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With March Madness looming on the horizon, Nike is showcasing the men's and women's hoops programs that have made the Beaverton, Ore. company a fixture in the sport, honoring its relationship with those schools by providing them with next-generation uniforms that are also environmentally friendly.
Nike's Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms, introduced at a press event in New York City last week, weigh just 12 ounces. They're made, on average, from 23 plastic bottles, and nine college teams will get to wear them: Duke, North Carolina, UConn, Syracuse, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, UConn women and Baylor women.
The common link among these teams? Each has won at least one national championship since 1990, when Nike began making college basketball uniforms. And their achievements are reflected on the uniforms. The logo of each school and the years it won a national title are highlighted on the back of the Dri-Fit jerseys, which incorporate moisture-wicking technology and a variety of other features.
Nike Basketball's global creative director Tracy Teague explained that 14 inches of girth from prior college basketball jerseys were cut in order to make the Hyper Elite Platinum versions. A tailored look has become the norm in jersey design, and Teague said Nike wanted to emphasize it. "The vast majority of players, the overall trend, has gone to a much more tailored fit of the jerseys themselves," Teague said.
Seams were bonded, rather than stitched, to remove weight and offer a cleaner look. (The same goes for the shorts.) More weight was removed by incorporating the letters and numbers via a high-definition transfer process, rather than heavier tackle-twill. The letters and numbers sport a reflective design to make them stand out against the platinum-colored uniforms. In all, the jersey weighs roughly seven ounces, which Nike said is five percent lighter than previous Nike Hyper Elite jerseys.
The five-ounce shorts incorporate laser perforations along the panels, which make them lighter and more breathable, Teague said, eliminating a pound of weight from previous Hyper Elite shorts.
The uniforms are made of polyester from recycled plastic bottles. Nike stated that in 2011, it doubled its use of recycled polyester by using approximately 440 million plastic bottles, enough to cover 12,000 basketball courts.
The message of sustainability wasn't lost, although Nike's main point of emphasis was to advance design technology for their athletes. "We've started to change the paradigm of what the players expect out of their apparel from a lightweight point of view," Teauge said.
The Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms will be worn in games beginning in late January: UConn vs. Notre Dame (Jan. 29), Kentucky vs. Tennessee (Jan. 31), Duke vs. Maryland (Feb. 11), Baylor Women vs. Texas A&M Women (Feb. 11), Florida vs. Tennessee (Feb. 11), Syracuse vs. USF (Feb. 22), Arizona vs. UCLA (Feb. 25), UConn Women vs. Notre Dame Women (Feb. 27) and North Carolina vs. Maryland (Feb. 29).
Kyle Stack is a New York-based writer/reporter who covers health, technology, business and media in sports. He also writes for SLAM, Wired and ESPN. His work can be found at kylestack.com.