Nike Says No to Sleeved Jerseys; The Potential Role LeBron Played in the Decision


Nike will be making the NBA’s uniforms beginning with the 2017-2018 season. The Swoosh has stated they will not produce any sleeved jerseys. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Germano, Nike said it doesn’t plan to produce sleeved jerseys, a style debuted by Adidas in 2013 that received mixed reviews from players and fans. Mixed reviews is putting it kindly. When the jerseys debuted several of the leagues players, including LeBron James, voiced their displeasure. James and others complained it restricted their shooting motion. Currently 19 of the league’s 30 teams have a sleeved jersey as an alternate uniform option.

The question you have to be asking, is what was Bron’s role, if any, in this? Bron is Nike’s top basketball guy. His latest deal with the Swoosh is worth more than $1B over its lifetime. You have to imagine he has some influence inside the multi-billion dollar company. If your #1 guy hates sleeved jerseys, how difficult is it for you to just not introduce it as part of your collection?

While I believe Bron had some influence it wasn’t the ultimate deciding factor. The sleeved jersey was introduced by Adidas, a rival company to the Nike throne (though Under Armour is the true #2 in this triumvirate). The people at Nike are competitive and would never want to be seen as a company riding off the coattails of any other company, especially Adidas. Nike sees themselves as innovators in the space. So while they will undoubtedly scrap the sleeved jersey, which will satisfy Bron, the Swoosh will not miss out on a revenue stream. Look for the Swoosh to introduce its own innovative alternate jersey. As for what it might look like, time will tell.