When it comes to determining which Fanatics jerseys are the best of all time, there are numerous ways to define “best.” There are the best in terms of design and style, and then there are the best in terms of popularity and how quickly (or consistently) those jerseys sold out. The one issue with the Fanatics official best-selling jerseys is that, while they specify which players have sold the most, they don’t specify whether the jerseys are home or away, throwbacks, or special city editions. We will take a look at the most popular and best-selling Fanatics jerseys in history, putting together some data on the best Fanatics jerseys in terms of design and style.
Fanatics all-time best-Selling jerseys
One simple method for determining the best jerseys of all time is to define “best” as the uniforms that sold the most units in any given year. Fortunately, we have cold, hard data straight from the horse’s mouth. Since at least the turn of the century, the Fanatics has been tracking official Fanatics jersey sales through their Fanatics store and has released that information every year. Does this, however, imply that it is the best jersey in terms of design, style, and player popularity? Probably not for the former, but possibly for the latter. The good news is that we discovered a pattern in that data. The best-selling jerseys are usually associated with one of the two teams that compete in the Fanatics Finals that year. Obviously, the jersey belongs to that team’s star player. This has happened 11 times in the 17 years that we have official jersey sales data.
The following are the best Fanatics jerseys of all time. This can also be read as the league’s all-time most popular players.
Michael Jordan has the best-selling Fanatics jersey of all time.
We don’t have hard numbers because Jordan played before the Fanatics started tracking jersey sales, but we do have this UPI article from 2008 that says Jordan’s jersey was the top seller when the Fanatics Store revealed the list of the store’s top 10 all-time best sellers. Even without specific sales data, we have no doubt that Michael Jordan has the best-selling Fanatics jersey of all time. The classic red or white Chicago Bulls #23 jersey must have dominated the best-seller charts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Bulls were competing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons and three-peeing not once, but twice. In fact, we would argue that Jordan’s jersey is probably the most popular, given that many current NBA players still credit him as a basketball influence and that he is frequently referred to as the GOAT the greatest of all time. To help MJ maintain his dominance, Fanatics.com offers a wide selection of official Michael Jordan jerseys. They have all of his Chicago Bulls jerseys, as well as his popular NBA Star jerseys from 1991 and 1993.
Whatever you think of Kobe Bryant’s playing style, there’s no denying that he’s not only one of the league’s most popular players, but also one of the most influential players in history. Those who grew up watching the NBA in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s idolized Jordan, but what has happened since then? It is a Black Mamba. We rank Kobe as the second best-selling NBA jersey of all time due to his strong influence and impact. He won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, sold the most jerseys in five seasons, 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, all of which contributed to his legacy.
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Between 2016 and 2018, the conversation about LeBron James shifted from being one of the best players to ever suit up to be considered the greatest player of all time. Whatever your thoughts are, the fact that there is even discussion about LeBron possibly usurping Jordan’s position says a lot. Though there may be debates about who is number one, LeBron is third all-time in terms of best-selling jerseys. Not only did he dominate the best-selling list in 2010, but the fact that he led his teams to eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances meant that his jerseys flew off the shelves in Cleveland, Miami, and now Los Angeles. LeBron did a Kobe move in 2011 when he changed his jersey number from #23 to #6, claiming it was in honor of Michael Jordan. During that time, he encouraged other #23 players to do the same. When LeBron returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015, he reverted to his #23 – the number he wears for the Los Angeles Lakers. Shop the entire LeBron James jersey collection. From Cleveland to Miami to the Los Angeles Lakers, he wore Mitchell & Ness Cavs and Miami Heat #6 jerseys.
Whatever you think of Magic Johnson as a front office guy or post-basketball analyst, he was untouchable and universally loved during his playing days for not only bringing the Lakers back to dominance but also teaming with Larry Bird (and NBA marketing) to usher in the NBA’s Golden Era. Magic Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships in seven trips to the NBA Finals during the 1980s. His popularity was undeniably consistent throughout the 1980s, and the fact that he represented the nation’s second-largest city did nothing but boost jersey sales.
Larry Bird was more than just a good white player; he was a basketball genius, and in the 1980s, he and Magic Johnson would revitalize the league with the best rivalry the league had ever seen. Bird won three consecutive NBA MVPs (1985, 1986, 1987) and led his Celtics to three NBA titles (1981, 1984, 1986) in five NBA Finals appearances in the 1980s. We can safely assume that he had the best-selling jerseys in the league, not just in Boston, but throughout the league. During the years when Bird won the NBA championship and/or was named the league’s MVP, jersey sales skyrocketed (and yes, his being a white player helped that). Bird’s complete dominance during that decade undoubtedly places his jersey among the best in NBA history.
This list is chock-full of transcendent NBA players, and Stephen Curry is no exception. Curry did not enter the league on fire, but once he found his game, he would forever change the NBA. And for that, he will not only rewrite, but completely demolish the three-point shooting record books. Curry would go on to become the NBA’s first unanimous MVP and win four championships. His success, good guy image, and popularity are reflected in his three consecutive seasons leading the league in jersey sales in 2016, 2017, and 2018. If Curry can stay at the top of his game for the next few seasons and win another championship or two, he will rise up this list.
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 dominant force the league has ever seen since Wilt Chamberlain.
Julius “Dr. J” Erving was MJ before MJ, and his popularity in the league was highlighted by his aerial acrobatics and cool personality — a league-first combination — but Julius Erving was much more than the highlights. Erving’s jersey sales are boosted by the fact that he won an MVP in 1981 and an NBA championship two years later in 1983 after joining the league. Julius’ ABA, New Jersey Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers jerseys have consistently been among the most popular throwback jerseys since his retirement. For these reasons, we believe Dr. J’s jersey is one of the top ten best-selling jerseys of all time.
one of the best-selling NBA jerseys during his career. Pound for pound, Allen Iverson was one of the league’s best players, and he was not only one of the league’s most popular players, but he also had a significant cultural impact.
Based on the available jersey sales data and the NBA’s lack of popularity prior to the 1980s, 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 is another player we believe would make this list besides Dr. J, it would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The league’s all-time leading scorer played for the Los Angeles Lakers during the showtime era and has six NBA championships, six NBA MVP trophies, and two Finals MVP awards on his resume. We believe the legend sold his fair share of jerseys during his 20 NBA seasons.
Winning two NBA championships in the middle of Michael Jordan’s three-peat helped to cement Hakeem Olajuwon’s legacy and popularity. The Nigerian-born center has been named MVP, NBA Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year during his career, and he has appeared in three NBA Finals (1986, 1994, 1995).