King James rules the NBA's jersey-sale worldwide

Michael McCarthy, Special to CNBC

They don't call NBA superstar LeBron James "King James" for nothing. The Miami Heat forward boasted the top-selling jersey worldwide during the NBA's 2012-13 season.

For the first time, the $5.5 billion sports league tracked best-selling jersey sales on a global rather than regional basis. The No. 6 jersey of James ranked No. 1 worldwide, according to the league, which is releasing the survey to coincide with Saturday's tipoff of NBA Global Games 2013.

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Despite missing the entire season with a knee injury, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls had the second best-selling jersey worldwide. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers ranked No. 3. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and James' Heat teammate, Dwyane Wade, rounded out the Top 5.

The rest of the Top 10: Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (No. 6); Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers, who's since joined the Houston Rockets (No. 7); Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets (No. 8); Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers (No. 9); and Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics (No. 10). The lists are based on global retail/online sales of NBA jerseys made by Adidas, the league's official outfitter.

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The 28-year old James, who led Miami to its second straight NBA title this spring, also topped U.S. jersey sales for the 2012-13 season. The rest of the U.S. Top 5 in order: Rose, Bryant, Durant and Anthony.

In November, 2012, James overtook Rose to lead the U.S. in jersey sales for the first time since 2011. Those rankings were based on combined sales at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue and, not Adidas volume, from April through November 2012. By April 2013, however, Anthony surpassed James to become the first Knick to lead the league in jersey sales since the survey was first conducted for the 2001-02 season. James slipped to second.

Outside the U.S. market, the Lakers' Bryant had the top-selling international jersey for the 2011-12 season. Rose ranked second and James third. The four-time NBA MVP's Adidas jerseys currently sell from a low of $23.99 to a high of $299.95 at

The NBA, MLB and NHL are the most global of the big U.S. pro sports leagues. The best-selling jersey lists illustrates the power of global athletic companies to influence spending choices of consumers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

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The images of James and Bryant are marketed globally by Nike. Rose serves as the advertising face of Adidas' basketball business. How else can you explain the injured Rose beating out the healthy James to score the best-selling jersey in Europe, China and Latin America this past season—despite not playing a single game?

Top 15 Selling Jerseys Worldwide for the 2012-13 season:





LeBron James

Miami Heat


Derrick Rose

Chicago Bulls


Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers


Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder


Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat


Carmelo Anthony

New York Knicks


Dwight Howard

Los Angeles Lakers*


Deron Williams

Brooklyn Nets


Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers


Rajon Rondo

Boston Celtics


Steve Nash

Los Angeles Lakers


Chris Paul

Los Angeles Clippers


Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder


Kevin Garnett

Boston Celtics*


Joe Johnson

Brooklyn Nets

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