As a kid finding out my team was getting a new kit for the season was one of the most exciting events. That raggedy old number 12 jersey that I had loved, cherished, sweated and bled in was finally getting retired! It’s a different world in the NBA, sometimes it seems like they have a whole new design of kit for every game.
Do NBA players wear new jerseys every game? No they don’t. Each NBA team has a kit manager who is responsible for ensuring the correct jerseys are available for each game. Factoring in road trips, washing, jersey exchanges, accidental damage. Making it look like every game jersey is always brand new is a complex job.
Dwayne Wade famously went on a retirement tour during his final season in the NBA. Exchanging jerseys with players he deemed worthy after each game. So it’s possible for a player to wear a new jersey each game. What other challenges does the kit manager face?
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NBA Jerseys, how do they always look so fresh?
The NBA doesn’t just sell itself on the talent of its players or the energy and drama of the games themselves. Style is what draws its global audience in. The players hit the floor every night looking fresh and ready for action. They inspire fans to want to look like them, that means merchandise sales. Like every business though, money isn’t unlimited, genuine game jerseys are expensive and teams and players can’t just be tossing them aside at will. Each team will have 4 or 5 different jersey designs for a season. Within this for every road trip, home stand or playoff run, the jersey the wear will be planned out way ahead of time. The kit manager will make sure he has enough stock of everything, they will factor in when and where they can launder them, how many games each design will be worn for, if there’s going to be a backup and how many, are there new players on the roster. If they need extra for any charity events and Jersey exchanges. It’s a business within itself. The launch of a new design can be hyped up on TV and on Social Media for weeks, so not having the teams star player clad in a fresh-looking jersey as advertised could be embarrassing.
The recent rise of Jersey exchanges has made the kit managers job even harder. For example, during Dwayne Wades retirement tour he swapped jerseys with someone from the other team pretty much every game, or kept the jersey for himself if it meant something personal. This is pretty easy for the kit manager of the Miami Heat to plan for. Order lots of Dwayne Wade jerseys! It’s not so easy for the opposing team’s kit manager though. Not knowing which one of their players is likely to swap with Wade would have made this meticulous planning even harder. Often times 3 or 4 players would want to swap with the future hall of famer. Who exactly wouldn’t be decided until Wade himself actually handed the jersey over.
This jersey swap trend has come from European Soccer, where players will often swap jerseys at the end of games. It is becoming more popular each season in the NBA. Wade was a extreme example, maybe though he has set a precedent. Will every retiring legend now follow suite in their final season? Maybe the rest of the players who have grown up idolising these players will start to get smart and start looking to swap jerseys earlier than their final season so they don’t miss out? How many years does Lebron have left? There’s approximately 400 players in the NBA at any given time. If Lebron is playing 82 games a season, it might be worth players asking him for Jersey swaps now if they want to get one before he retires.
Despite online and physical stores being packed with throwback jerseys, Nike Swingman, Mitchell & Ness authentic, and vintage Champion Jersey’s there will always be a magic around an authentic game worn jersey from one of the leagues superstars. NBA players aren’t produced in a factory, they are fans of the game first. If anything you could say they are the biggest fans of the NBA. The ones that idolised the NBA stars of their youth so much growing up that they willed themselves into the league itself. With Zion Williamson hitting NBA arenas for the Pelicans at the start of the 2019/20 season we have the most anticipated star since Lebron James. I bet even the biggest stars would love to do a jersey swap with Zion the first time they play each other. Grab a piece of history and maybe fulfil Zions boyhood dream at the same time.
NBA Jerseys are BIG business both for teams, players and fans.
What’s the most expensive game worn Jersey worth?
After the 2017 NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland concluded with the Warriors winning in 5 games, several jerseys were auctioned off. The one fetching the most and breaking the league record for a game worn jersey was Steph Curry’s from game 3. It went for a whopping $135,000, setting a new record and outpacing Lebron ($90,000), Finals MVP Durant ($71,000) and Warriors legend Andre Iguodala ($31,000). This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NBA memorabilia. The most expensive being Dr James Naismith’s original rule book of basketball, selling in 2010 for $4.3million. The coolest of which has to be Jordan’s Converse shoes that he won a gold medal in at the 1984 Olympics, going for $190,000 in 2017. The weirdest of which may be the Utah Jazz home court floor from the final game of the 1998 NBA finals. It sold to Topdeck trading card company for $1,000,000. Of course, it was the last hardwood Jordan would ever play on as a Chicago Bull, sealing his 6th NBA title.
Do all NBA Jerseys get sold for charity?
No many will be kept by the players, given away to fans or exchanged.