Sporting Fred VanVleet and Kawhi Leonard jerseys, Lexie Smith and Jordan Sault tally up how much they’ve spent on Toronto Raptors gear.
“We spent like $600 on jerseys this year,” Mr. Sault said, as he waited for the Raptors championship parade to pass his spot in downtown Toronto on Monday.
“At least,” Ms. Smith added.
They were part of a crowd of hundreds of thousands who came to celebrate Toronto’s basketball champions, wearing shirts, hats, towels and other apparel from the franchise’s 24-year history.
Across Canada, fans are flocking to buy Raptors gear after the team won a historic NBA championship Thursday. The win, a first for Canada’s only NBA team, has sent merchandise sales soaring.
The NBA Store set a new record for championship day sales this year, breaking the previous record set in 2016 for the series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, which Cleveland won.
Sales the day after the Raptors won eclipsed the 2016 record by more than 80 per cent, the store said in a statement. Championship day sales were also twice as high this year compared to last year.
For Raptors fans, it’s a small price to pay.
Mr. Sault’s and Ms. Smith’s jersey collection also includes stars Pascal Siakam, DeMar DeRozan, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter. Why drop so much money on sports apparel?
“Why not?" Ms. Smith said. “We won, it’s worth it.”
Aryan Sayyadi also contributed to the record sales, ordering about $200 of championship hats and shirts, plus a Kawhi Leonard bobblehead from the NBA Store. He showed up to the parade in a suit, though, because his gear hadn’t come in the mail yet.
“It’s okay, though,” he said. “I heard the hats are going for $100 each [online].”
Some sellers on second-hand site Kijiji were selling the championship hats Monday afternoon for $65 to $120 each.
Other fans at the parade decided not to shell out for new gear, instead rummaging through their closets for old-school items.
Dirk McLaughlin used a bandana to turn a 20-year-old Raptors wallet into a makeshift headpiece, and Ethan Holtzer brought a purple Raptors towel that he’s had since he was 12.
“It smells really bad,” Mr. Holtzer said of the towel.
Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, which owns Real Sports Apparel, did not respond to a request for comment about whether its sales have seen a boost. Neither did Foot Locker, Lids nor SportChek, which also sell NBA merchandise.
In Vaughan, a spokesperson for Canada’s Wonderland said the Raptors’s strong performance has bolstered their sportswear sales.
“Since the NBA finals began, we’ve seen a substantial increase in sales of Raptors merchandise here at the park. We expect this trend to continue,” said director of communications Grace Peacock.
Star player Kawhi Leonard’s performance this season has also benefited Boston-based athletic apparel company New Balance.
The brand has a partnership with Mr. Leonard, and created a T-shirt that read “fun guy,” a joke about his unflappable, sometimes stoic nature and a comment he made to reporters. The shirts sold out in less than a minute.
“Kawhi’s performance on-court has elevated New Balance Basketball to become a credible player in a very competitive space,"said Patrick Cassidy, New Balance global director, consumer marketing.
Andy Xiong of Toronto, one of Mr. Leonard’s many fans, wore a white and gold OVO jersey with Leonard’s name on it to the parade Monday. He decided to buy the jersey right after Toronto made it to the finals.
“There were no adult jerseys left, so I had to buy the youth version in XL,” Mr. Xiong said.
In the end it worked out, because the youth jersey, at $89, was about $40 cheaper than the adult ones on offer, he said.
“It’s a bargain,” he said.
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