Whenever an NBA veteran announces his retirement, my automatic response is to check Ebay to see the impact on the popularity/market value of his Champion jersey (sadly, I do the same when a former player dies). Kobe Bryant’s rookie-style Lakers Champion jersey started selling like crazy in the months leading up to his final game, and still remains tough to find. A couple of years ago you could purchase a Kobe rookie-style jersey for $30, now people are paying over $100. With Tim Duncan stepping away from the game a few days ago after 19 seasons, I realized that in the not-so-distant future there will be no players left from the “Champion jersey era.” The last Champion jerseys rolled off the assembly lines during the 2001-2002 season…14 seasons ago! I thought it would be fun to look at the 11 active players that have been around long enough to have their names immortalized on the back of a nylon jersey with heat pressed letters. Before next season starts, this list will shrink. Andre Miller is currently the oldest active NBA player at age 40. Elton Brand came out of retirement this past season and could possibly be retired again but hasn’t made an official announcement. Jason Terry, Metta World Peace and Mike Miller are currently unrestricted free agents but want to keep playing. Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter are signed through next season, and Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Tony Parker have deals that run through the 2017-2018 season. That leaves Jamal Crawford and Tyson Chandler as the last two players remaining on this list since they are currently under contract through 2018-2019. So by the 2019-2020 season, no one will be able to rock a Champion jersey in support of an active NBA player.
UPDATE: It’s important to note that there are four additional players still active in the NBA that are not included on this list: Manu Ginobili (1999 San Antonio Spurs), Pau Gasol (2001 Memphis Grizzlies via Atlanta), Richard Jefferson (2001 New Jersey Nets via Houston) and Zach Randolph (2001 Portland Trail Blazers). Champion did not produce replica jerseys for these players. In the case of Ginobili, although he was drafted in 1999 he continued to play overseas until joining the Spurs for the 2002-2003 season, at which point Champion was no longer producing jerseys.