People like nice guys who are successful, with as little to none controversy surrounding their public persona. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder fits that bill perfectly, cementing his popularity and place among the league’s biggest superstars by having the best selling NBA jersey during the playoffs so far.
How popular and trendy is liking Durant and the Thunder right now? Durant’s jersey has been outselling LeBron James’ (ranked at no. 2) by more than 30%. Outselling Dwyane Wade by 70% at fourth. Kobe Bryant is somewhere in between the Miami Heat players. But Durant, at 23, with three NBA scoring titles behind him and a possible NBA title ring waiting for him in the up and coming weeks (or less?), is slowly turning into THE face on the NBA.
Before we carry on throwing our praises at him, it’s worth considering the fact that Derrick Rose and Jeremy Lin are in the top 10 despite hardly (Rose) playing in the postseason or not at all (Lin). Still, they’re playing in Chicago and New York. The sensation of Jeremy Lin made his jersey the best selling in the NBA this season, and he didn’t even feature for the whole of it. If the Knicks would have had a better playoff, with Lin, the ranking might have been going a little differently. Same goes for Rose.
But Kevin Durant has been healthy, and winning, all through the postseason. The fact the OKC isn’t exactly one of the biggest markets for merchandise in the NBA universe just tells us more about his appeal across the nation among NBA fans. LeBron James isn’t as hated as he was last year, but this isn’t the same player everyone was rooting for when he was playing for Cleveland. The Miami Heat are popular, but just like Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, they have a lot of hate and ill wishes pointed at them.
Durant just seems like a nice guy. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a likable team. They play fun to watch basketball, coming with a lot of points and have the right blend of young superstars but without the selfish streak (except for Russell Westbrook at times) that often goes along for the ride with these kind of emerging stars. Even Kendrick Perkins’ grumpy face isn’t hurting them across the markets.
With the Summer Olympics following the NBA season, which at first glance at the NBA finals looks like it might end very happily for the Thunder and Durant, it’s safe to assume that whatever surge in popularity Durant and his merchandise are experiencing at the moment, there’s still a higher and better place to be found in the near future.