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Sleeveless Basketball Uniforms Are Still Here To Stay

By Expert Author: Jennine Stalder


Basketball jerseys, since the 1920s, have been—and always will be—devoid of sleeves (at least for men's basketball). However, the tradition was momentarily interrupted in 2013 when the Golden State Warriors players donned short-sleeved jerseys as alternate uniforms for some games. Designed by Adidas, the new style was said to be lighter than traditional jerseys while allowing a full range of motion.


What did the players think of it? LeBron James "can't shoot with these," Dirk Nowitzki called it "awful," and Robin Lopez called for a "mass burning." Clearly,
sleeveless basketball uniforms are still the quintessential sportswear for the pros. Forget full range of motion; sleeves got in the way of their rebounds and shots.


It's clear that basketball jerseys were made sleeveless for unrestrained movements, but a historical view of the uniform's evolution is still in order. The uniformís initial purpose was to help basketball teams identify their teammates. It became apparent in the 1900s, shortly after the birth of James Naismith's brainchild.


Until the 1930s, the first jersey featured a button crotch to keep jerseys tucked, making it look like the predecessor of the one-piece swimsuit. It may look odd now, but it was the trend at the time. Over time, only the materials used in making the jerseys changed--synthetic fiber replaced wool. The sleeveless jersey remained.


In fact, the shorts underwent more changes than the tops. Before Michael Jordan asked to make shorts longer and baggier to have something to hold on to when out of breath, the shorts worn by older legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson were at mid-length, allowing for a lot of leg exposure.


In 2013, James sat down with NBA officials to speak his mind regarding the sleeved jerseys. Despite statistics showing "nominal difference" in shooting percentages while wearing sleeved and sleeveless jerseys, James spoke on his fellow players' behalf. In fact, New York Knicks' Beno Udrih had to roll up his sleeves after missing a three-point shot during a game that year.


In the end, players wearing sleeved jerseys end up yearning for their sleeveless tops by rolling up the sleeves. Sleeveless jerseys just feel different. The traditional
basketball team uniforms won't be going away anytime soon--be it professional or amateur. To know more about how today's jersey came to be, visit basketball.epicsports.com.

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