Mark Cuban prefers his sleeves long and purple and fuzzy. (Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has never been shy when it comes to going against the NBA league office’s grain direction of choice. He’s gone on record regarding just about anything league-related that interests him, so it makes complete and total sense that Cuban would not only see both sides of the issue when it comes to the NBA’s endorsement of sleeved jerseys, but that he also wouldn’t mind telling reporters how much he “hated” the jerseys that 10 NBA teams had to wear on Christmas.
Cuban told ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon that he thought the jerseys looked like something straight out of a high school wrestling practice, which sounds about right. What also sounds about right is Cuban then going on to discuss the real reason behind the NBA’s implementation of the jerseys – to make scads of money from people that would deign to wear those monstrosities instead of an actual sleeveless uniform, in an everyday setting.
Of course, Cuban thought the NBA whiffed on that end, too. From MacMahon’s report:
"I could have thought of better ways to sell [the short-sleeved jerseys] and a lot of different ways by having them in a casual-wear situation," Cuban said. "We would have been better off, if we want people to wear them casually, to get the trainers and everybody else to wear them to show them in a realistic setting. So I would have done it a little differently, but we'll see what happens."
"I think the people that will buy them are more the jersey heads and the people who are trying to be hip and cool as opposed to the mainstream fan who just wants something to wear to work or something to wear to school," Cuban said. "I don't think schools are going to be happy if 16-year-old boys come in wearing skin-tight gym wrestling gear. My opinion, they'll sell, but we could have sold more.
"You live and you learn. That's just my opinion. Maybe I'll be wrong. Maybe they'll sell like gangbusters in China."
The jerseys will sell, because if there’s one thing we’ve noticed in our time covering sports it’s that sports fans will buy bloody anything that has a logo on it.
The scores of off-color team baseball caps or alternate jerseys you see queuing up to enter a sports arena on the night of a game just about sign off on it. I mean, look at this guy, or this dude. They’re freaking everywhere, and pretty soon they’ll be in your school, your office delivering lunch, or in line ahead of you at the ATM. Probably taking out some money to buy an orange Knicks jersey.
Some proponents of the sleeved jerseys were quick to point out that NBA teams shot (less than a percentage point!) better with the sleeves on Wednesday than the league had in the nearly two months’ worth of games before Christmas, but that sample size is so miniscule that using that stat betrays sensible basketball logic. That’s even on top of the part that tells you that a 10-team sampling of NBA franchises that features high end teams like the Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Warriors isn’t representative of the 30-team NBA as a whole. Even if the Nets and Knicks were around to bring things down a little.
Of course, those stats don’t matter to the NBA. What matters is more product hitting the shelves, alternates that enjoyed a 13-hour televised commercial on Wednesday, and more cash for the coffers of 30 NBA teams to take in before they lock their players out again in a few summers.
Cuban understands this. As MacMahon reminds, he was the driving force between a one-off alternate from the start of the 2003-04 season that looked like this:
Lookin' good, Antoine Walker. (Getty Images)
Mark doesn’t have fond memories of those sometimes-shiny duds:
"They looked like wet garbage bags," Cuban said, "but I took them off the market after one game."
We’re not expecting the NBA to do the same with the sleeved jerseys. Prepare your eyes, because the All-Star Game is likely next.
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