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Fanatics' jersey exchange to be tested if LeBron leaves

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A jersey insurance program devised seven months ago could get its first major test this week in the form of LeBron James.

Should James choose to leave the Cavaliers, Fanatics, the world's largest licensed jersey seller, would be on the hook for potentially millions of dollars in exchanges.

The brand softly launched a program called Jersey Assurance in November that allows fans to exchange a player's jersey free of charge if that player changes teams within 90 days of the purchase. The company more boldly announced the details of the program in January, with an additional partner in American Express. If an NBA jersey was purchased with an AmEx card on Fanatics, that fan got a year to exchange jerseys if a player is no longer affiliated with that team.

Challenged by consumers who frequently talk about the price of jerseys, Fanatics did a poll and found out that one in every four fans said their most prominent concern with a jersey purchase was a player changing teams.

No major event has caused the Jersey Assurance program to get much use, but the possible move of James, along with the likes of Paul George and a few others, has put Fanatics to work.

"We've heard a lot of people ask, what is the catch?" said Chris Orton, the company's co-president of its direct-to-consumer retail business. "And the truth is there is no catch."

If a jersey purchase meets the criteria for exchange, fans are required to complete an online redemption form alerting Fanatics to the new jersey they'd like, which could either be that player's jersey with his new team or another player from the team the player is leaving. Paperwork must be completed within 14 days from the move becoming official for the swap, which includes free shipping, to be valid.

Orton said he and his team are not sure what's going to happen if James leaves Cleveland, other than the fact that they are sure it will ultimately cost the company money in the short term.

"Sure there's some money at risk for us here," Orton said. "But that's in the short term. We really look at this as a marketing expense to give fans further confidence in buying their jerseys."

The program also could help slow down sales of counterfeit jerseys.

Sales of James' Cavs jersey have been going strong, despite the possibility of his departure. He had the second-best-selling jersey, behind Stephen Curry, this postseason, according to a list released by the NBA on Thursday. Fanatics says James' jersey sales are up 25 percent over the past three months versus the same time period last year. That might also suggest that more Cavaliers fans than expected are prepared to keep what they bought to forever remember what James did for their city -- bring home a long-awaited title.