LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose Lead NBA's Most Popular Jerseys

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 19, 2013

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose Lead NBA's Most Popular Jerseys

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    If you own an NBA jersey, chances are it bears the name of one of the following 15 players. After all, they're the 15 who boast the most popular threads throughout the league. 

    These are the players who routinely dazzle you with their fantastic play on the court, emerging as unquestioned stars and superstars for their respective teams. Whether through red-hot shooting from beyond the three-point arc or unparalleled feats of athleticism around the rim, they create highlights and help their teams win games on a regular basis. 

    Why else would you want to wear their names on your back? 

    Buying a jersey is an investment. It represents feelings of respect and enjoyment, all wrapped up into one tangible object that you must spend your hard-earned money on in order to own. 

    That's why we can't take jersey sales lightly. They're a great way of determining the players that reign supreme as the most popular in the Association. 

    Based on sales from Adidas and NBAStore.com during October, November and December, these are the best of the bunch. 

     

    Note: All information about jersey sales comes via the NBA's press release. 

15. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    There's no doubt Michael Carter-Williams is the most popular rookie in the 2013 class. 

    Forget about Victor Oladipo, Kelly Olynyk, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke and all the other first-year players. Even though MCW hasn't suited up in weeks as he struggles to recover from a bacterial infection on his right knee, he's the lone rookie representative among the top-15 best-selling jerseys. 

    Carter-Williams took the NBA world by storm when he debuted against the Miami Heat with a stupendous 22 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists and nine steals in the upset victory, and it's not like he's struggled since then. At times, his long arms have made professional basketball look easy, leading him to a triple-double and insane amounts of popularity. 

    The Rookie of the Year favorite is part of the new breed at point guard: a big, lanky guy who can do more than just pass the ball. 

    It's no surprise that his jersey is popular, but it's fairly shocking that it's this popular so soon into his professional career. 

14. Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    This is the first time Paul George has risen up into the top 15 for jersey sales, but it won't be the last for this burgeoning superstar. 

    That word ("superstar") isn't being used lightly. 

    The Indiana Pacers swingman is only 23 years old, but he's already proven that only a handful of players in the NBA are more dominant two-way players. And even that might be generous, as he's coupled his incredible defensive skills with some serious improvements on the more-glamorous end of the court. 

    Emerging as an MVP candidate during the 2013-14 campaign, George has consistently gone toe-to-toe with the Association's preeminent stars and held his own, dating back to last year's playoffs. And there's no going back now, as he's only getting better. 

    A smooth player with ridiculous amounts of athleticism at his disposal, PG may be debuting in the top 15, but this will inevitably be his lowest rank for years to come. 

13. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

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    Does it matter that Rajon Rondo hasn't played a single game during the 2013-14 season and has instead been following around Brad Stevens so that he can one day become a head coach? 

    Nope. 

    The Boston Celtics point guard still has a huge cult following, and that's not going to change as he recovers from the torn ACL he suffered midway through the 2012-13 campaign. When healthy, Rondo is still one of the elite point guards in the NBA, and he's the clear-cut leader of the Celtics. That in itself is a big deal, as the C's are one of the most historic franchises out there. 

    Plus, Rondo is quite the entertaining floor general. 

    Between his flashy passes, behind-the-back fakes, knack for recording monstrous lines on national television and lockdown defensive mentality, it's hard not to enjoy watching him play. 

12. James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    If you enjoy defense or hate flopping, then a James Harden jersey probably isn't for you. 

    But quite a few basketball fans are blown away by offensive excellence, and that's exactly what the Houston Rockets' bearded shooting guard brings to the table in rather large quantities. Whether you're looking for gaudy scoring totals, Eurosteps in transition, hot shooting from the perimeter, fancy dribbling or solid passing, Harden typically has you covered. 

    Ever since he was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Rockets, Harden has made defenses fear his knack for racking up points and making scoreboard operators sweat. 

    In the process, he's also created quite a few highlights and emerged as one of the biggest fan favorites in the NBA. That should be pretty clear from his rank in jersey sales alone, as Harden makes his debut in the top 15. 

    Now just imagine how many No. 13 threads would sell if they came with custom-fitted beards. 

11. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Now that Derrick Rose is out (again) with a knee injury, Russell Westbrook is the unquestioned holder of the "most explosive point guard in the NBA" title. 

