Sleeves. An American tradition as sacred as apple pie. They grace our everyday apparel, our baseball uniforms and that lucky t-shirt you wear every Sunday for football games even though it has a hole that exposes your belly button and smells faintly of baby formula.
Sleeves have always known their role, but beginning in 2012, they began to cross the line when they draped their way onto basketball jerseys, a realm where they will never be welcome. Like the microfiber composite basketball or Darko Milicic before it, the sleeve just isn’t needed or wanted on the court.
Sleeved jerseys entered the NBA in early 2013, when the Golden State Warriors brought out the above monstrosities in February. They were “jerseys” in the loosest sense of the word, as they looked more like a sleepwear product Billy Mays might hock at 3 in the morning while you’re lying on the couch with an open container of ice cream on your chest.
“DO YOU LIKE THE NBA? (YEAH!) DO YOU ALSO ENJOYING SLEEPING IN A PILLOW FORT? (YEAH!) WELL, THEN WE’VE GOT THE T-SHIRT OF YOUR DREAMS!”
Things escalated quickly from there. The Warriors were given another, white version of the “shersey,” and the Phoenix Suns rocked an all orange iteration which, if you squinted hard enough, turned the entire team into one, amorphous Snooki blob. Then, in an effort to ruin Christmas worse than the Grinch, the NBA outfitted all 10 teams playing on Dec. 25, 2013 with sleeved atrocities that collectively looked like they were printed at a local t-shirt company whose slogan was “You draw it poorly, we print it!”
The horror didn’t stop there. Sleeved jerseys weaseled their way into the 2014 All-Star game, and they’ve already reared their ugly heads far too many times during this 2014-15 season. The Portland Trail Blazers turned their classic unis into this pile of sleeved slop, and the Toronto Raptors, possibly penalized for being located in Canada, were forced to drape themselves in these camouflaged sheets. The camo didn’t do its job, as every one saw them and everyone hated them.
The players despise them. Jarrett Jack said the jerseys are “disgusting.” Stephen Curry called them “ugly.” Dirk Nowitzki, king of fashion, thinks they are “awful.” And Robin Lopez called for a “mass burning” of the jerseys. So things are going great!
And that’s not all. Players have been complaining about the sleeves’ intrusion into their shooting mechanics. LeBron James, who runs the NBA along with commissioner Adam Silver, had this to say after a game last season: “Every time I shoot it feels like it’s just pulling right up underneath my arm,” James told The Sun Sentinel. “I already don’t have much room for error on my jump shot. It’s definitely not a good thing.”
Kawhi Leonard, he of the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, also voiced displeasure with the jerseys in the same article. A man of few words, Leonard got right to the point.
“I don’t like the sleeve jerseys either,” he said. “Just felt a little tight.”
And here’s Chris Bosh, making the most salient point of the bunch.
“They’ve been having tank top jerseys for 100 years. They should keep it that way.”
So the jerseys look terrible and the players forced to wear them detest them like they might destest Joey Crawford. Yet the NBA keeps shoving them in front of our eyeballs and expecting us not to blink. We have to blink. If you stare directly at them for more than 5 seconds, you’ll lose your sight. So what gives?
The only logical explanation is increased revenue, right? NBA fans must be buying them in droves in order to resell them on eBay years later after the jerseys are discontinued, right?
Wrong. The jerseys aren’t selling well. Members of the demo the NBA is apparently trying to hit, guys who wear sleeves under their shirts in high school or college (like I once did, because I didn’t want women to see my tiny arms and never speak to me again) aren’t pulling the trigger at the register.
So here we are, with literally no reason for sleeved jerseys to exist. But they are resilient little fellas, with no imminent sign of dying off—although Silver told Bleacher Report before the current season that the league would “move on to something else,” if the players hated them. Which they clearly do.
Here’s some advice, Mr. Silver. MLB tried making their athletes play in shorts once. It was weird, uncomfortable and stupid. So they stopped. You’d be wise to do the same.
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