Less is More: Why sleeved jerseys aren’t the best idea in the NBA

The first time I set eyes on the new sleeved jerseys, only one thought surfaced. “Why?”

Sleeveless basketball jerseys have been used for decades, they’re iconic and they’re practical. The revolution however, does not appear to be going down well. After only a couple of years of use, there is already serious talk of a sleeved jersey cull.

Commissioner Adam Silver is set to meet with Lebron James after this season comes to a close, to discuss the abolition of sleeved jerseys. James, who is coming through as the ring leader of the anti-sleeve brigade said, ‘I’m not a big fan of the jerseys, not a big fan of them’ and went on to describe a ‘pulling’ sensation every time he took a jump shot. Last time I checked, NBA jerseys don’t come in ‘one size fits all’. If Lebron is feeling a ‘pulling’ sensation, why not wear a looser fitting jersey?

You’d be forgiven for thinking axing the sleeved jerseys is all James’ doing, but others are on record expressing similar feelings to the Miami Heat guard:

Being a man of few words, Dirk Nowitzki simply described them as ‘awful’.

Meanwhile, Robin Lopez went one step further calling for a ‘mass burning.’

As much as I’d like to see a mass burning –maybe it could become the 8th wonder of the world and be seen by space– it’s unlikely to happen.

Is anyone a fan?

Jodie Meeks certainly is. The Lakers guard had no issues with the jerseys when recording a career high 42 points in a 114-110 victory over OKC. Meeks said, ‘I don’t have any complaints with them. I had my career-game in them – I wish I could wear them every day. They’re a lot lighter. Sleeveless jerseys are obviously the traditional ones and have been around longer, but I have no problem with sleeved jerseys. We should wear them more.’

What do the numbers say?

With the jerseys teams have averaged 46.3 percent from the field, whilst shooting 45.3 percent in the classic sleeveless jerseys. So from a statistical stand point, there is no difference in performance between sleeved and sleeveless jerseys.

It’s no big shock that the majority of the negative feedback for the jerseys comes out of post game interviews with players who have put in a sub par performance; Steph Curry is on record calling the jerseys ‘ugly’ after shooting 2-13 from the field. As they say though, ‘The numbers don’t lie’ and it appears the sleeved jerseys are a weak scapegoat for players who have had a bad night on the court.

It’s all about the money

Player performance aside I think the deciding factor will be money. I’m sure there is a substantial amount of money invested in the sleeved jerseys and pulling the plug would surely be of cost to a great number of people. I myself have not actually seen a fan wearing a sleeved jersey, so I can only imagine the sales figures aren’t strong. If the players themselves weren’t seen on the court wearing the sleeved jerseys this would surely leave organisations with vast stock piles they are unable to shift.

Well done Brooklyn!

The only team who I believe ‘got it right’ are the Brooklyn Nets with their throwback sleeved jerseys. The blue and grey jerseys pay tribute to the Dodgers baseball organization who called Brooklyn home between 1883 and 1958. The imagination shown by the Nets appears to be lacking in the designs of other sleeved jerseys, and I feel that organisations have missed the opportunity to think outside the box and create something unique.

Do you own a sleeved jersey? If so, what do you like/dislike about it and how does it affect your performance on the court?


Ben Rowland

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Hey guys, I'm Ben. I'm a 21 year old from London, England. I've been following the NBA for about 5 years. My primary focus for writing will be the Golden State Warriors. As an Oakland Athletics (mlb) fan, I feel a certain obligation to support sports in the Bay Area, and hence take a strong interest in the Warriors. Feel free to follow me on twitter and drop a comment or question below any of my articles.

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