Uni Watch: Nike-NBA deal FAQ

As you may have heard by now, Nike will be taking over from Adidas as the NBA's next uniform provider. Here's a quick explainer on the new deal, and what it may mean for the league's uniforms:

Was any other company in the running to get this contract?

Under Armour reportedly made a bid, but Nike was thought to have the inside track all along.

So does this mean the NBA will have Nike uniforms this fall?


The season after that?


The season after that?

Yes. The new deal kicks in for 2017-18, which means the league will still be outfitted by Adidas for two more seasons.

Why are they making the deal so far in advance?

The wheels on this move began turning very publicly back in March, when Adidas announced that it wouldn't be renewing its current NBA deal, which expires at the end of the 2016-17 season. Once Adidas announced that, there was no reason for the league not to go ahead with plans for a new apparel partner.

Why did Adidas announce that so far in advance?

Multiple reports have indicated that the NBA was not thrilled with its partnership with Adidas, so the March announcement by Adidas has widely been interpreted as a pre-emptive move to avoid the embarrassment of being kicked to the curb. Think of it as the corporate equivalent of "You can't fire me, I quit!"

Does this mean the Adidas people will just go through the motions for the next two seasons?

Probably not. They're professionals, and they still want to maximize the return on their NBA investment by generating strong merchandise sales during those two years. And for what it's worth, their Christmas uniforms for next season are actually pretty good.

Once the new Nike deal kicks in, will the Nike logo appear on the uniforms?

Yes. That will be a first for the NBA, which has never had a uniform maker's mark on its uniforms before (and still won't have them for the next two seasons).

All the other leagues have maker's marks. Why hasn't the NBA had them?

Former NBA commissioner David Stern believed the individual team brands should be showcased without the presence of any competing brands. The current commissioner, Adam Silver, is known to have no such concerns (he's even pushing for corporate advertising patches on the jerseys), so it was widely expected that the new uniform provider, whoever it turned out to be, would be permitted to have its logo on the uniforms.

Hey, speaking of advertising on the uniforms, does the new Nike deal have any impact on that?

Probably not. The league has been quietly preparing for the advent of uniform advertising, in part by moving the NBA logo from the front of the jersey to the back, thereby clearing up some space on the chest. The uniform ads could easily start during the two remaining years on the Adidas deal.

Will teams that have been planning new uniform designs now put those plans on hold until Nike takes over?

Certainly not in the short term. The 76ers will be unveiling new uniforms next week, and the Raptors and Hawks are also slated to release new uni designs this summer.

As for the long term, an impending change in apparel providers doesn't necessarily put uniform makeovers on hold. In the NFL, for example, the Buffalo Bills went ahead with a fairly drastic overhaul in 2011, even though Nike was set to take over as the league's uniform outfitter in 2012.

Has Nike provided NBA uniforms before?

Yes. Back in the 1990s, before the days of league-wide apparel contracts, Nike outfitted several teams. The Lakers' wishbone collar was a Nike design element from that period. It has been retained through the Adidas era and will likely still be in use when Nike rejoins the NBA in 2017.

Does this mean the end of the sleeves?

Probably not right away, because Adidas still has those two seasons remaining as the team's uniform supplier. But the sleeved jerseys are primarily associated with Adidas -- not just in the NBA but also at the college level -- and they haven't been particularly popular with fans. Put those two things together and it seems like a fairly safe bet that a Nike-outfitted NBA will be largely, and perhaps completely, sleeveless.

What other uniform changes will come with the Nike deal?

The most obvious change is that Adidas' Revolution 30 uniform template, with its distinctive pinhole jersey pattern and mesh numerals, will no longer be used. Nike will use one of its own templates, and is probably developing a new one as we speak.

What about individual team designs -- will they get the "Nike treatment"?

It depends. Remember, no uniform provider can unilaterally impose a design on a team. The team is the client, and the client ultimately calls the shots. Many people were expecting Nike to give the NFL a radical new look when the company took over that league's uniforms in 2012, but for the most part, that hasn't happened, largely because NFL owners -- some of the most conservative businessmen in America -- haven't been willing to let Nike go too crazy with their teams.

That said, NBA owners tend to be a bit more adventurous (they're considering jersey ads, after all), so it's possible that Nike's designers may be given more leeway to experiment. Still, basketball uniforms present a tricky design challenge. There are no caps or helmets, no sleeves (well, until very recently) and no long pants; most players don't wear high socks; and current NBA rules require a uniform number to appear on the front of the jersey. Add all of that together and you don't have much of a canvas to work with, which makes it hard to come up with a truly groundbreaking design. But Nike's staff is no doubt working on that problem right now.