Okay, so no one needs an NBA player jersey. Or any jersey. Ever. However, if we are talking about the reality within which we are captives, jerseys are both meaningful and fun to have. They also cost a lot of money and you should probably pay a bill or open a savings account before you consider shelling out big money for a LeBron James exercise shirt, partially because they cost a lot and partially because every thrift shop in America will have seven of them in the next three-to-five years.
So, for sake of honest transparency, I’m going to wistfully look at my stack of 70-80 NBA and Bayern Munich jerseys for a few seconds before continuing.
I’m back. To be fair, at least half of the jerseys I have are either a youth size – for my wife – or were given to me free of charge – thanks friends, Derek in particular!
It bears true, no one should spend a bunch of money on an NBA jersey. The Mitchell and Ness “retro” jerseys are ridiculously nice and make to “authentic” specifications of the original jerseys worn by players in yesteryear. They’ll also cost you $300 plus shipping, and that is only if you manage to purchase one before they completely sell out which happens every time they bring back a Michael Jordan jersey.
Let’s just assume that you aren’t going in on the Mitchell and Ness, so you cruise over to the NBA Store at NBA.com. Well, an authentic adidas Swingman jersey is still going to cost you $110 plus shipping. You should be paying your credit card bill or buying groceries so you don’t have to eat McDonald’s and Little Caeser’s all week. Just because you graduated from ramen noodles doesn’t mean you have earned the right to take on lots of debt and a shirt with someone else’s name on it.
The next step down the list is the adidas “replica” jersey. Generally, this just means you’re getting screen-printed details on the jersey instead of sewn on numbers and letters. At this level of irresponsible fandom, you need to shell out $75 plus shipping. You shelled this out, but you can’t donate to a clean water initiative or sponsor a child in Haiti?
Not your cup of tea? Then you’re headed to your local eBay.com to start searching for fake or pre-owned jersey of your choice and hoping that someone else doesn’t have more money to flush down the drain than you do. You could get an Andre Bogut jersey from his time with the Milwaukee Bucks that is cheaply made, probably as part of a giveaway, with a tacky Pepsi logo on it for just $3.99 plus shipping – I did.
Even then, you could be looking at spending a pretty penny. Those very, very cool 1990s Toronto Raptors jerseys with the Raptor on the front, “Stoudamire” printed across the back? The eBay asking price may vary, but generally still lingers at or above $60 plus shipping for an adult size. Others top $100 or $120 for a used, screen-printed relic of the past.
And now that we have journeyed this far, to what end? So that I can share the 10 NBA jerseys that I do not own, but want so dearly. Don’t worry, I have no intention of ever spending the asking prices for these beauties, but here we go.
First, the classics:
Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
There is nothing that saddens me more than going on eBay, searching Karl Malone in the Sports Memorabilia category and finding dozens of cheap, authentic Malone jerseys – from his time with the Lakers. The classic Utah Jazz logo is smart, timeless. Malone was a fantastic player with some hilarious quotes. I’d love to add either a white or purple Malone Jazz jersey to my collection. John Stockton is a similar situation, but if I am choosing just one Jazz player, it has to be Malone for my money.
Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
The only Laker jersey I would want to own. One of the best of the best, always out of my price range. That classic gold Lakers jersey calls to me, but the asking price is too high.
Damon Stoudamire, Toronto Raptors
I love the 1990s Raptors jerseys. Whoever came up with the idea for putting an actual Raptor on an NBA jersey is a hero and I thank them. I prefer the purple to the white, but finding either for a reasonable – cheap – price is impossible. Someday, I hope to luck into one of these, just like all the others on this list.
Detlef Schrempf, Seattle Supersonics
No, not the Space Needle jerseys. Forget that nonsense. Crazy fact: I have exactly ZERO classic Sonics jerseys. I’m pretty sure I had a Kemp in the early 2000s, but traded it away – possibly to my friend, Kyle, for a Charles Barkley purple Phoenix Suns jersey. I have no Payton, no Kemp, no Durant, no one. If I’m choosing just one, I’ll go with the lesser lights of the Seattle professional basketball heyday and grab the German’s jersey.
