NBA Jersey Licensing – Overview by Brand

In the following post I look at the brands that have had NBA uniform licenses over the past 30 years. I begin with MacGregor Sand-Knit, who in 1986 signed the first exclusive NBA license to outfit all NBA teams and produce replicas jerseys. I then look at all the other team uniform suppliers over the years, including Champion, Starter, Puma, Nike, Reebok and Adidas. This is a good resource if you are looking for a particular replica jersey and want to know who produced it, or if you are trying to authenticate a jersey.

Pre 1986-1987

  • NBA teams purchased uniforms directly from major manufacturers like Rawlings, Wilson, Russell Athletic, Medalist Sand-Knit/MacGregor Sand-Knit. There were also smaller manufacturer like Powers Mfg. (Denver Nuggets), Tiernan (LA Lakers) and Spanjan (Phoenix Suns). Some teams used local distributors who bought blank jerseys from the major manufacturers and customized them at their facilities. For instance, the New York Knicks used local distributor Gerry Cosby who in turn used Sand-Knit jerseys.

MacGregor Sand-Knit

1986-1987 through 1989-1990 (4 seasons)

  • MacGregor Sand-Knit exclusive NBA uniform provider for all teams
  • MacGregor Sand-Knit exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all teams

Champion

1991-1992 through 2001-2002 (11 seasons)

  • Champion exclusive producer of NBA replica jerseys for all teams

1990-1991 through 1996-1997 (7 seasons)

  • Champion exclusive NBA uniform provider for all teams
  • Champion exclusive producer of authentic jerseys for all teams
  • Champion exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all teams

1997-1998 through 1998-1999 (2 seasons)

  • Champion official uniform provider for 10 teams: Atlanta, Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Utah and Vancouver (Starter and Nike split remaining 19 teams)
  • Champion produces authentic jerseys for these 10 teams
  • Champion continues as exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all 29 teams

1999-2000 through 2000-2001 (2 seasons)

  • Champion official uniform provider for 10 teams: Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Utah and Vancouver (Puma takes over for Starter and gets Indiana while Champion gets Charlotte)
  • Champion produces authentic jerseys for these 10 teams
  • Champion continues as exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all 29 teams

2001-2002 (1 season)

  • Champion official uniform provider for 8 teams: Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Utah (Reebok begins its deal with the NBA and gets Seattle and Vancouver/Memphis from Champion)
  • Champion produces authentic jerseys for these 8 teams
  • Champion continues as exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all 29 teams

Starter

1997-1998 through 1998-199 (2 seasons)

  • Starter official uniform provider for 9 teams: Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York and Sacramento
  • Starter produces authentic jerseys only for these 9 teams

Puma

1999-2000 through 2000-2001 (2 seasons)

  • Puma official uniform provider for 9 teams:  Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Indiana, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York and Sacramento (Puma takes over for Starter who declared bankruptcy and gets Indiana from Champion in exchange for Charlotte)
  • Puma produces authentic jerseys only for these 9 teams

Nike

1997-1998 through 2003-2004 (7 seasons)

  • Nike official uniform provider for 10 teams: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Portland, San Antonio, Toronto and Washington
  • Nike produces authentic jerseys only for these 10 teams

2000-2001 through 2003-2004 (4 seasons)

  • Nike produces Swingman jerseys for all 29 teams

Reebok

2001-2002 (1 season)

  • Reebok official uniform provider for 11 teams: Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Indiana, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York, Sacramento and Seattle (Reebok takes over Puma’s teams and gets Seattle and Memphis/Vancouver from Champion)
  • Reebok produces authentic jerseys only for these 11 teams

2002-2003 through 2003-2004 (2 seasons)

  • Reebok official uniform provider for 19 teams: Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, Seattle, and Utah (Reebok takes over Champion’s teams)
  • Reebok produces authentic jerseys for these 19 teams
  • Reebok exclusive producer of NBA replicas for all 29 teams

2004-2005 to 2005-2006 (2 seasons)

  • Reebok exclusive NBA uniform provider for all 30 teams (Reebok takes over Nike’s teams and the Charlotte Bobcats become the 30th NBA franchise)
  • Reebok exclusive producer of replica, swingman and authentic jerseys for all 30 teams

Adidas

2006-2007 to 2016-2017 (11 seasons)

  • Adidas exclusive NBA uniform provider for all 30 teams (Adidas acquired Reebok in January 2006  and signed a new deal with the NBA)
  • Adidas exclusive producer of replica, swingman and authentic jerseys for all 30 teams

Nike

2017-2018 through 2024-2025 (8 seasons)

  • Nike will be official uniform provider for all 29 teams
  • Nike will be exclusive producer of swingman and authentic jerseys for all 29 teams (Fanatics will be exclusive producer of replica jerseys)

Fanatics

2017-2018 through 2026-2027 (10 seasons)

  • Fanatics will be the exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all 29 teams

5 thoughts on “NBA Jersey Licensing – Overview by Brand

  • December 19, 2016 at 7:55 am
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    This is really helpful. Thanks

    Reply
  • February 12, 2019 at 6:49 am
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    So I just saw a Jordan Adidas jersey in red stitched with no Adidas logo on the right chest; looks authentic. How is this possible? was there a way to customize a jersey during Adidas’ run as uniform sole provider of all types of jerseys?

    Reply
    • March 1, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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      Sorry, I don’t really know much about Adidas jerseys. My expertise is limited to 1980s – early 2000s and mainly Sand-Knit and Champion.

      Reply
  • July 14, 2019 at 10:56 am
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    Hi, im looking for info in my Champion cleveland cavaleers 23 James jersey. Mine is made in Korea and “designed exclusively for the players of the nba”. Ots more of a red than a wine color so my stepdad is saying its a fake. But it looks legit to me. I coukd send photos?

    Reply
    • July 19, 2019 at 6:47 pm
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      Champion stopped making replica jerseys after the 2001-2002 season (before Lebron started playing). So it would have to be a Champion Europe jersey. The letter/numbers would be dye sublimation (part of the fabric, not shiny/rubbery like heat press). It would NOT have numerical size on the jocktag, but rather M, L, XL. And on the inside hemline should be a label that says “Designed and Marketed by Champion Europe.” If the jersey is authentic, meaning it has sewn tackle twill logo/numbers/letters, it’s definitely a fake since Champion Europe was only authorized to make replicas. The fact you say the tag says “Made in Korea” sounds like it’s a fake authentic jersey, because the Champion Europe replica jerseys do not have any manufacturing info on the jock tag or neck tag.

      Reply

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