The NBA has loosened the restrictions on staying within a team’s uniform, allowing for players to showcase their personalities, express their style or even honor a person or cause close to them.
As players around the league honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, they’ll wear special-edition warm-up shirts made by Nike that feature some of the pioneer’s most iconic “I Have A Dream” speech quotes. In addition, players such as Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and James Hardenwill sport an array of themed sneakers paying tribute to the civil rights leader.
“Our group started looking at this stuff in the mid-’90s,” said Christopher Arena, the NBA’s senior vice president of identity, outfitting and equipment. “Back then, the rules were you had to have the majority of the shoe in black or white. 51 percent has always been the number that’s been thrown out. The basis of that was to create some form of team unity.”
“The unity wasn’t necessarily that we were all 51 percent of one color,” Arena said. “The unity is that the players are all matching their team identity.”
The progression of color evolved even further in just a couple of years, as the 2012 season brought with it a series of moments throughout the 82-game calendar that allowed for even more expression.
“As we saw [All-Star Weekend] take off, we started to get into what we call our event policy for footwear,” Arena said. “We said, ‘Let’s align these events with the colors of shoes.'”
“We understand the footwear industry, and a lot of these shoes are pre-built far in advance, but oftentimes there might be some shoes that come up as a one-off,” Arena said. “We’re certainly open to take those and review them accordingly.
“As long as there’s no corporate advertising, if guys are honoring someone and might write in Sharpie, we’ll look at that on a case-by-case basis. If there are charitable elements, we want to make sure that those charities are real and relevant. That’s really it.”