Christian Laettner, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves old jerseys are amazing, simple, amazingly simple. I have none of them. The early 2000s weren’t as good, though I have some of those. It’s hard to choose just one player: Rider, Richardson, Garnett, Gugliotta, Parks. I want the Laettner. Maybe it’s because of the ESPN 30 for 30 or because I read a little about him here and there in books and articles about other greats or how he was the absurd addition to the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team. I don’t know, but I want that jersey. I found it many times, but the prices are so inflated that it becomes laughable.
Those classic players are wonderful and we could add probably 50 more, like John Starks, Robert Horry, Bryant Reeves and the 1991 Bucks of Brickowski and Krystkowiak. Great players are still on the court, so here are a handful of current players that have jerseys I’d like to put in my pile. Some players, like Draymond Green, would easily make the cut if not for the fact I hate their jerseys. Every time I watch the Warriors, I think about my Chris Weber Dubs jersey and how that looks so much better than what they have now.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
The wife has a Patrick Ewing jersey from the Knicks, but I have nothing. I like the classic style, though I don’t cheer for the New Yorkers. Seeing as I don’t have Oakley, Traylor, Starks or Ewing… the Porzingod is up. Every quote I read from or about the guy fills me with joy.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
If you don’t love Boogie, you have some serious bitterness issues in your life and I encourage you to enroll in yoga and hit up your local church to see if they can do something for you. Or just save the money you’d drop on a jersey and buy League Pass so you can watch him do historic things every single night. When he isn’t leading the league in both personal fouls and technical fouls, he’s busy having the highest usage rate of any center in the NBA and putting up 30 points, 10 rebound games like nobody’s business. This "alternate" jersey is better than almost every jersey in the entire league.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Why would you not want a Leonard jersey? He’s the future. The Spurs are the greatest and if you’ve been fighting the urge to love them, you probably decided you’ll never buy in to the legendary Tim Duncan or Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. Plus, you’d be a real evil person if you decided the only Spurs jersey you needed or wanted was Bruce Bowen. That would mean you are the same person who gave away your Olajuwon jersey because you had to choose between that and Patrick Beverly. Just, don’t do it. Kawhi is the best two-way wing in the game and he just keeps getting better every year. No drama, just business.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Embrace the Greek Freak. Embrace a jersey that says “ANTETOKOUNMPO” across back, almost comically scrunched in to fit all the letters. This new Bucks jersey is easily the best one they’ve had in 20 years.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
I’ve got the Butler autographed 8x11 glossy and I bought my wife his Christmas Day jersey last year, but I still do not have one. Butler is Kawhi lite and has emerged as the vocal leader on the court and in the media for Chicago. He works hard and is the brightest spot on my favorite team. If you think the Butler pick is too boring, I’d also take a Portis jersey and would attempt to make Portis-style facial expressions the entire time I have it on.
Some jerseys didn’t make the list because their team’s jerseys are an abomination. Those classic Wolves jerseys I mentioned earlier are borderline iconic, but their current jerseys are so ugly, you couldn’t get me to buy a Karl-Anthony Towns jersey for any amount of money. Anthony Davis is supposed to be the next LeBron-level player in the league, but I’m never dishing out for these Pelicans jerseys no matter what. Lillard is the one player on the cusp for me, a truly talented guard who came from a mid-major and has played at-or-above his projected ability for the duration of his professional career. The drawback from making this list? The Blazers have a beautiful jersey and it is basically the same jersey they had in the Robinson, Porter, Drexler, Kersey days – I’d still want it, but since we’ve already got an Abdur-Rahim Blazers jersey in the house, it isn’t a pressing need.
And of course, if you read this far, I’m always looking to add these jerseys or any others if the price is free or close to it. Hit me up on Twitter if you want to feed my unnecessary collection. Also, adidas, if you decided to read this, I know you gave up your licensing deal with the NBA so feel free to send me all of the jerseys for free, okay?
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)