    He thrives off those athletic bursts to the basket and often treats the rim like it seriously wronged him. That's the only explanation for the ferocity with which he dunks on a regular basis, as Westbrook makes the "slam dunk" and "throwdown" monikers appear scarily accurate. 

    Yes, the point guard can teach classes on poor shot selection. 

    Yes, he occasionally fails to get Kevin Durant as involved as he should. 

    Yes, his inconsistency can be frustrating. 

    But there's still no doubt that he's one of the most entertaining players in basketball. Westbrook's unpredictable nature makes him fun to watch, and everyone buying jerseys pretty clearly agrees. 

10. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Blake Griffin is a dunking machine. 

    Whether he's throwing down massive slams in transition or rising up high after a backdoor cut to complete the alley-oop, he's going to produce at least one dunk on a nightly basis. More often than not, he gets to dazzle crowds with a handful of them. 

    The 2013-14 season has also seen Griffin improve as an overall basketball player. 

    He's clearly worked on both his arsenal of post moves and his mid-range jumper, he's becoming more of a defensive presence under Doc Rivers and he's actually hustling/staying involved from the opening tip until the final buzzer. Those are all positive developments, but this is still about the entertainment factor he brings to the Staples Center. 

    Griffin is the type of player that SportsCenter was made for, so it should be no surprise that plenty of basketball fans want to purchase his jersey and then imitate his dunks on an eight-foot hoop. 

9. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The young guns tend to resonate with fans, and Kyrie Irving is no exception. 

    He's the shiny new object among NBA superstars, emerging as one of the best point guards in basketball at the tender young age of 21. The leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving is now in his third professional season since being drafted at No. 1, and he's already an All-Star who knows how to put on a show. 

    There simply isn't a guard in the Association with better handles. Not one. 

    Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford might disagree, but Irving treats the rock like it's attached to a string, and he imitates the Tasmanian Devil on a regular basis, whirling around defenders en route to the rim. Employing Houdini-like elusiveness, the Duke product is an offensive force, and his drives to the basket are nothing short of sensational. 

    Scarily enough, Irving will only get more popular as he continues to improve and eventually leads the Cavs into the postseason for the first time in his career. 

8. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Chris Paul is the best point guard in basketball. 

    Frankly, it's not even close. There are plenty of challengers coming for CP3's throne, but he's holding them all off by dominating as a scorer and still finding time to play great defense while leading the NBA in assists per game. 

    Paul plays basketball exactly like it's meant to be played. 

    He's in constant control, fully embodying the "floor general" nickname that his position has earned over the years, and every single move has a purpose. Keep your eyes trained on CP3 the next time you watch the Los Angeles Clippers, and you'll notice just how many head fakes, hesitation dribbles, look-offs and more he makes when handling the ball. 

    Everything is done for a reason, and it usually works out in Paul's favor. 

    CP3 may not be a high-flying dunk machine, nor is he a guy that's going to lead the league in scoring anytime in his career. But he's as good as it gets at point guard, and that's enough for his jersey to fly off the shelves. 

7. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    Don't count Dwyane Wade out. 

    His knees may keep him out of a few too many games for the Miami Heat, but he remains one of the most popular players in basketball thanks to a few major factors:

    1. His track record, as Wade has made All-Star teams for what seems like decades now. 
    2. His status as a two-time defending champion. 
    3. His entertaining style of play. 

    Vintage Wade still shows up every once in a while, dazzling both crowds and opponents with his penchant for athletic plays. He can get up and throw down with the best of 'em, his Eurostep still works and there's nothing quite like that pump fake that always draws a foul. 

    Heat fans know that Wade is still capable of exploding, as he did during the grudge match against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 18. And the rest of the NBA knows it as well. 

    The No. 3 jersey in Miami has become a pretty iconic one over the years, and 2013 is no different. 

6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    Believe it or not, this is Stephen Curry's first time in the top 15, and he's debuting all the way up at No. 6. 

    The Golden State Warriors sharpshooter is quickly developing into one of basketball's most popular players, thanks in large part to his ridiculous shooting ability from beyond the three-point arc. After setting the all-time record for single-season three-pointers made in 2012-13, Curry is putting together one heck of an encore. 

    With his quick release and knack for draining shots anywhere in the half-court set, the former Davidson standout can explode at any point. 

