The sleeves jerseys are slowly taking over. With the news that the Nets will break out Dodgers-inspired uniforms in the spring, that makes five teams to add sleeved alternates to their regular rotation. Add in the 10 teams to play on Christmas Day, and the All-Star Game, and it's unavoidable—the NBA is pushing these things hard. But has anyone asked the players what they think?
Publicly, they're not fans. Privately, the criticism is even harsher. Last week, Bleacher Report polled 21 players and found just two who said they like wearing them. The complaints range from the practical to the aesthetic to the financial.
"I think our sport is tough to have stuff on your shooting arm with shooting being so key," said one of the big men.
"They do not wick sweat away from the skin well," one Eastern Conference swingman said. "You end up with a wet, cold, sticky shirt. In Milwaukee (or any other cold-weather city), you will freeze your tail off."
Players also took issue with the motivation for the jerseys—they believe they exist just to sell replicas and make money for the league, which, duh. (Not mentioned, but undeniable: They provide more real estate for the inevitable on-uniform ads.)
The NBA has fired back, through VP of global merchandising Sal LaRocca. LaRocca says the players' union gets 50 percent of merchandise sales, and claims the material is exactly the same, so any perception that they retain more sweat is all in the players' heads. He also notes that players can specify how form fitting their sleeves should be, so constricting their range of motion shouldn't be an issue. (This doesn't really fly. No matter how loose the sleeve, there's still going to be a seam running across the shoulder where there wasn't one before.)
LaRocca claims multiple players on every team that's worn them were consulted beforehand, though none of the players polled by Bleacher Report say they had any input in the matter.
The association has an answer for everything, but LaRocca did make one big concession:
"If the feedback is that the players don't want to wear them, we won't," LaRocca said.
So it's going to take loud, sustained complaining about sleeved uniforms if players are to take back their upper arm space and let their shoulders again be free. Adidas says the jerseys are selling really well, so only an on-court protest bonfire might be enough.