The History of the NBA’s Short-Lived Short Sleeve Jerseys

NBA Sleeved Jerseys

For the most part, NBA jerseys featuring sleeves are dead. At least for the near future.

There was a time when the league added them into  the mix at the behest of Adidas. In 2012, the company was the NBA’s official jersey outfitter introduced short-sleeve jerseys into the NBA’s designs; looking to increase jersey sales. For a couple years, the company was convinced it was onto something. “We are interested in doing more short-sleeve jerseys when it makes sense,” said Patrik Nilsson, president of Adidas North America.

Players Speak: Tight Fitting and Restrictive

The players weren’t as convinced about jerseys with sleeves. What was a great marketing idea didn’t translate onto the court. The reviews were mixed with many of the league’s better players including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki and Kawhi Leonard being the most-vocal; complaining about the sleeved jerseys being too restrictive when they shot the ball.

Adidas shot back saying that the new jerseys were not only 26 percent lighter than normal NBA uniforms, but they were designed to allow a full range of motion. In short, sleeved jerseys should  not negatively affect a player’s shot. In theory.

When some of the league’s best players blames the tight-fitting jerseys for poor shooting (at least partially) and had to wear a size larger in order to feel comfortable, the league had to listen.

“I’m not making excuses, but I’m not a big fans of the jerseys. Every time I shoot it feels like it’s just pulling right up underneath my arm.” said LeBron James. “I already don’t have much room for error on my jump shot. It’s definitely not a good thing.”

As mentioned, Ginobili and Leonard also took issue with the sleeved jerseys. Manu went as far as wearing a size larger to feel a little more flow when he shot the ball. Nowitzki tweeted that the jerseys “awful” — on Christmas day.

Speaking of Christmas, the league’s special Christmas jerseys had sleeves in 2013. Then in 2015, the Golden State Warriors, who were the first NBA team to adopt the new concept back in 2012, created special Lunar New Year jerseys that featured sleeves. The last time we saw short-sleeve jerseys were in the 2016 NBA Finals, when LeBron had his iconic chase down block.

Those jerseys will go down in history and likely stay there. We haven’t seen sleeves on official NBA jerseys. Maybe sleeved NBA jerseys will be more accepted a decade from now, when they’re considered old school throwbacks?