    One second, the Dubs are down 10 points. Two minutes later, Curry has recorded a dozen points and helped his team overtake the opposition. It's this ability to catch fire and drill triple after triple that has made the baby-faced assassin become must-watch television as his career progresses. 

    While Curry is on the court, two things are true: The Warriors are never out of the game, and the entire basketball-watching world should be tuning in. 

5. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    Even though Carmelo Anthony hasn't been able to carry the New York Knicks to much success, he's still a rather impressive individual. 

    The NBA's reigning scoring champ trails only Kevin Durant in points per game this year, and it's far too early to count him out in the quest for back-to-back titles. After all, the reeling Knicks desperately need his scoring contributions each and every night. 

    'Melo might not be the most well-rounded superstar, but he's a superstar nonetheless. And it doesn't hurt that he plays in one of the Association's biggest markets. 

    It's still all about scoring for No. 7. 

    He can put up points in a variety of ways, and he hits difficult shots as easily as anyone not named Kobe Bryant or Durant. At least once per game, Anthony knocks down a bucket that leaves fans scratching their heads and wondering how in the world he got the attempt to drop. 

    Plus, his quick release is just a thing of beauty. No player in the NBA is better at getting from dribble to release in less time. 

4. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    When it comes to selling jerseys, Kevin Durant has a lot working in his favor. 

    Not only is he the best scorer in basketball thanks to his remarkable ability to put up points in volume while maintaining staggering levels of efficiency, but he's a likable, young superstar who consistently says and does the right thing. If it weren't for LeBron James, Durant would be both the golden boy of the league and the NBA's best player. 

    But there are also a few things working against him. 

    Durant hasn't won MVP or held up the Larry O'Brien Trophy, which is something that each of the three players ahead of him can claim. Two of them can even boast both accomplishments. 

    He also doesn't play in a large market. While the Oklahoma City Thunder fanbase is incredibly passionate, it simply isn't as large as those of Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. 

    Durant will eventually rise higher than No. 4, but not until one of those two detrimental factors changes. 

3. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

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    Even though Derrick Rose hasn't played much basketball over the last two years, he remains in the top three for jersey sales. 

    Yes, he's that popular. 

    The former MVP sat out the entire 2012-13 campaign before returning this season. And once he came back, he wasn't exactly enjoying the most successful run before injuring his meniscus and knocking himself out for the rest of 2013-14. 

    But it's not about individual numbers for Rose. It's about hope. 

    The hope that he'll return by the end of the year, defying all expectations in the process. The hope that he'll be back to full strength next season and lead Chicago to the first championship since Michael Jordan left. The hope that he can win MVP again and dethrone LeBron James. 

    The hope that he can be D-Rose again. 

    One store may be offering a discount on Rose jerseys, per B/R's Kyle Newport, but the overall sales are still going strong. 

    Hope never dies, after all. 

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Absence apparently makes the heart grow fonder. 

    Kobe Bryant moved up one spot since the last time sales were reported back in October, and that's rather notable since the Mamba didn't make his 2013-14 debut until Dec. 8, when his Los Angeles Lakers took on the Toronto Raptors. 

    One word in the previous sentence is quite key: "his."

    Even though Kobe is 35 years old and coming off an Achilles injury, the Lakers still belong to him. The rest of the roster must mold its style of play to match his, and he's immediately resumed his role as the leader both on and off the court. 

    Kobe is Kobe, and that's not going to change until he hangs up his sneakers for the last time and pulls the plug on a stellar NBA career. 

    Few jerseys have ever been more iconic than the No. 24 in purple and gold. 

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    As Tim Reynolds reports on Twitter, LeBron James doesn't take this honor lightly. 

    In fact, the reigning MVP and consensus best player in basketball still says there's a "wow factor" when he hears that he tops the list of jersey sales, even though this is the fifth time he's achieved such an honor. 

    LeBron just has a lot going for him. 

    Not only is he the best player in the NBA, but he's a two-time defending champion with multiple MVPs to his name. He's an athletic marvel who consistently manages to produce highlights that few human beings can ever dream of, and he takes over games on a regular basis. 

    On top of that, he's a likable guy, despite what the aftermath of "The Decision" might have led you to believe. 

    The No. 1 spot on a list of jersey sales is a place fit for a king. Fortunately, we have one of those in the NBA.