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Celtics sleeved jerseys: Just another sign of NBA’s greed

Posted by Adam Kaufman  March 14, 2014 12:00 AM

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Great, even the Celtics have decided to play along.

Starting Friday night and for their next three games, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, the C’s will be the latest team to don the NBA’s ugliest fashion trend in recent memory.

Short and to the point, sleeved jerseys don’t belong in the game – certainly not the pros.

In sports, be it at the professional ranks or in the minor leagues, the bottom line is always money. Entertainment’s important, sure, but more so if that fun leads to merchandising dollars. Alternate jerseys? Fine, there’s nothing wrong with changing up a few colors. Nickname jerseys? Immature, but not the worst thing you’ve heard of this side of Jackie Moon.

But sleeved jerseys? Those impact the level of play. Worse, when the face of the sport complains, it magnifies the problem.

“I'm not making excuses, but I'm not a big fan of the jerseys,” LeBron James said following his Heat’s loss to the Spurs last Thursday. “Not a big fan of them. I have to figure something out the next time I have to wear the short-sleeved jerseys. Every time I shoot, it pulled. It feels like it's just pulling every time I shoot, right underneath my arm. I already don't have much room for error on my jump-shot anyway, so it's definitely not a good thing."

What happened to not making excuses?

There’s no question James can come off as whiny and I’m certainly not an LBJ apologist, but he has a point here – even if he is just blaming sleeves for a poor shooting performance. In that game, the King went 6-of-18 from the field and 1-for-11 from outside the paint.

I’d never compare myself to LeBron James or any other professional athlete. I get winded walking my dog up a hill. But we’ve all played pickup basketball with a T-shirt on versus a tank top. There’s a difference. It pulls. It affects your shot. Once you start sweating, it’s even worse. It sticks and it’s cold. It’s just logic. Even I don’t have to put one on to know that translates to discomfort. It’s why James has been joined in complaining about the look and feel of the sleeves by teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or the likes of Steph Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, and Manu Ginobili. The league knows the success of this sport is fueled by, uh, shooting the ball, right?

The NBA isn’t having its players wear these restrictive jerseys to improve performances on the court. It’s all about greed. If these jerseys stick around for seasons to come, they’ll inevitably display sponsorship patches on the sleeves. If they are short-lived, they’ll still be featured on the shelves in Pro Shops and retail stores around the country. Why do you suppose they debuted on Christmas Day before then being worn at the All-Star Game? Eyeballs.

I get that part. I do. I think the jerseys are ugly, but I understand why people would buy them. For fans, they probably fit better and are more comfortable to wear out to a game. Who wants to be that skinny dude in the crowd looking ridiculous in a baggy jersey?

Go ahead, NBA, sell ‘em. Just get them off the court. Don’t treat your league like it’s suddenly having camouflage jersey night or wearing specialty Halloween uniforms. Save that stuff for the D-League. Or a compromise: Wear them in warm-ups.

Credit Wade for not making an excuse, unlike James, on the night the Heat were thumped by the Spurs.

"It ain't the reason we lost,” Wade said of the not-so-stylish sleeved attire. “You're just not used to it. [The Spurs] didn't have a problem with it. It is what it is. Let's not make this about a jersey, please. We got our butts kicked. That's it."

The NBA has said the uniforms won’t be worn if enough players complain. It’ll be interesting to see if this was merely a one-year experiment now that the best player has grumbled.

I only wish the Celtics didn’t have to participate. I bet Red Auerbach could have lived with a dance team. This? I’m not so sure.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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