The 15 Best-Selling NBA Jerseys of All-Time
There are many ways to define “best” when we’re discussing which NBA jerseys are the best of all-time. There’s the best in terms of design and style and then there’s the best in regards to popularity and how quickly (or consistently) those jerseys have flown off shelves.
The one problem with the NBA’s official best selling jerseys is though they specify which players have sold the most, they don’t say whether it’s the home or away jerseys, throwbacks, or special city edition uniforms. We’ll look at the most-popular, best selling jerseys in NBA history. For the best NBA jerseys in terms of design and style, we’re crafting up some data around that.
The NBA’s Best Selling Jerseys of All-Time
One easy way of determining the best jerseys of all-time is defining “best” as the uniforms that have sold the most in any given year. For that, we luckily have cold, hard data right from the horse’s mouth. The NBA has been tracking official NBA jersey sales through their NBA store since at least the turn of the century and has released that information every year since then. However, does that mean it’s the best jersey in terms of design, style and player popularity? Probably no for the former and maybe for the latter.
The good news is that within that data, we’ve noticed a pattern. Usually, the best-selling jerseys coincide with one of the two teams that compete in the NBA Finals that year. Obviously, the jersey is of that franchise’s superstar player. That’s occurred 11 of the 17 years where we have official jersey sales data.
|2018||Steph Curry||Golden State||Yes||Yes|
|2017||Steph Curry||Golden State||Yes||Yes|
|2016||Steph Curry||Golden State||Yes||No|
|2013||Carmelo Anthony||New York||No||No|
We’ve gathered that data and come up with the following best NBA jerseys of all-time. This can also be read as the league’s most popular players of all-time.
#1 Michael Jordan
|1992||Michael Jordan||#23||Chicago Bulls|
We don’t have hard numbers because Jordan’s playing days occurred before the NBA began tracking jersey sales, but we do have this UPI article from 2008 that said Jordan’s jersey was #1 seller when the NBA Store revealed the list of the store’s top 10 all-time best sellers.
Even without specific sales data to back it up, there’s no doubt in our minds that Michael Jordan has the best selling NBA jersey of all time. The classic red or white Chicago Bulls #23 jersey must have dominated the best-selling charts in the late-1980s and throughout the 1990s when Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls were competing against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals and three-peating not once, but twice.
In fact, we would assert that Jordan’s jersey is probably #1 by a significant portion considering that many current NBA players still reference him as their basketball influence and is often referred to as the GOAT — the greatest of all time. To help MJ stay at the top, you can choose from a variety of official Michael Jordan jerseys at NBAstore.com. They have all versions of his Chicago Bulls jerseys, his popular NBA Star jersey from 1991 and 1993 as well
#2 Kobe Bryant
|2010||Kobe Bryant||#24||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2009||Kobe Bryant||#24||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2007||Kobe Bryant||#24||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2003||Kobe Bryant||#8||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2002||Kobe Bryant||#8||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2001||Kobe Bryant||#8||Los Angeles Lakers|
Whatever you may think of Kobe Bryant‘s playing style, there’s no arguing that he’s one the league’s most popular players of all-time. We place Kobe at #2 best-selling NBA jersey of all-time for that fact as well as the fact that he won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, sold the most jerseys five times, changed his jersey number from #8 to #24 in 2005 (forcing fans to buy more of his jerseys), and played in the league’s second largest market.
#3 LeBron James
|2019||LeBron James||#23||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2015||LeBron James||#23||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2014||LeBron James||#6||Miami Heat|
|2011||LeBron James||#6||Miami Heat|
|2004||LeBron James||#23||Cleveland Cavaliers|
Sometime between 2016 and 2018, the conversation around LeBron James went from one of the best players to have ever suited up to being in the conversation as the greatest player of all time. Whatever your opinion is, it’s saying something that there’s even a debate that LeBron might have usurped Jordan’s spot.
Though there might be discussions as to whom is #1, we have LeBron in third place as far as the best-selling jerseys of all-time. Not only has he dominated the best-selling list in the 2010’s but the fact that he led his teams to eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances means his jerseys were flying off the racks in Cleveland, Miami and now Los Angeles.
LeBron pulled a Kobe in 2011 when made the move to switch his jersey number from #23 to #6 saying that it was in respect to Michael Jordan. During that time, he urged other players wearing #23 to do the same. Apparently that passed because when LeBron moved back to Cleveland Cavs in 2015, he reverted back to his #23 – the number he wears for the Los Angeles Lakers.
#4 Magic Johnson
|1980||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||Y||N|
|1982||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||Y||N|
|1985||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||Y||N|
|1987||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||Y||Y|
|1988||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||Y||N|
|1989||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||N||Y|
|1989||Magic Johnson||#32||Los Angeles Lakers||N||Y|
Whatever you think of Magic Johnson as a front office guy, during his playing days he was untouchable and universally loved. During the 1980’s Magic Johnson led his Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships in seven trips to the NBA Finals. No doubt his popularity was consistent throughout the 1980’s and the fact that he represented a city with the nation’s second largest population did nothing but fuel jersey sales.
