That’s right, shirseys.
As you’re well-aware, NBA teams have slowly introduced this apparel trend in the last two seasons. Last year, Golden State was the first team to enter this arena with sleeved jerseys that had mixed reviews (they’ve added a white version for the current season). The Los Angeles Clippers debuted their alternates on Opening Night, and Phoenix introduced one as part of its new look for 2013-14.
Lest we forget Christmas Day when all 10 teams that played donned their sets to the dismay of several players.
Personally, I’ve heard that the look is intended to cater to the fútbol/football/soccer crowd and also as another layer of its outreach to Latino fans. On Twitter, I noted a belief that these jerseys are some fruitless attempt to cover the tattoos of its stars, which would only be more hilarious if Chris Andersen or J.R. Smith were going to be All-Stars.
Yet, when you look at these jerseys in action in a few weeks, understand that they represent something beyond design concepts and ergonomics for players. For better or worse, the NBA balances its existence as serious competition and entertainment better than every other sporting outfit in the world.
Since the days of its first steward, Maurice Podoloff, to these final days under David Stern leading to Adam Silver, the BAA/NBA has always looked for ways to sell its product in apparel stores (and now, online) and on your television screen. While Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NHL and any other pro outfit worth its salt have played with the uniform in varied degrees through their histories, its seems that the NBA has gotten picked apart the most in recent years for its efforts.
In its showcase exhibition, however, only baseball seems to hold on to its belief in being “traditional” from head to toe. For the NBA, it lets its proverbial hair down for a few days in all facets, knowing that its stars will head back into the grind for a postseason run instead of putting on a farce of a serious contest (hi, Pro Bowl) or making itself count for no real logical reason (sup, MLB All-Star Game).
In the midst of a long season, even the smallest tweaks can break the seemingly mundane. For example, when the expansion New Orleans Jazz traded for Pete Maravich in 1974, it not only knew that “Pistol” would put butts in seats, it knew that the moniker struck a chord in those fans that remembered his LSU days very fondly. While last Friday’s double-OT thriller in Brooklyn between the Miami Heat and the Nets had a different look because of the nicknames emblazoned on their jerseys, it was far from the first time in league history that a team tried such a gimmick.
These sleeved jerseys have been quickly reviled by many on Twitter and major sites, but the truth is that this is a mere novelty that will go away as quickly as it came. Unless there are changes that make the jersey more suited to the players’ liking — especially those who complained about how it affects their shooting form — it’s not as if we’re going to see these used during the NBA Finals any time soon. Most of all, just because something is being sold doesn’t mean one is required to buy.
So, while expressing rage and indignation towards the league for creating new merchandise that your children or nieces and nephews might want to wear, there are far, far, far, FAR worse jerseys they could ask for.
(By the way, this isn’t as bad as the final years of the LeBron James era in Cleveland where Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert milked the cash cow with multiple fauxbacks.)
UPDATE: The official release from the NBA with details.