey to the extent that he threw a #32 jersey retirement party. Besides the change, Shaq is a great name in Showbiz, and you can’t miss him hanging out with other celebrities such as Snoop Dog and Kelvin Hart.
6. Steph Curry (Jersey Number: 30, Golden State Warriors)
The young NBA fans were lucky to have seen Stephen Curry, mostly referred to as just Curry, to the sales of his #30 jersey in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He is among the current top generation of players, and when pundits say he wins at least another major trophy, his sales will skyrocket at unmatched speed. The player has been on the pitch since 2009. Throughout his career, he has played for the Golden State Warriors.
Curry is the first player in competition history to win a unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player award in 2016. Apart from his excellent performance at the club level, he has represented the USA national team in the FIBA World cup in Turkey (2010) and Spain (2014). The player is lucky to have been playing when jersey marketing is at its best in the world. At the Warriors shop, the jersey retails from $49 to $ $149.
5. Larry Bird (Jersey Number: 33, Boston Celtics)
When the history of the Bolton Celtics is written, the name of Larry Bird will never miss out. Shining at a time when black players dominated the NBA, Larry was a great friend and a tough opponent of Magic Johnson (Lakers). The player used to have a number ’33’ jersey, which appeared to be a design follow-up of Johnson’s number ’32’. The green Celtics Jersey would decorate the stadiums when Larry played a major game. In the jersey, he scoped three consecutive Most NBA Valuable Player players in 1985, 1986, and 1987.
In addition, he won 1981, 1984, and 1986 NBA Finals. The player’s success contributed to the high sales. Besides his success at the club level, the player was also part of the NBA Dream Team, which NBA enthusiasts have described as the best national team in American history. His participation at the national level propelled the fame of his jersey. If you are interested in purchasing the #33 Larry jersey, you can still order it from eBay, and you must be prepared to pay $59.94 to $299 per the top only.
4. Magic Johnson (Jersey Number: 32, Lakers)
Magic Earvin Johnson only played for the Lakers throughout his NBA career. He is regarded as the top Point Guard in the game’s history. In his basket, he has 5 NBA Championships that he won in 1980, 1892, 1985, 1987, and 1988. He was awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player in 1987, 1989, and 1990. In the 1980s, almost every Lakers fan had the player’s number 32 jersey, especially during the NBA Finals.
He was among the first sports personalities to come out and declare that he had the HIV Virus, which made fans love him more. Johnson was one of the most easy-going players on the pitch, as was seen in his great friendship with Larry Bird, whom they were fierce opponents. With such a great personality, he won so many people to his side; no wonder they chose to stick to his jerseys. Currently, the player continues to impact people’s life by conducting public awareness on safe sex and motivating young basketball players.
3. Lebron James (Jersey Number: 23, Los Angeles Lakers)
Lebron James started his basketball career just after high school. Between 2016 and 2018, there was a hot debate on whether he was the greatest player in the history of the NBA. His jersey dominated the markets in the 2010s, and the player won 8 consecutive NBA Finals appearances, which helped to cement his jersey. As he swapped teams, fans would follow him by buying new jerseys.
Throughout his career, the 23 jersey was his favorite though he wore the number “6” when playing for Miami Heat between 2011 and 2014. According to Bleacher Report, Lebron secured a $90 million deal from Nike to earn its outfits, and the jersey was one of them. When you go to the NBA Store, you will likely still get Lebron’s jersey at the cost of $44 to $129. Experts attribute the change of team to be one of the best reasons his jerseys sold so high.
2. Kobe Bryant (Jersey Number: 24, Los Angeles Lakers)
The debate about who is greater than Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan is similar to that between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the football world. The players were great at their peak times and portrayed outstanding personalities, but that is a debate for another day. Kobe Brant’s 24 Lakers Jerseys are the second most sold in the history of the NBA. The jersey gained fame when he changed from the number ‘8’ to the number ’24’ in 2007. Before changing the jersey number, the number ‘8’ was trading as the 5th most sold jersey from 2004 to the late parts of 2006.
Since he won five NBA championships with the Lakers, his jersey remained among the top at that time. Many jersey experts attribute the change in number to be the largest cause of the increase in jersey sales. The CBS News reported on June 6, 2022, that a jersey won by the player when playing against Utah Jazz on April 13, 1997, was sold in a public auction for $2.73 million.
1. Michael Jordan (Jersey Number: 23, Chicago Bulls)
Even if you ask the young NBA fans to name the top players in its history, Michael Jordan’s name will not miss. Born on July 13, 1964, in Fairfax, Virginia, Michael Jackson’s Jersey Number 23 for the Chicago Bulls stands out as the most sold jersey in the history of the NBA. UPI published an article in 2008 appreciating the same. The player played for the Bulls between 1984 to 1993.
Even without considering his success with the Bulls, Jordan remains one of the most influential players in history. According to Npr, a public auction of one of Jersey worn by Michael Jackson in the 1998 NBA Finals was won by a $10.1 million bid! This amounts to a profound statement on how people perceive Jordan’s 23 Bulls’ Jersey. Explaining why he chose the number 23 jersey, Jordan said that he chose it by halving his brother’s jersey number (45). Depending on your size, you can get one of the jerseys on NBA.Com, and it ranges from $139 to $299 as at the date of publication of this article.
Clearly, changing jersey numbers and players’ success are the leading causes of high jersey sales. The jersey numbers 23, 24, 32, and 33 remain the most dominant in NBA history. It is also interesting to note that single-digit jerseys are not equally famous other than the #3 for AI. All of them are available in the leading jersey stores and online platforms. Grab one and enjoy the swag which comes with NBA jerseys.