Basketball Jerseys as Innovation

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Traditionally, getting new jerseys usually means adding another stripe on the side, tweaking a colour scheme, or redrawing a logo, but these days, you’ve got some NBA teams rebuilding their image from the ground up and others trying to get nicknames on their shirts. Clearly, the old formula won’t work as organizations are vying to outdo one another for a chance in the limelight with some truly innovative stuff. To help them out with a little inspiration, here are some that pushed the limits of your typical NBA uniform, and represent some of the biggest departures in recent years from what fans are used to seeing on the courts.

 
 

The Warrior’s sleeved jerseys
They said it could not be done, but the Warriors are now playing with short-sleeved jerseys. Otherwise known as the adiZero short sleeve NBA Uniform System, the shirts make Golden State the first team to play in something other than a tank top. Despite adding material, the jerseys are 26 per cent lighter than their no-sleeve counterparts and feature sweat-absorbing material (weight has been one of the NBA’s biggest complaints about today’s jerseys). The sleeves have a 360-degree stretch fabric at the shoulders to avoid hampering jump shots, while preventing any uniform tangles when blockers get a bit too handsy. As an added benefit, fans who follow in their favourite players’ footsteps and buy one of their own receive more flexibility. Sleeves let them play anything from soccer to football while repping their home team, which makes sleeved jerseys not only serviceable, but also a notable marketing opportunity.

 
 

The Maverick’s crowd-sourced designs

So you need a new jersey. Why turn to a designer? In a world where everything from the news to the next flavour of potato chips is culled from a sea of tweets, Facebook likes and online contests, it stands to reason for the NBA to get in on the crowd-sourcing game. In what we’re sure won’t be the last instance of this happening, the Mavericks’ coach Mark Cuban invited fans to design Dallas’ next jersey earlier this year. Now, the Mavs have narrowed thousands of entries to these 10 finalist fan-made designs. One will soon be chosen from among them, and will make its debut during their 2015-16 season. These snazzy new uniforms take advantage of social technology that we’ve had for years, and use it to essentially turn jerseys into an interactive medium for fans to play with. That’s a winning move for instilling home team pride, and even the Toronto Raptors are considering it during their brand image rebuild.
 
 

The Raptors’ bold-patterned uniform for a cause
There are jerseys, and then there are jerseys with meaning behind them. Although they only did it for a couple nights, the Toronto Raptors donned uniforms in camouflage (Canadian Disruptive Pattern Temperate Woodland Design, to be exact) to honour visiting Canadian Forces (CF) members. Not only did sales of related Raptors/CF merch help raise funds for the military families, but this also marks the first time a pattern such as camouflage has been used on a jersey (and doing so without looking awful). It just goes to show that more gutsy, head-turning designs are just as at home on a jersey as are your typical colour-blocked styles, and perhaps could be used more often to stylish effect.

 
 

Christmas-time minimalism, marketing and ego-checking
Sure, it’s mostly a metaphorical innovation, but for one magical night, “Go big or go home” died in the NBA. While seemingly plain, the monochromatic uniforms the NBA had players wear for Christmas Day last year highlighted minimalism, efficiency and simplicity. And that’s not a bad thing, especially if we’re to believe that life imitates art. The minimal uniform is an effective reminder to the big men with big egos on the court that fame isn’t everything, and on top of that, boiling a team down to a single, bold colour creates a singularity of brand-recognition, which could be remarkable if used in the right way (think if ‘Lakers Yellow’ ever made Pantone’s Colour of the Year). In a more practical sense, the BIG Colour jerseys’ design eliminated the need for teams to carry several alternate jerseys (which some teams may have up to four of) when playing similarly-clad opponents.

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