Ranking the Decade's NBA Jersey Top-Sellers

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2013

Ranking the Decade's NBA Jersey Top-Sellers

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    The NBA jersey sales rankings for this season have Carmelo Anthony atop this year's list of the most desired jerseys, dropping LeBron James down a spot from his mid-season ranking at the top of the heap.

    Not only does this show that New Yorkers are finally all-in again with a basketball team, but that they're behind Carmelo as the team's star player.

    Jersey sales is really something that has come on over the course of the past decade, in that people just started caring about who was buying whose jersey and at what rate. It gave us some basis of an argument for the league's most popular players, and it was just an interesting bit of information to have.

    Over the course of the past decade, we've seen some names rise, while others plummeted, but there are a few that have hung around for the duration.

    We can see that a wave of rookies dictated jersey sales early on, championship-caliber teams lead to a change in the script, and players finding their way to new teams leading to a drastic change in the leader board.

    So, after taking into account the year-end rankings for jersey sales in the past decade, I've found out the best sellers based on the number of top-10 finishes a player's jersey has had in the rankings, the peak sales point of their uniform, and the average slot they filled while in the top 10.

10. Chris Paul

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    Top 10s: 3

    Peak: Third

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 6.3

    Reason for His Peak: Becoming the league's best point guard.

    Chris Paul has always been a fan favorite. Seeing a smaller guy running around the court and dominating is endearing to fans, and he played for a team that had some really cool looking uniforms.

    His peak came in 2009 when he was with the New Orleans Hornets when his jersey came in at third overall in the league, and he's yet to get back up to that spot again.

    It's a bit interesting that Paul's jersey with the Los Angeles Clippers hasn't done better than a ninth-place finish this season, not even cracking the top-10 in his first year in Los Angeles.

    Perhaps that's a sign that the Clippers will always be number two in Los Angeles, regardless of who is truly the better team.

9. Shaquille O'Neal

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    Top 10s: 4

    Peak: Sixth

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 7

    Reason for His Peak: Moving to Miami

    It's a bit surprising that Shaq never reached the top ranking in the NBA's jersey sales, but it's even more surprising that his peak was no higher than sixth.

    Shaq was in and out of the top 10 for his entire career, peaking at sixth in 2005 when he first joined the Miami Heat, remaining far behind his teammate Dwyane Wade, who grabbed the top spot in the league that season.

    By the time the jersey sale ranking became an important scale for measuring a player's popularity, Shaq was starting to break down and bounce around the league.

8. Kevin Durant

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    Top 10s: 4

    Peak: 3

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 6.75

    Reason for His Peak: Widespread popularity

    Kevin Durant has spent just six seasons in the NBA, yet he's already become one of the top selling jerseys year after year.

    What makes it most surprising is that Durant, playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, isn't in one of the huge metropolitan basins that guys like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, or even LeBron James have to sap extra jersey sales from.

    It shows that there's more to selling jerseys than just playing in a populous city. Sometimes being an awesome basketball player is enough.

7. Kevin Garnett

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    Top 10s: 3

    Peak: First

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 2.67

    Reason for His Peak: New team with large fan base.  

    Kevin Garnett didn't grace the top 10 in jersey sales until 2008, the first season that he was with the Boston Celtics.

    It seems that by 2004, everybody who wanted a Garnett jersey already had one, so he never had a chance to get into the top 10.

    Once he slipped away from Minnesota, Garnett found his way to an incredibly populated area, full of people who loved his style of play. That led to his topping the list in 2008, and hanging around the top for the next few seasons.

6. Derrick Rose

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    Top 10s: 4

    Peak: First

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 3.75

    Reason for His Peak: 2011 MVP Award.

    Derrick Rose has three things working for his status as one of the top jersey-sellers in the NBA.

    First, he's an awesome basketball player. Being one of the best players in the league is always going to lead to high jersey sales, unless you're somebody like Tim Duncan.

    Second, he plays in a city that's home to nearly three million people. A few of those guys have probably gone out and bought a Derrick Rose jersey in the past five years.

    Finally, winning an MVP Award seems to do wonders for a player's jersey sales, as he topped the list in 2012, a year after he won the league's MVP Award.

5. Allen Iverson

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    Top 10s: 5

    Peak: Second

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 3.5

    Reason for His Peak: Sustained popularity nationwide.

    Allen Iverson hasn't been in the NBA since 2010, and he hasn't been in a situation where people would want to flock to the stores to buy his jersey since perhaps 2008, but that can't keep him from having one of the best-selling jerseys of the past decade.

    There was something about Iverson that made basketball fans either completely adore, or absolutely loath him, and it's reflected in jersey sales.

    He never won an NBA Championship, and he was never able to claim the top spot in the sales rankings, but he was always near the top of the list.

4. Carmelo Anthony

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    Top 10s: 9

    Peak: First

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 6.3

    Reason for His Peak: New York's resurgence. 

    There's a huge gap between Allen Iverson, who was in the top 10 five different times, and Carmelo Anthony (and the rest of the guys ahead of him), who grabbed a hold of a top-10 spot in the sales rankings nine different times.

    Anthony was a part of the 2003 Draft Class that came in and changed the league for good. Alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Anthony helped to turn the game into what it is today.

    This year is the first time that he came up with the top spot in the rankings, and with the entire city of New York rallying behind the Knicks, it's surprising it took this long.

3. Dwyane Wade

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    Top 10s: 9

    Peak: First

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 4.5

    Reason for His Peak: Best player on the best team.

    Believe it or not, Dwyane Wade was actually left off the top jersey sales in his rookie season while LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony claimed the top two spots in sales for the 2003-04 season.

    Once everybody realized how awesome Wade was over the course of that and the following season, he was able to take over the top spot in the league in 2005, and then again in 2006 with the Miami Heat tearing the league apart.

    In his decade in the NBA, Wade has dipped below sixth in the sales rankings just once, as he fell to seventh this season.

2. Kobe Bryant

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    Top 10s: 10

    Peak: First

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 2.8

    Reason for His Peak: Number change, plus he's Kobe freaking Bryant.

    It shouldn't be surprising that Kobe Bryant is this high on the list. However, it may surprise you to learn that he was only fifth in jersey sales in 2004 and 2005 as the Lakers began to fall into their low point.

    In fact, Kobe wasn't able to take over the top spot in jersey sales until 2007 when he changed his number from the old "8" to the new-age "24".

    From there, Kobe had a run of five years in which he was first or second in the league in jersey sales, followed by a third and fourth-place finish in the subsequent seasons.

1. LeBron James

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    Top 10s: 10

    Peak: First

    Average Rank When in Top 10: 2.4

    Reason for His Peak: New phenomenon, team change.

    Shocker, right?

    LeBron James kicked off his career as a phenom out of high school and everybody had to have his jersey. He led the league in jersey sales his rookie season, and then just floated around second or third for the entirety of his time in Cleveland.

    Once he flipped his way down to Miami, people had to go out and buy a new jersey, so he ended back up on the top of the pile.

    James dropped all the way down to fourth the following season, but rebounded to a second-place finish this year.