Despite being widely known as the quiet, media-averse enigma of the NBA, Kawhi Leonard still drives merchandise sales for his team. However, recently reported sales figures could be viewed as disappointing relative to his team’s market size.
The 30-year-old LA Clippers All-Star currently wears the fifteenth-most popular jersey in basketball, according to insider Marc Stein, who released a list of the highest-selling jersey sales of the second half of the 2020-21 NBA season.
While Leonard is clearly one of the more popular players in the NBA (and one of the best, as he made All-NBA First Team yet again this season), his sales landed behind those of players in smaller markets, like Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Atlanta’s Trae Young and Memphis’ Ja Morant.
Per Forbes, the Clippers currently sit as the sixth-most valuable franchise in the NBA, falling behind the Knicks, Warriors, Lakers, Bulls and Celtics. It stands to reason that a superstar based in Los Angeles as the figurehead of the sixth-most valuable franchise in the league would rank higher than fifteenth on the league’s jersey sale leaderboards.
While exact sales numbers were not given, Leonard seems to be descending on the list. Stein released another jersey sales list back in March of 2021. At the time, Leonard came in at thirteenth. Prior to that, in September of 2020, Leonard ranked ninth.
It is unclear why Leonard’s jersey is being outsold by lesser stars in smaller markets. It would be unjust to point solely to his seemingly aloof personality, but it cannot be ignored, either. Flash back to 2013, when the Clippers were a far less valuable franchise than they are now, and Blake Griffin (a thrilling, charismatic, though less-talented player) and Chris Paul both ranked in the top-ten in jersey sales.
Leonard will likely opt out of his player option and become a free agent this offseason. Perhaps (purely speculation) these sales are a reflection of Clipper fans’ uncertainty that Leonard will remain in LA long term. Free agency begins on Aug. 6 at 9:01 a.m.