When it comes to pop culture, few industries are as influential as sports. With athletes advertising everything from cereal boxes to trading cards, it’s no wonder kids grow up idealizing sports icons. Whether a fan tosses the pigskin on the field or roots for their favorite team from home, sports aficionados can easily find fellowship among each other.
5: Wayne Gretzky
With a nickname like “the great one,” it should come as no surprise that Wayne Gretzky’s jersey reigns supreme among hockey fans. Gretzky holds numerous records, including “Most Career Goals,” “Most Goals in a Season,” and “Most Consecutive MVP Awards.” His 20 year career ended with an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, ensuring that Gretzky’s name will be remembered for generations to come.
Not only is Gretzky iconic in NHL history, his 1992 Los Angeles Kinds uniform remains the most popular retro jersey in Alaska to this day. An authenticly signed Gretzky jersey easily surpasses a $1000 value.
4: Brett Favre
To quote the famous wise man John Madden, “Brett Favre is Brett Favre.” The gunslinger holds records for the most consecutive starts in the NFL, the most career pass completions, and most wins as a starting quarterback. Favre also became a pop culture staple with cameo appearances in There’s Something About Mary and Saturday Night Live, in addition to acting as spokesperson of brands such as Mastercard and Hyundai.
The popularity of Favre’s jerseys is obviously owed to his superstar status, but the numbers only increased with his post-Packers trade. Green Bay fans were already snatching up his jerseys, and his move to the New York Jets opened a brand new market.
3: Cristiano Ronaldo
For those who follow the kind of football that’s actually played with feet, there are few superstars bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo was the first Portuguese soccer player to play for Manchester United in 2002, and he has since become one of the sport’s defining figures. He’s been called the greatest soccer player of all time by sports outlets such as ESPN, and he’s been featured on the cover of the Pro Evolution Soccer videogames three times.
Ronaldo has since played for both Manchester United and Real Madrid, both of whom top worldwide soccer jersey sales. While each club has no shortage of headlining players, Ronaldo’s jersey popularity exceeds even his world famous teammates.
2: Derek Jeter
Debuting as a major league player in 1995, Derek Jeter‘s name is synonymous with the New York Yankees. He contributed to five World Series victories during his career, and he acted as the team’s captain for over ten years. Jeter retired in 2014, with 14 All-Star Selections and a myriad of Yankees records under his belt.
Upon his retirement, Jeter’s No. 2 jersey was confirmed to be the best selling baseball jersey of all time. Jim Pisani, president of Majestic Athletic, credits Jeter’s success to his universal appeal across all demographics. During his final year as a Yankee, Jeter merchandise sales skyrocketed by 1000 percent.
1: Michael Jordan
For a player who hasn’t played professional basketball since 2003, Michael Jordan‘s continual cultural impact is astounding. It doesn’t matter if you remember him as the guy from Space Jam or the guy whose sneakers are in an art exhibit; his name is just about everywhere. Forbes lists Jordan as the 20th most powerful celebrity in the world, and to date the Air Jordan brand generates billions of dollars for Nike.
Though Michael Jordan and his respective merchandise holds dominion over the sports industry, his throne can still be stolen. Lebron James’ jerseys have consecutively topped sales charts during his career, and Michael Jordan slowly fades away from the spotlight with each passing year. Perhaps a Looney Toons crossover will let Lebron James one day overtake the legendary Michael Jordan in the number 1 spot.
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