The NBA has come up with some interesting ideas over the years to increase fan enjoyment, but the latest proposal is simply crossing the line.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the NBA is allowing players to choose nicknames to put on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names:
Some members of the Miami Heat have been told the NBA is considering having them and the Brooklyn Nets wear "nickname jerseys" in at least one of their four matchups this season. The NBA has not announced the plan, but teams apparently have been aware of the likelihood of it happening for at least several weeks.
"It shows growth in our league and it shows we do adapt to what's going on around us," said Allen, the Heat guard who plans to wear Shuttlesworth on his jersey, a nod to his character from the 'He Got Game' film. "And we're still kids, playing a kids' game. Even though we're now men playing a kids' game, we still remember where we come from. Everybody had a nickname and it's a way to let the fans in a little bit more."
Obviously, this would not be a full-time change. However, even a single instance would lower the maturity of the league while sending the wrong message to fans young and old.
It is clear the driving force behind this would be marketing and jersey sales.
Last season, the NBA released a list of the 15 highest-selling jerseys across the league. This includes four players who will be either on the Miami Heat or Brooklyn Nets next season (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce).
From a revenue standpoint, this makes a lot of sense, as noted by ESPN's Darren Rovell:
Source confirms AP story that NBA is indeed considering putting nicknames on back of jerseys. Would be a nice revenue stream at retail.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) September 24, 2013
However, it is not always about money when discussing possible image damage to the league.
When sports fans think about nicknames on jerseys, the first thought that pops into minds is the XFL. This football league was started by WWE chairman Vince McMahon, and it failed after a single season.
Probably the most notable feature was that each player of this ridiculous league was able to choose what was put on their back, including the infamous "He Hate Me" for running back Rod Smart.
Does the NBA really want to compare itself to this failed league that has become nothing more than a punchline?
Should NBA players be able to put nicknames on the back of their jerseys?
In addition, there is a slippery slope when it comes to players choosing things for themselves. Obviously, nicknames like "King James" or "The Truth" are not offensive, but it only takes one person trying to stand out to ruin it for everyone.
There are enough creative personalities in the league for someone to put some secret message that wouldn't be fully understood until it is too late.
This could create a public relations nightmare that the NBA should not want to take part in.
Another negative aspect of these jerseys is that it puts the individuals above the team. While the NBA is a star-driven league, it is still a team sport that requires commitment from everyone on the roster.
Kendall Marshall of the Phoenix Suns is one person who agrees with this mindset:
The nickname makes it more about the individual. It's still a team sport. Represent your team, your family, and go out there and play.— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) September 23, 2013
People should focus of the name in front of the jerseys, not on the back. However, this does exactly the opposite.
Additionally, nicknames are usually given to the superstars rather than those who ride the bench. That is with the exception of Josh Harrellson, also known as Jorts:
Pretty confident that if this jersey nickname thing happened last year, JORTS would be the top-selling jersey worldwide.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) September 24, 2013
Still, the uniforms would stand to further alienate the superstars from the rest of the roster, something that will hurt a team's chemistry over the long term.
If the league wants to sell jerseys, it can do that without actually using them in a game. If fans want a nickname uniform right now, they are free to create whatever they choose in the online store.
However, using these in an actual game does nothing but promote individuality over the team while showcasing the league's overall lack of maturity.
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