The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy
Business & Economy

The Lakers may be struggling, but their merchandise still sells

Jvaughn Singleton folds a Lakers t-shirt at Pro Image Sports
Jvaughn Singleton folds a Lakers t-shirt at Pro Image Sports
Brian Watt/KPCC

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers take an 8-19 record to the Bay Area to take on first place Golden State Tuesday night. The Lakers’ struggles on the basketball court this season made KPCC wonder: how’s their merchandise selling this holiday season?

Just fine, say the guys at Pro Image Sports in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza. 

"They don’t buy as much when we’re not going to the playoffs or winning championships," says manager Eddie Varela of Lakers fans. "But it doesn’t stop selling. Laker gear definitely continues selling, especially for the holidays."

At Pro Image, Lakers officially licensed jerseys, t-shirts, hats, socks and travel mugs compete with the same "gear" from other pro sports teams. By the looks of the place, the purple and gold wins hands down. The L.A. Clippers may have a far better record, but their merchandise doesn't come close to moving like the Lakers'.

"The Clippers will never take the Lakers' position," Varela says.

He'd just finished explaining to a customer on the phone that he was down to his last $28 Nick Young T-shirt in size small. The customer asked him to put it on hold for him. 

"Nick Young is one of the star players that’s actually coming up now, and people are asking for him, which is great because we need somebody else to take Kobe’s position," Varela says. "But Kobe still sells, you know, the #8 sells, the #24 sells..."

Varela says because of Kobe Bryant and their winning history, the Lakers have reached a point in merchandising where their win-loss record isn’t as important as how many star players they have. So Kobe could use some company.

Though Bryant has struggled in recent games, this season will still go down in history as the one in which he passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Jvaughn Singleton, who works with Varela at Pro Image says that kind of milestone is enough to inspire fans to buy something with Bryant's number or likeness on it.

"There's a lot of interest in that," says Singleton, a senior at Crenshaw High School. "People come in and, even if they can't speak English, they can point and ask for #24 — Bryant.  They already know exactly what they need when they come in because Kobe Bryant, he's just making it happen."