Editor’s Note: Sports Nutproudly welcomes Uni Watch, Paul Lukas’ hyperdetailed examination of sports uniforms and accessories, to its pages. The column, which previously ran in the Village Voice, will appear once a month, or whenever uni-related news breaks.
LeBron James plays in the National Basketball Association. You probably knew that already, but the NBA isn’t taking any chances. Like all NBA players, James wears the league’s logo just below the left shoulder of his jersey, on one leg of his shorts, and at the tops of both sides of both his socks. The league’s logo also peeks out at the base of both legs of his compression shorts, plus James is among the increasing number of NBA players who wear a headband, which features the logo yet again.
That makes nine iterations of the NBA logo on one player (and it would be 10 if James’ shirttail came untucked), a figure that’s all the more remarkable when you consider how little of the body a basketball uniform actually covers. This branding bonanza is the foremost example of how league imprimaturs have proliferated on uniforms in recent years, a trend Uni Watch has been following with keen, if somewhat jaundiced, interest.
Here’s how the other major pro sports leagues stack up against the NBA in the logo sweepstakes:
|League||Logo||Standard league logo locations on uniform||Optional game equipment with league logo||Non-league logos also visible on players|
|National Basketball Association|
Much of this, of course, is about merchandising, but that’s only part of it—you can’t buy NFL pants or NHL shorts. The real story is the leagues’ near-unquenchable desire to heighten their brand profiles, which Uni Watch finds both unseemly and unnecessary. After all, for practical purposes each of these leagues enjoys a monopoly (and in the case of Major League Baseball, an antitrust exemption). It’s not as though anyone is going to mistake a Lakers-Knicks game for the Harlem Globetrotters, or a Dodgers-Cubs game for—well, actually, there’s nothing to mistake it for.
And that’s the point, because most fans don’t really care about the NBA per se, or about any of the other sports leagues. They care about the Celtics, the Mets, the Canadiens, the 49ers, or whichever other teams they root for. The fan-team dynamic is what drives pro sports, which is why team logos are the only insignia that belong on a uniform. Somehow the league bigwigs have gotten the notion that the league validates the team. Uni Watch hates to break it to them, but it’s the other way around.
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