There are some sports where jersey licensing is nice and easy to understand. You will be glad to know as you start your search for a sweet new basketball jersey that the NBA is not one of those. The NBA online store has no less than five different types of jerseys available. That isn’t even counting the fake and counterfeit options out there that are trying to steal your money.
Luckily for you, this is where we come in. This NBA jersey buying guide should eliminate some of the pain and make the search for the right jersey just a little bit easier. After all, easier is better. We will look at the different manufacturers selling jerseys, the confusing method Nike uses to brand its official line of NBA jerseys, NBA jersey sizing, and what to look out for to avoid buying a fake.
Here is the guide.
The Different Types of Basketball Jerseys
Branding is fun and Nike knows this. When the Swoosh took over the design and development of NBA jerseys prior to the 2017/18 season they wanted to make some noise. The decades-old terminology of home (generally white), road, and alternate jerseys was put out to pasture. Instead, Nike jerseys were branded as Association, Icon, and Statement. Other options are available and here we break down those types
Type of Jersey
- Authentic – These are the best basketball jerseys that you can buy. They are currently made by Nike (though be aware that ADIDAS had the contract from 2006/07-2016/17) and are made to the same quality as those worn by the players in the league. As you can probably imagine, this makes authentic jerseys the most expensive option, though the quality makes it worth it for many NBA fans as they have stitched numbers and graphics
- Nike Swingman – Nike Swingman jerseys are a step down from the top-end products but their affordability makes them a great choice and they are popular. The Nike Swingman jerseys are replicas without the embroidery and they are screen printed instead. They fit slim, something worth keeping in mind if you are in the market for one of these jerseys
- Mitchell & Ness Swingman – These are throwback jerseys of NBA greats. Michell & Ness have an authentic line that is some of the most popular NBA jerseys out there as they feature players like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Their Swingman jerseys are a slight step down in terms of quality, but often still feature stitched names and numbers. They fit in a more normal way than the Nike Swingman jerseys too.
- Fanatics Fast Break – The budget option when it comes to officially licensed NBA jerseys. These are made by Fanatics and not Nike, but anyone on a tighter budget should check them out. The quality is a little poorer, but they still look good and will last longer than you expect at the price point. These fit like regular jerseys so stay true to size if you go with the Fanatics option.
Nike NBA Jerseys
- Association – The Association NBA jersey replaced the home white jerseys that teams used to wear. This home white and road color jersey came from the days when teams only carried one set of jerseys to games and was initially implemented as a rule to prevent color clashes on the court. While some teams (notably the Lakers and their gold) would wear a color other than white at home, it was not a common practice. The launch of the Association jersey, along with an NBA rule change, meant that the home team now gets to decide which jersey to wear at any given home game.
- Icon – The old road (colored) jerseys are now Icon jerseys. This is a label that fits as these are the jersey colors that are easily associated with their teams. Think of the Celtics in green, the Jazz in purple, or Tim Duncan in Spurs’ black. The change in home/road designation meant that a number of teams immediately went to their Icon jersey for their home contests.
- Statement – Alternate jerseys were cool, but Statement jerseys mean something. This is the jersey that allows a team to get creative. They can play off of their roster, their organizational attitude, or even aspects of their history. The Denver Nuggets ‘Mile High City’ jerseys are a stand-out, but after a slow start to the idea of Statement jerseys, teams are producing interesting themes and colorways on a yearly basis.
- City – The newest addition to the NBA jersey lineup is the city theme. This is a chance for marketing departments to get even more creative. These jerseys represent the city or notable residents from that particular place. The Miami Heat have owned this jersey category with the ‘Miami Vice’ jerseys that play with older generations through the TV show and a younger crowd through memories of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Think of basketball jersey sizing like shoe sizing. Every brand comes with a slightly different look and fit. This means being careful when buying a jersey, especially if you are doing so online. Be sure to check size guides on the manufacturer’s website and take accurate measurements to answer the fit you want. Also, this sounds simple but is worth pointing out, if you want a baggy fit, size up a little.
Most basketball jerseys will come in adult and youth sizes. The best way to ensure the correct sizing is to go to a store where you can try it before you buy. Generally, try to go bigger than smaller. Basketball jerseys are not particularly flattering and looser is always better than tighter in the stands.
Is it Fake or Real?
NBA jerseys are incredibly popular and with that popularity comes scammers in imitators. Good fakes are hard to pick out, so you are better off following a few simple rules to make sure that your brand new Greek Freak jersey is the real deal.
The first rule is to buy from official stores. Online that means the NBA Store is generally going to be your best bet, but reputable dealers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods are fine too. It is best to completely avoid discount brick-and-mortar stores and eBay is 100% a mixed bag. While there are plenty of deals on real jerseys out there, there are also countless fakes on the market.
If it sounds too good to be true it likely is, so do some research and always look for tells. Stock photos are a no-no and make sure you know how the stitching on the type of jersey you are trying to buy should look. It is even better if you can get your hands on the material, checking the logo sizes and where the jersey is made. This will all help you avoid fakes.
What size should I get my NBA jersey?
Adhere to size chats on the manufacturer’s website. Decide what you want the fit to be (tight or baggy). Try to find a store to try on a jersey of the same brand (doesn’t have to be the jersey you want) if at all possible.
Which is the best NBA jersey to buy?
Authentic jerseys are the best quality but they are also the most expensive. Buy the jersey that best fits your personal budget.
What should I pay for an NBA jersey?
Official replicas ban sit in the $40 to $50 range. Authentics that are highly sought after can be in the $200 to $300 range. Finding the player you want and then doing some comparison shopping to find a deal (that is not fake) is the best way to approach buying an NBA jersey at a good price.
What brand are authentic NBA jerseys?
Authentic NBA jerseys are made by Nike (modern) and Mitchell & Ness (retro). Replica/Swingman jerseys are made by both those companies and also Fanatics.
How do I know if an NBA jersey is real?
Buy from a reputable seller such as the NBA store online. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true and compare the jersey you are looking at buying to something you know is real down to the smallest detail.
What is the difference between authentic and swingman NBA jerseys?
Authentic jerseys are the same jerseys that the pros wear on the court. They are higher quality and feature full stitching of numbers, names, and logos. Swingman jerseys are a slight step down in quality. They will feature printing either instead of or in addition to stitching.