The news that Adidas will not be renewing its contract with the NBA caught many observers, including this one, by surprise. Here's a breakdown of what this development might mean for the league's uniforms, and for the uni-verse in general.
So is Adidas now out as the NBA's uniform supplier?
No. Even after the conclusion of this season, Adidas and the NBA will still be joined at the hip for two more years. The league's new outfitter, whoever that turns out to be, won't take over until the 2017-18 season.
Will teams now delay redesigning their uniforms until the new supplier takes over?
Probably not. Several teams are rumored to have new designs in the pipeline for next season, and others are likely slated for the season after that. Those plans can be expected to proceed. By point of comparison, the NFL's Buffalo Bills underwent a significant redesign in 2011, the final year of Reebok's uniform contract with the NFL, even though it had already been announced that Nike would be taking over the league's uni deal in 2012.
Who will take over the NBA uniform deal?
The obvious contenders are Nike and Under Armour.
When will the new outfitter be chosen?
These things tend to be announced at least a year in advance, so figure either later this year or in the first half of 2016.
Does this mean we've finally seen the end of those awful sleeved jerseys?
It's worth keeping in mind that Nike and Under Armour are just as capable of producing a sleeved jersey as Adidas is. Still, Adidas has made the sleeved look part of its signature style in recent years, not just in the NBA but in the NCAA, as well. When the company leaves the NBA, the hunch here is that the sleeves will probably leave, as well -- unless the league ends up wanting to put corporate advertising patches on the sleeves. Which leads us to ...
Was this move in any way related to the NBA's desire to put ads on its uniforms?
There's no indication of that. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly cited the "inevitability" of uniform ads, and the league has made several moves that appear to be paving the way for that development (including moving the NBA logo from the front of the jersey to the back, which opens up space on the upper chest for an ad patch). All of this could be handled by any outfitter, and uniform ads could easily come to fruition in one of Adidas' two remaining seasons with the NBA and be carried over to the league's new uniform supplier.
Will the new outfitter have its logo on the uniforms?
Teams in virtually every pro, college and even high school league wear their uniform suppliers' logos -- except in the NBA. This dates back to the reign of longtime NBA commissioner David Stern, who believed that the teams' individual brands should not be sullied with a Nike swoosh or an Adidas trefoil. Silver, who took over for Stern a little over a year ago, has shown much greater deference to corporate partnerships, and is likely to allow a uniform maker's mark to appear on the league's jerseys and shorts.
Will the change in outfitters have a big impact on the league's uniform designs?
Probably not by itself. There's only so much you can do with a basketball uniform -- there are no sleeves (well, most of the time), no headgear, no long pants and most players don't even wear long socks, all of which makes it hard to push the creative envelope. If the league dropped the rule requiring that uniform numbers appear on the front of the jersey (which it briefly did for the 2013 Christmas uniforms) or loosened the rule requiring that jerseys be tucked in or allowed players' tights to be patterned instead of solid-colored, those moves could have a huge impact on the NBA's look. But a change in suppliers is unlikely to make a major difference on its own.
What's next for Adidas?
It's not clear. Nike has just extended its deal with the NFL, so Adidas can't turn there. The company may be facing a significantly lower profile for North American sports uniforms.
Will I have to stop wearing my Adidas jerseys and get new ones once Nike or Under Armour takes over?
That's completely up to you. But no doubt it's what the new outfitter will be hoping for.
Paul Lukas hopes the NBA doesn't adopt uniform ads until the new supplier takes over but suspects it will happen sooner than that. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch membership program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.