#5 Larry Bird
|1981||Larry Bird||#33||Boston Celtics||Y||N|
|1984||Larry Bird||#33||Boston Celtics||Y||Y|
|1985||Larry Bird||#33||Boston Celtics||N||Y|
|1986||Larry Bird||#33||Boston Celtics||Y||Y|
Larry Bird was a basketball savant and in the eighties, he and Magic would revitalize the league through a the best rivalry the league has ever seen. In the 1980s, Bird would win three consecutive NBA MVPs (1985, 1986, 1987) and lead his Celtics to three NBA titles (1981, 1984, 1986) in five NBA Finals appearances. We can safely assume that he had the league’s best-selling jerseys during the years in which Bird either won the NBA championship and/or was named the league’s MVP.
His complete dominance during that decade no doubt places his jersey somewhere near the top of the best jerseys in NBA history.
#6 Shaquille O’Neal
|2005||Shaquille O'Neal||#32||Miami Heat|
Having only officially sold the most jerseys for one year, it doesn’t account for Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance in the NBA from 2000-2004 when he was at his peak powers mowing down and dunking on all opponents on his way to three consecutive NBA championships leading the league in scoring in 2000, and cementing his reputation as the most dominate force the league has ever seen since the Wilt Chamberlain.
#7 Steph Curry
|2018||Stephen Curry||#30||Golden State Warriors|
|2017||Stephen Curry||#30||Golden State Warriors|
|2016||Stephen Curry||#30||Golden State Warriors|
This list is full of transcendental NBA players and Stephen Curry is no different. Curry didn’t come into the league on fire, but when he found his game, he would change the NBA forever. And for that, he’ll go on to not only re-write, but completely demolish the record books when it comes to three-point shooting. Curry would use his powers to win the first ever unanimous MVP and three NBA championships. His success and popularity is reflected in his leading the league in jersey sales for three consecutive seasons.
If Curry can remain at the top of his game over the next few season and grab another championship or two, look for him to move up this list.
#8 Julius Erving
|1981||Julius Erving||#33||Philadelphia 76ers||N||Y|
|1983||Julius Erving||#33||Philadelphia 76ers||Y||N|
Julius “Dr. J” Erving was MJ before MJ and his popularity in the league was highlighted by his aerial acrobatics and cool personality — a combination the league had never seen before, but there was much more to Julius Erving than the highlights. Here’s what ESPN had to say about Dr. J’s influence on the court and off:
Dr. J set the standard for NBA style, combining originality, huge hands, hang time and elegance to show future generations the kind of artistry possible in basketball. But as much as the Doctor has been praised voluminous afro and flair that carried the ABA and NBA for almost two decades, his actual play is still undervalued. That’s crazy to say that about a 16-time All-Star who still is recognized by fans who weren’t even alive when he retired.
Erving’s jersey sales are boasted by the fact that after coming to the NBA, he won both an MVP in 1981 and an NBA championship two years later in 1983. Since his retirement, Julius’ ABA, New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers jerseys are consistently one of the most-popular throwback jerseys. For those reasons, we think that Dr. J has one of the top ten best-selling jerseys of all-time.
#9 Allen Iverson
Like Magic and Bird, we’re making an assumption that AI had one of the league’s best-selling jerseys during his time in the NBA. Pound-for-pound, Allen Iverson was one of the league’s best players and not only was he one of the league’s most-popular players, he was a player that had a significant impact culturally.
#10 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Based on the jersey sales data we have available and the lack of popularity the NBA had prior to the 1980’s, it’s much more difficult for a player from the pre-Golden Era to have a top-selling jersey on this list. However, if there’s a player other than Dr. J we think would make this list, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be that other exception. The league’s all-time leading scorer played for the Los Angeles Lakers during the showtime era and has a resume that boasts six NBA championships, six NBA MVP trophies and two-time Finals MVP awards. We think it’s safe that over his 20 NBA seasons that the legend sold his share of jerseys.
#11 Hakeem Olajuwon
Winning two NBA championships sandwiched between MJ’s threepeats helped to solidify Hakeem Olajuwon‘s legacy and popularity. During his career, the Nigerian-born center has been named MVP, NBA Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year as well as appearing in three NBA Finals (1986, 1994, 1995).
One interesting note about our formula for determining the best-selling jerseys prior to 2001 was that there was one constant anomaly that went against our whole philosophy of the best-selling jerseys often coming from NBA championship teams and MVPs. That one outlier was the San Antonio Spurs. As enjoyable as the Spurs were to watch, not once did Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker lead the league in jersey sales in any of their five championship runs in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, or 2014.
Now you may have noticed that the Spurs won in 1999, so how did we know that David Robinson didn’t have the top-selling jersey that year? Well, during those Playoffs, the second-year Tim Duncan was named the Finals MVP. Duncan was also the Finals MVP in 2003 and 2005 and we have data on those years. On top of that, DRob was already 34 years old and in the twilight of his career, so odds are good that neither he or Timmy were the top selling jersey in 1999.
Other Best-Sellling NBA Jerseys
Here’s some of the other players that have sold the most jerseys since the NBA started tracking jersey sales
|2013||Carmelo Anthony||#7||New York Knicks|
|2012||Derrick Rose||#1||Chicago Bulls|
|2008||Kevin Garnett||#5||Boston Celtics|
|2006||Dwyane Wade||#3||Miami Heat|
|2002||Paul Pierce||#34||Boston Celtics|