DENVER — After ripping open both sleeves of Cleveland’s alternate black jersey in the second quarter of a Nov. 2015 Cavaliers win, LeBron James let his feelings be known about the sleeved jerseys and their place in the league.
James took the high road when asked for comment after the game about the jerseys, citing “frustration” and that “it might be mental,” but the NBA and Nike, who will be taking over production of the league’s uniforms from Adidas starting next season, took serious note of James’ symbolic gesture and reportedly scrapped the sleeved concept from their plans.
Nike, meanwhile, is expected to present its initial NBA jersey designs to retailers beginning this week. The company said it doesn’t plan to produce sleeved jerseys, a style debuted by Adidas in 2013 that received mixed reviews from players and fans.
Maybe James influenced the move, maybe he didn’t, but overall, the jerseys received negative reviews from players over their four-year run. In 2014, then-Knicks guard Beno Udrih said the sleeves “bothered him and his shot,” Dirk Nowitzki called them “awful,” and Robin Lopez suggested a “mass burning” of the sleeved jerseys when they were introduced in 2013.
However, the Nuggets, who were a perfect 5-0 in their sleeved jerseys this season, before Saturday night’s loss to Houston, actually want to wear them more often.
“I like wearing them more than the other jerseys,” Will Barton said. “I love them.”
Denver has two alternate jerseys this season, three if you include the Rainbow Skyline Throwbacks they wore on opening night, which won’t be returning this year. The other alternates, the “WHITEGOLD” sleeved design and the yellow alternate, which the team debuted in 2012, are worn on specific games that are decided prior to the season.
“We mess with Sparky (Denver’s equipment manager) all the time saying we need to wear those jerseys more,” Gary Harris said prior to Saturday’s loss. “Because every time we wear them, we win.”
The Nuggets are 5-1 when wearing their sleeved jerseys and just 4-10 in their yellow alternates, which the team is slated to wear four more times this year. The “WHITEGOLD” jerseys aren’t scheduled to be worn again this season.
“I love them,” Harris said. “I really didn’t know what to think about the shirts at first but I think they’re pretty cool. I like wearing them.”
One veteran player told BSN Denver Saturday after the loss to the Rockets that “it really doesn’t matter to him,” what jerseys they wear but generally, his teammates do prefer to wear the sleeved jerseys because of comfort and that it doesn’t affect his shot at all.
Denver will wear their yellow alternates Monday in Houston, at home versus Oklahoma City April 9, on the road two days later in Dallas, and in Oklahoma City April 12.
With Nike ditching the sleeves and taking over production of the league’s uniforms next season, the Nuggets will retire their “WHITEGOLD” alternates to a box somewhere deep inside Pepsi Center, unless a playoff series warrants a revival come May.