The Los Angeles Lakers have an illustrious history, filled with many NBA legends and 16 championships. Those that follow the NBA familiarize them and the Boston Celtics as the two most noted NBA franchises, with an influence that exceeds the United States and engulfs every country that loves basketball.
One international powerhouse with a heavy basketball influence is China. Although they have their own league in the Chinese Basketball Association, the NBA still has a major impact, as fans idolize All-Stars and the top-tier players.
Perhaps no other player is more idolized in China than Kobe Bryant. As a part of his deal with Nike, Bryant conducts many campaigns in China as a part of his tour and the unveiling of his new sneakers. Fans in China have been known to put on quite the spectacle for Bryant, as the stadiums and streets are filled whenever the five-time champion makes an appearance.
To no surprise, the 2015-16 season was Bryant’s final journey, in an 82-game spectacle that involved paying homage to one of the greatest NBA players. According to ESPN’s Michael Yuan, his popularity in China only increased with his departure as he has topped the jersey sales rankings:
While current stars tend to fill the NBAStore.com rankings, former NBA greats still carry significant weight in China. Bryant’s No. 1 ranking does not come as much surprise given his immense popularity in the country and the ceremony surrounding his final season with the Lakers, who finished No. 1 in team merchandise.
Aside for Bryant’s familiar ranking at the top, the Lakers also finished with the most team merchandise in 2016. Given that Bryant fills up a majority of those sales regarding the Lakers, it is also a pleasant sight that some of the other players are making an impact.
The numbers regarding the jersey sales were accumulated from September of 2015 to October of 2016, based on the statistical numbers from NBAStore.cn and other flagship stores in the country, according to NBA China. Bryant’s top ranking may be taken by some as a grain of salt, considering he was voted the most famous athlete in China last June.
During a recent step a few years ago, Bryant and his Nike team had a court built in China, which was promptly named the ‘Bryant Court’. A Bryant Olympic statue was unveiled in China in August of 2014, paying tribute to all the legend has done.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors finished behind Bryant, while Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls’ jersey rounded out the top three in the country.
The Warriors, Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers joined the Lakers in the top four team sales, which also correlates to the top four team sales on NBAStore.com, albeit in a different order.