Not all National Basketball Association teams are created equal. Proving which team is the best in a particular season is essentially the point of the competition between the teams. There is more to the league than just the basketball games, however. NBA franchises and the league itself are privately-owned, for-profit businesses first and foremost. In regards to profitability, not all NBA teams are created equal either.
Success on the court often boosts the value of an NBA franchise, but that isn’t always the case. Another part of the equation is the sale of officially licensed merchandise, which NBA teams share in the profit of. To prove the point about on-court success not necessarily dictating success in selling merchandise, the top team in merchandise sales for the 2018-19 season didn’t qualify for the NBA playoffs. The other four did, however. The following ranking is based on NBA.com sales for the 2018-19 regular season.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
There’s no reason to fear the deer when it comes to worrying about whether the Bucks’ brand is popular right now. The top seed in the 2018-19 Eastern Conference playoffs has cashed in on the star power of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was third in the league in jersey sales during the regular season. The further Antetokounmpo and his teammates can go during the current postseason, the better they set themselves up to appear on this list again in the 2019-20 season. That’s something the next team on this list might try to derail Milwaukee from doing, however.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
If Milwaukee defeats the Boston Celtics and advances to the Eastern Conference finals, their opponent in that series may be Philadelphia. The 76ers have already outperformed the Bucks in one area this season, however, and that is merchandise sales. Joel Embiid certainly helped boost Philadelphia in this ranking, having the fifth highest-selling jersey this season. Standing in the 76ers’ way of climbing this ranking even further is their other potential Eastern Conference finals opponent.
3. Boston Celtics
Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum helped Boston lead the Eastern Conference in merchandise sales, ranking fourth and 15th in individual jersey sales respectively. The Celtics are one of the NBA’s most storied franchises and will likely always be a contender on lists like this every year even without such star power, however.
2. Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry’s jerseys were the second-best seller this past regular season, but if the quantity of star power is a predictor of merchandise sales success, no team can compete with Golen State. As long as the likes of Boogie Cousins, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson join Curry on this roster, the Warriors will always contend for the top spot on this list. For now, however, there is another king on that throne.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James is still the king in jersey sales and the Lakers remain the league’s most marketable franchise in terms of merchandise. If the Lakers win games and make the playoffs, that just boosts the success already enjoyed even more, but that’s obviously not required.
As the 2018-19 NBA season winds down to crowning a Finals champion, it’s already clear who is the winner in terms of turning fans into walking advertisements.