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Ball Don't Lie

Jay-Z’s profile about his work with the Brooklyn Nets reveals a strange NBA uniform rumor

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Jay-Z speaks to a very famous African-American in a black uniform (Getty Images)

So, this is an odd one. In detailing Brooklyn Nets part-owner Jay-Z's influence on the team he has a financial stake in, the New York Times dropped a strange little bombshell that we can't quite get over. Does the NBA prefer to eschew black uniforms because it thinks its African-American players (who make up nearly three-quarters of the league) look bad in black on TV? One source, acting as the go-between in the middle of the Nets (who are wearing black and white uniforms in their first season in Brooklyn) and the league thinks so.

From the Times:

"[Jay-Z] helped design the team logos and choose the team's stark black-and-white color scheme, and personally appealed to National Basketball Association officials to drop their objections to it (the N.B.A., according to a person with knowledge of the discussion, thought that African-American athletes did not look good on TV in black, an assertion that a league spokesman adamantly denied). He counseled arena executives on what kind of music to play during games. ("Less Jersey," he urged, pushing niche artists like Santigold over old favorites like Bon Jovi.)"

First off, thanks for losing all the Bon Jovi, Jay-Z. I have no idea who Santigold is, but you could outfit Brook Lopez in a Spider-Man outfit for all I care if you lose the trad arena rock-styings of Jon, Richie and company.

Secondly, we're not sure what to take when it comes to the black uniforms. It's an unnamed source, which is dangerous enough, who could be passing on their opinion of what the NBA thinks; because even though league officials can do some pretty dastardly and cynical things off record, we can't imagine someone in a suit even hinting in that direction in a discussion with Nets officials.

To top that off … the NBA has black uniforms.

The San Antonio Spurs have black uniforms. The Minnesota Timberwolves wear black uniforms. The Miami Heat, as pictured above, wear black alternate uniforms all the time. Some Heat unis come stitched with red as seen above, but some come with the black and white color scheme the Nets will be using in Brooklyn. The Phoenix Suns came out with black alternates during the 1990s, and the Chicago Bulls have used black alternates (sometimes horrifyingly outfitted with red pinstripes, much to my dismay then and now) since the 1995-96 season. The Los Angeles Lakers have worked with black alternates, as have the Sacramento Kings. If there are others I'm missing, kindly fill me in.

We're quick to criticize the NBA, and any rumored machinations about the league's office we're quick to believe. We're cynical, and often antagonistic towards the league's top brass. This is a stretch, though.

The NBA is looking at a cash cow with the Nets — with the major market, the cool owners, the max-level stars — but any logo change or team relocation is a big moneymaker. Even if the Nets were dashed off to Kansas City, the league would want some say on how their newest moneymaker is outfitted.

The Nets aren't in Kansas City, though, and the NBA probably wanted more than two colors on Brooklyn's uniforms so as to set themselves up for myriad alternate uniform opportunities. Did that dissuade them from asking Jay-Z and the Nets to possibly include a charcoal grey or dark blue in there somewhere? Probably not. Did it force them into "admitting" that they believe (or have some weird research) that African-American players don't look good on TV in black uniforms?

Come on.

There might be some employees in the NBA's league office that may say some terrible stuff behind closed doors, but it's hard to get away with putting those words together out loud. Whether some league officials may believe this is an entirely different matter, but we have a real hard time believing these thoughts were actually expressed.

We'll leave with one expressed thought: African-Americans in black NBA uniforms look pretty damn cool on TV.

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