April 5, 2011
Dear India: NBA Jerseys are coming your way
Remember the days when it was kind of exclusive to own an NBA jersey in India? The days when you saw a friend wearing a jersey and you knew he had either travelled abroad or had an uncle/aunt/cousin/in-law/Chachi-ke-mama-ke-behan-ka-beta somewhere in the first world, who gifted them a precious jersey.
I don't have the stats to prove this, but the most popular jerseys when I was growing up were probably Bulls Jordan #23, Lakers O'Neal #34, Lakers Bryant #8, 76ers Iverson #3, or Magic McGrady #1. Two of my classmates had the most enviable rare ones, who I feel like giving a shout-out here:
1) Jigme Sadutshang, aka James, who owned a Gary Payton (my favourite player of all time), in SuperSonics green #20 - in that old logo - a team and jersey that doesn't exist anymore.
2) Mark Thyle, who owned a Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves #21
I was gifted my first very own authentic NBA jersey when I was 22 (late, I know) from England - it was a Knicks Marbury #3. Yes, I know - but hey, I'm a Knicks fan and wanted to sport their colours somehow. Marbury was one of my favourite players back then - but we all know how that story ended - losses, selfishness, vaseline, China.
But what about India itself - we haven't really had authentic NBA jerseys on sale here. adidas first introduced them last August - selling the Magic Dwight Howard #12 jerseys, to usher in 'Superman's' visit to India. The reaction to the jersey, along with the obvious rise of popularity of NBA in India, has encouraged adidas and the NBA.
So here's the great news: the NBA has announced that, for the first time, jerseys will be available to basketball fans in India at 200 adidas stores across the country, along with lots of other NBA merchandise. This is a great time to make this announcement, as the NBA playoffs are right around the corner.
The initial collection of jerseys will include the four players that, pretty much, will be the most bankable over here: Dwight Howard (Magic #12), Kobe Bryant (Lakers #24), LeBron James (Heat #6), and Kevin Garnett (Celtics #5).
Besides from jerseys, the rest of the line will include stylish and classic apparel, accessories and the latest in footwear, as well as colorful tees, large graphics and youthful designs showcasing top NBA teams such as the Lakers, Bulls, Magic and Celtics. The NBA collection will range from Rs. 999 to Rs. 4,499.
“Basketball is growing rapidly in India and the sport is already quite popular amongst high school and college kids in major metros,” said adidas India Director of Sales and Marketing Tushar Goculdas, “Being a leading sportswear brand and market leader in basketball in India, adidas' endeavor is to promote the game and provide our consumers innovative and exciting sportswear. We are leveraging our exclusive global partnership to bring the NBA closer to fans in India. This season, basketball enthusiasts can enjoy official licensed NBA jerseys of their favorite players and a wide and vibrant range of other NBA merchandise.”
"The NBA and adidas share a long-term commitment to grow basketball globally and are encouraged by the tremendous amount of untapped potential we see in India," said NBA India Senior Director of Development Akash Jain. “NBA fans in India are passionate about their favorite teams and players, and through adidas’ extensive retail network we will make available the largest selection of NBA performance and lifestyle merchandise ever in the country."
Now obviously, I have A LOT to say about this!
First of all - amazing news. I know this is just a modest start with only four players. Howard, Bryant, James, and Garnett. Wow. We'll be seeing a lot more of them around the country soon, worn by fans and players. But the good news is that, as the NBA gets more popular here, we will see more jerseys coming to India. This is my wishlist, which includes a whole lotta Knicks, and a lot of players that you probably won't expect to see here, but who I wish should be seen on the country's basketball courts or adorned by fans walking around the marketplace:
1. Knicks - Stoudemire #1
2. Knicks - Anthony #7 - Come on, admit it, Knicks white, orange, and blue are terrific colours, probably the NBA's best. And once they start improving, watch out for the Knicks bandwagon to get heavier.
3. Heat - Wade #3: Once again, the NBA has disappointed me, promoting LeBron but not Wade. Newsflash, world - Dwyane Wade is as good as (or ALMOST as good as) a player that LeBron James is. And he's definitely more exciting. Show some love, pleeeease.
4. Bulls - Rose #1: Before the Lakers took the mantle, the Bulls, behind Michael Jordan, were by far the most popular basketball team in the planet. Now, they are number one in the East again and their star player is an MVP candidate. This one, I really shouldn't have had to explain.
5. Lakers - Gasol #16: He came to India. He is a 2-time champ. He plays for the most popular team. And he's awesome.
6. Thunder - Durant #35: Newsflash Part 2 - Kevin Durant is a really, really, really good player. But because he doesn't really have the most promotable personality and plays in a system more than as an individual, the NBA hasn't really promoted him the way they have promoted the other superstars. The Thunder are a new team, with rare, colours, and I'm sure it will become the alternative fan's favourite apparel if we can get this jersey here.
7. Clippers - Griffin #32 - Honour to a man who has temporarily made wearing the word 'Clippers' across your chest cool again. Wait, scrap that. It's too risky.
8. Mavericks - Nowitzki #41 - Not that I would buy it, but the Mavs/Dirk are pretty popular.
9. Lakers - Artest #37: There could be many reasons why this is a bad idea. Artest is crazy is probably at the top of the list. But to all those who love defense and their psychiatrist, this is a must have. Perhaps the other reason why this is a risky move is because Ron Ron changes jersey numbers faster than the Knicks' change their roster. Over the course of his career, he has worn 15, 23, 91, 93, 96, and 37.
Others in contention: John Wall (Wizards), Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen (Celtics are popular in India), Chris Paul (Hornets), Steve Nash (Suns), Landry Fields (Knicks).
And my favourite, best, jersey idea? Cavaliers, LeBron James, #23. Ha! Just so you can a) pretend the decision never happened or b) burn it like the folks over in Cleveland.
And for those who are now kind of disappointed that NBA jerseys are now available in India, your jersey isn't rare anymore, and your days of calling on your Chachi-ke-mama-ke-behan-ka-beta are over, take heart and move on to the next level - THROWBACKS! Do some research and go old school. ESPN.com has listed its favourite retro jerseys, which include Moses Malone (Spirit of St. Louis, #13), Rick Barry (San Francisco Warriors #24), Pistol Pete Maravich (Atlanta Hawks #44).
My sights are still set to that Gary Payton Sonics - Jigs, you got a bigger size?