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Why NBA Jersey Sales In China Speak Volumes About Ups, Downs Of Players

Kobe Bryant's No. 24 jersey has been No. 1 in China in sales for four consecutive seasons.September 26, 2010: The Los Angeles Lakers are two-time defending champs, but Kobe Byrant has his team beat by twice that. During the 2009-10 season, Bryant had the top-selling NBA jersey in China for the fourth consecutive season. Bryant took the top spot for the second consecutive time ahead of LeBron James, now with the Miami Heat, whose Cleveland Cavaliers' jersey was No. 2 in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Bryant and James also rank 1-2 in U.S. sales of NBA jerseys from the past season. Tracy McGrady, then with the Houston Rockets, had the best-selling jersey in China in 2005-06, the year before Bryant's streak began; Bryant ranked No. 4 that season. However, analysts say that Bryant's top position in the U.S. and China could be broken this season depending on how many people flock to buy James' new Heat jersey.

Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic was No. 3 this past season in sales, moving up from No. 8 the previous season and dropping Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics from No. 3 to No. 4. Rounding out the top five for the past season was Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, who did not make the Top Ten during his rookie season in 2008-09.

The NBA said the rankings are based on sales from retail locations across China throughout the entire 2009-10 season. However, the league did not release specific sales figures. NBA merchandise is sold in 30,000 retail locations in China, including several official NBA Stores joined by a location at the Shanghai World Expo Culture Center that opened on May 1. Adidas is the league's official on-court uniform and apparel provider. (Full list of the top selling NBA jerseys in China for the past five seasons is below.)

Yao Ming, who joined the NBA in 2002-03, was not among the Top Ten selling jerseys in his native country this past season for the first time after having placed No. 6 in 2008-09. Ming missed all of last season due to a broken bone in his left foot that required surgery. It marked the fourth time in his eight-year NBA career he played in fewer than 60 games in a season. It already has been revealed by the Rockets that Ming would play in 2010-11 but that his time would be limited to 24 minutes a game. Whether that keeps him off the Top Ten China jersey sales chart remains to be seen.

Kevin Durant had a banner season, which was reflected by his jersey sales in China.Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder made the Top Ten for the first time, a direct reflection of being selected to his first All-Star Game, becoming the youngest scoring champion (30.1 ppg) in NBA history and being named MVP in leading Team USA to the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. All-Star Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz, also made the list for the first time at No. 8. Following their second appearance in the NBA Finals in three seasons, a trio of Celtics earned spots in the top 10, including Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul again earned a place on the list, moving up one spot to No. 6.

Noticeable by his absence was Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, whose jersey did not make the Top Ten after making the list every season since 2005-06. Wade could make a comeback this season, especially if his team and his new teammates, James and Chris Bosh, have a strong campaign.

Howard and Carmelo Anthony, who did not make the Top Ten after coming in at No, 10 in 2008-09, could see a spike in popularity in China this season. Both are featured in Amazing, a film with heavy NBA themes that is being co-produced with the league by Shanghai Film Group. The movie is being filmed in Beijing, Shanghai and New York with both American and Chinese actors. Anthony also could be wearing a new jersey depending on whether or not trade talks become a reality.

Yao Ming missed all of last season due to a broken bone in his left foot and his jersey sales in China dropped out of the Top Ten after ranking No. 6 in 2008-09.

NBA players also are becoming more popular with Chinese-based athletic footwear and sportswear companies. Among them, 2010 No. 2 overall draft pick Evan Turner signed with Li-Ning, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Baron Davis; Kevin Garnett recently signed with Anta (after a long tenure with adidas); and Jason Kidd has a deal with Peak. In addition, NBA veteran Stephon Marbury just re-signed a three-year deal with Shanxi Zhongyu in the Chinese Basketball Assn., where under terms of his contract he would created a company to sell his line of Starbury basketball shoes. Marbury had a deal in the U.S. with Steve & Barry's but retained rights to the line after the national retailer declared for bankruptcy and ultimately closed its doors in 2009.

Players this season will be wearing the new adidas NBA Revolution 30 uniform,  which will make its debut in China when Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets play two exhibition games against the New Jersey Nets, one at the Wukesong Arena in Beijing on Oct. 13 and the second in the new Guangzhou International Sports Arena on Oct. 16 as part of NBA China Games 2010.

Top Selling Jerseys in China
2009-10
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
4. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
5. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
6. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
7. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
8. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
9. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
10. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

2008-09
1. Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
4. Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets
5. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
6. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
7. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
8. Allen Iverson, Denver Nuggets/Detroit Pistons
9. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
10. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

2007-08
1. Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2. Kevin Garnett Boston Celtics
3. Tracy McGrady Houston Rockets
4. Paul Pierce Boston Celtics
5. Allen Iverson Denver Nuggets
6. Gilbert Arenas Washington Wizards
7. LeBron James Cleveland James
8. Dwyane Wade Miami Heat
9. Dwight Howard Orlando Magic
10. Yao Ming Houston Rockets

2006-07
1. Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
2. Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers/Denver Nuggets
3. Tracy McGrady Houston Rockets
4. Dwyane Wade Miami Heat
5. LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Yao Ming Houston Rockets
7. Kevin Garnett Minnesota Timberwolves
8. Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs
9. Carmelo Anthony Denver Nuggets
10. Gilbert Arenas Washington Wizards

2005-06
1. Tracy McGrady Houston Rockets
2, Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers
3. Yao Ming Houston Rockets
4. Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers
5. LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Carmelo Anthony Denver Nuggets
7. Kevin Garnett Minnesota Timberwolves
8.Shaquille O'Neal Miami Heat
9. Steve Nash Phoenix Suns
10. Dwyane Wade Miami Heat
Source: NBA

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