Late in the 2013-14 season, before Donald Sterling hit and before recently-appointed NBA commissioner Adam Silver received sainthood status, The New Guy revealed in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck that he might consider dumping the much-criticized sleeved jerseys that have dotted the NBA landscape over the last two years.
You know the things, because even as a mild consumer of the NBA, you can’t help see the things. Their rollout with the Golden State Warriors in 2012-13 was widely covered. The next season, the NBA decided to outfit each of the teams playing on its Christmas Day-long national TV showcase in jerseys that could charitably described as “RUDDY AWFUL.”
Dirk Nowitzki complained – on Twitter, during the middle of that showcase, for all of his one and a quarter million followers and lord knows how many re-tweeters to see. Mark Cuban complained. Beno Udrih complained. Smarmy writers complained. Jarrett Jack complained. Robin Lopez complained. Stephen Curry complained. Most importantly, LeBron James complained.
Now, according to the two most important voices you listen to when it comes to such things (retailers, and those who cover the retailers to much acclaim), consumers are complaining. With their indifference, at least.
Well, yeah. They look terrible.
NBA fans don’t buy the regular jerseys to wear on the court. They buy them as fashion statements, even if those statements have to go awry when the buyer has to figure out how to make a sleeveless and rather airy jersey go with a wintertime outfit when he attends an NBA game. By and large, though, you’re not going to see many players working in a crisp and very expensive Kyrie Irving jersey when actually going out to play ball.
The NBA figured they could corner the actually on-court market by introducing something that could alternately be worn while playing ball, or at an NBA game. Or to school, even, because apparently those “Real Men Wear Red” shirts that we wore to school in the early 1990s just aren’t enough for today’s youth.
(Because those shirts are, as we realized by the mid-1990s, incredibly stupid.)
The sleeved jerseys, in a small but significant sample size, made absolutely no impact on shooting percentages last season, but that isn’t the point. NBA players are slavish to routine, from literal head to toe. They didn’t grow up wearing these sorts of jerseys, and they’re vocally uncomfortable about change this far into their careers. That’s usually the case, with most rich dudes.
It was a noble retail attempt by the league until it decided to mess with the product that we tune in for (and, in many of our cases, pay quite a bit of money for) on the court.
Christmas Day games aren’t NBA Finals contests. And sometimes they’re quite terrible, despite all the hype and big names involved. Still, to cynically and greedily use what should be a reminder to the rest of the football-watchin’ nation that, hey, these NBA guys are incredibly good at what they do in order to sell novelty jerseys? That was a misstep.
Now, if they’re not selling well in the face of both a heavily publicized rollout, a Christmas Day-long infomercial, and various other attempts to shoehorn these things onto the public via nationally televised games as the 2013-14 season moved along?
What’s the point anymore?
The NBA sells just about everything it can both online, at various retailers, and in its Manhattan store. From off-color baseball caps (in a sport with no baseball caps) to jackets with the logo of every team on it to bobbleheads of players that are two teams removed from the uniform the bobblehead is wearing, you can get anything and the NBA gets a cut. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, a lot of tasteful stuff out there, and a lot of silly stuff out there. We appreciate the NBA making it all available.
There’s absolutely no shame in the NBA continuing to make, market, and sell sleeved jerseys. Some people still want to buy weird things. Some people, in that desirable 18-to-35 male demographic, even consume Cincinnati chili and jazz/fusion records. I’m one of those people. I’m weird.
I also can’t stand playing basketball with sleeves on, even if I’ve no gun show to sell tickets to, and I can’t stand watching NBA players wear them in games when they seem clearly uncomfortable with the change to their routine. That doesn’t mean I speak for everyone, though, which is why the NBA should continue to produce the sleeved jerseys.
Just stop making NBA players wear them during games.
(Unless some weirdo NBA players ask to wear them in games.)
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