LeBron James has proven to be the NBA’s most popular player in recent years, even with the public backlash he received from “The Decision” in 2010. After choosing to return home and re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the league’s best player could see his popularity increase significantly.
In the 2013-2014 NBA season, James led the way in jersey sales for the sixth time in his career. His No.6 Miami Heat jersey surpassed that of the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. For the upcoming season, James will return to No. 23, the number he wore in his first stint with hte Cavs, but it still means big things in terms of sales.
James’s jersey is so popular that the question of what number he would wear in the 2014-2015 season became an immediate topic of discussion, once he announced he was leaving the Heat. James let the fans decide with an Instagram poll, and it was decided that he would return to his original number.
While James waited until the end of July to make a final decision on his number, fans couldn’t wait to buy his jersey. A week after the four-time MVP signed his new contract, the NBA Store sold out its James Cavalier jerseys, even though he still hadn’t decided between No.6 or No.23.
The @NBAStore says it has now sold out of LeBron replica Cavs home, away & alternate jerseys.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) July 20, 2014
A representative from the NBA Store in New York told International Business Times that James’s jersey sales have remained strong. They don’t plan on putting his jerseys on sale anytime soon, even during Labor Day Weekend.
Historically, a player changing his number has meant only good things for sales. According to Newsy Sports, Kevin Garnett’s Boston Celtics jersey was the most popular in the league during his first season with the team. When he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the previous season, Garnett didn’t even crack the top 10 in jersey sales.
James was able to change his jersey number without a problem because he switched teams, but that isn’t always the case. If an NBA player decides to change his number, but fails to officially apply for the change by the March deadline, he has to pay for the remaining jerseys with the old number that are on the market.
Some NBA fans might not feel the need to buy a new James jersey, since he wore the same number for the Cavaliers four years ago. However, his switch from Miami to Cleveland could still cause sales to spike. Many fans were so disgusted with the way James left his hometown team that they got rid of, or even burned his jersey. Those who kept their jerseys could be looking to purchase new ones, considering the Cavaliers introduced new uniforms in their first season without James.
James has been popular for a long time, but he was despised by a large portion of fans over the last four years. Shortly after he took his talents to South Beach, Forbes found that not only was James one of the top two hated NBA players, but he was also one of the most hated athletes in all of sports, with 48 percent of fans disliking him. Returning to Cleveland and trying to bring a championship to his hometown has done a lot to improve James’s public perception.
When he agreed to return to Cleveland, James signed a two-year contract with the team that includes an option to become a free agent in the summer of 2015. He’s made it clear that he intends to stay with the Cavs, but technically there’s a chance for James to wear another jersey next year.