Kobe Bryant's surgically repaired right knee is apparently not the only thing in his life undergoing successful rehabilitation.
It seems Bryant's once-damaged image is also on the mend.
The jersey of the Lakers guard is once again the most popular in the NBA, the league announced today, moving it up three spots from the end of last season to bump the jersey of the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade from the top spot.
"It's exciting," Bryant said. "It's fun. It just shows that I have a lot of support out there. My fans have come to terms with embracing 24."
The Lakers are the most popular team in terms of merchandise for the fifth straight season.
This season, Bryant switched his uniform number to 24, because he said he wanted a new number for the second half of his career. He has also said he won't autograph another No. 8 jersey -- his previous number.
Bryant's old No. 8 jersey was the most popular during the 2002-03 season before the public soured on him after he was charged with sexual assault in July 2003. Those charges were dropped in September 2004.
Bryant also lost several commercial endorsements after he was charged, but has recently reentered that market, including a deal with Sony last summer for its NBA video game.
Wade's jersey is the second-best selling NBA jersey, followed by, in order, those of the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, and Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets.
Iverson's jersey had been the seventh best-selling as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, but, in the 12 days after his trade to Denver, he moved up three spots.
The rankings are based on jersey sales at the NBA Store in New York City and NBAStore.com. The rankings cover the period from the start of this season through Dec. 31.
Miami has moved up one spot to second in team merchandise since winning the NBA title.
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Kobe Bryant's new number, 24, helped him regain the top NBA jersey sales spot. (story, D9)
NBA TOP 10 JERSEY SALES
1. Kobe Bryant Lakers
2. Dwyane Wade Miami
3. LeBron James Cleveland
4. Allen Iverson Denver
5. Carmelo Anthony Denver
6. Steve Nash Phoenix
7. Vince Carter New Jersey
8. Gilbert Arenas Washington
9. Shaquille O'Neal Miami
10. Stephon Marbury New York
Source: Associated Press