In the historic modern era of basketball, uniforms consisted of shorts and tanktops. The Golden State Warriors are busting up that tradition, by releasing an alternate uniform design whose biggest design feature is what all the rest of our shirts have; sleeves.
Throughout the years, the shorts have gotten longer, socks have gone up and down with added design elements, shoes have changed wildly from the gumsole canvas to today’s virtual insanity of selections and designs. But jerseys have always been tank tops. The width of the fabric on the shoulder has changed, the material has become modernized, but the standard outline has stayed the same.
Its those modern fabrics that we have to thank for the first basketball jersey with sleeves. Adidas has made an ultra-lightweight jersey with stretchable, flexible fabric at the shoulder to prevent that bind-up you get from shooting in a traditional t-shirt.
Also a part of this alternate uniform are the pinstriped shorts. Alluding to the cables of the Bay Bridge, the yellow shorts have blue vertical stripes all the way around.
A Warriors “W ” rests at the bottom of the short, inside the tapered side stripe. The blue makes a spear shape for the Warriors name.
But the real star and discussion point of these uniforms are the shoulder caps. The pasty, gangly-armed kid I was in the past would have really loved having these to play in when I was on the middle school team. A cotton undershirt had to due to me.
So, why haven’t you seem anyone int he NBA wearing anything under their jerseys in the past, indicating a desire for sleeves? Is it an indication that players don’t want sleeves? OF COURSE NOT! Its because the NBA has a long-standing rule that players aren’t allowed to wear anything that extends outside of their jersey’s coverage!
Patrick Ewing was far form the first player who preferred a tshirt under his jersey in college, but he was probably the most notable example. When he came into the league in 1985 (nearing 30 years ago, and due a visit from a Delorean with a Mr Fusion on top) Mr, Ewing favored a tshirt under his jersey at Georgetown, but since NBA rules would prohibit the practice, Rick Welt, a marketing executive with the NBA looked into creating a jersey with sleeves. Technology and performance concerns made the task seem impossible, so the idea was abandoned.
2013 brings incredible improvements in materials and construction, so Adidas took the opportunity to work with players on a sleeved jersey. In development, they heard that weight was the single most important concept for the player, so the jerseys are very light. The warriors have been using the new jerseys in practice and like that they have experienced.
But is the sleeved jersey a sea-change of basketball fashion, like longer shorts? Or a quickly busted fad like shorts in baseball?
The answer is easy to discover. Let’s see what players wear when they aren’t bound by NBA dictum;
Relaxing mid-practice, the Thunder sure seem to appreciate a tshirt.
Dwayne Wade at practice, adding sleeves by wearing a tshirt under his jersey. “But these are sporadic individual examples,” you say? Let’s continue looking.
The 2011 All Star game practice had quite a few shirts under jerseys. Duncan, Carmelo, Williams. The West looks almost completely sleeved here. “Well, fine, but that’s a super casual, practice before an exhibition, so it doesn’t count!” Oh, the games importance matters? Fine. I will find some definitive proof that players prefer sleeves.
Here is Team USA, 2012, full of the best NBA players, and let us gaze upon them and see how many exposed shoulders we see. Looks to me like a total of two players are rocking the no-sleeve look.
I believe this proves that a majority of players would like sleeves, if allowed, and if comfortable. If these Adidas jerseys that Golden State is debuting Feb 22nd against the Spurs are as light, flexible, and comfortable as the company and the team says, it is my prediction that these will be on 4 out of 5 players in the NBA within two seasons.
This is another in the changing landscape of basketball fashion. Fashion is indeed another consideration. The NBA sells $3 Billion dollars worth of gear, a little over 10% of which are jerseys. So, every year, around 300 million dollars of jerseys are sold. This isn’t to all people under the age of 12. Jerseys are great for game days, parties, and casual events. Some of this aren’t exactly conducive to having your pits exposed. Many jersey collectors I spoke with for this article said they were far more likely to buy jerseys with a short sleeve.
How cool will it be to look back at game photos and be able to say definitively when you see a picture, “Oh this is from 2012 or earlier, no one has any sleeves.”
The time may be right around the corner. Maybe even closer than that Delorean.