Think about the kids, Kevin. The kids! The No. 35 jerseys worn by Oklahoma City children have been good for nearly a decade, but now they’re worthless. Might as well burn ’em. This is a huge (as in widespread) little (as in not that important) problem in all sports—aside from a franchise quarterback, who doesn’t play for multiple teams?—but this NBA offseason has been a particularly strong reminder that fans should stick to nameless jerseys.
Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, two rare superstars who stayed with one team forever, just finished their final seasons. And even Bryant didn’t make it easy on fans, switching his jersey number midway through his career. Are there any players like them left? Dirk Nowitzki comes to mind; it’s hard to see him leaving Dallas at this point. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have made San Antonio a safe haven for jersey buyers. Among active players in the top 100 of games played, only one other qualifies: Mike Conley, who just signed a five-year extension to stay in Memphis.
We can’t predict where Damian Lillard’s career might take him. Or Gordon Hayward’s. Or Ben Simmons’. But we can’t trust them. Durant, Dwyane Wade, Al Horford, and Dwight Howard (again) reminded us of that over these past few weeks.
Alas, there is a solution: The t-shirt jersey. Much cheaper than its more authentic cousin, the t-shirt jersey displays the same information as the jersey but is affordable and more appropriate for public. In fact, my Jose Reyes Mets t-shirt jersey just became useful again. And that’s why I was joking earlier about burning your Durant gear. LeBron James returned to Cleveland and it’s not hard to see Durant doing the same in OKC, especially if he wins a championship in Golden State.
In 2014, the top-selling NBA jerseys belonged to James, Durant, Bryant, and Derrick Rose, all of whom have joined new teams (or retired) since. So go ahead and buy a No. 35 Warriors jersey. Just don’t consider it a good investment.