As the 2017-18 NBA season tips off this week, many players will make their debut with new teams after one of the wildest offseasons in the history of the league.
But one of the biggest changes in the league has not just one player switching jerseys, but every player, as the NBA ended their partnership with Adidas and made Nike their official outfitter. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the eight-year deal was worth approximately $1 billion.
The new jerseys came out to much fanfare, with every team releasing a new look with a Nike swoosh (or Jordan Jumpman logo in the cast of the Hornets), and many teams featuring corporate sponsorship for the first time. Nike was also quick to do away with the much-maligned sleeved jerseys that fans and players alike largely disliked.
But while there were many things to like about Nike’s new jerseys, they have already showed that they have a major flaw – they rip a little too easily.
On opening night, LeBron James’ jersey tore straight down the back, right between the numbers. The tear came after Jaylen Brown defended James and grabbed at his back.
Lebron's jersey gets ripped on a quick grab by Jaylen Brown. pic.twitter.com/CKqXgr9DXG
— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) October 18, 2017
In other circumstances, the tear could’ve been chalked up to an unfortunate accident, but between the massive investment Nike recently made in getting the jersey rights, and the fact that the tear happened on the back of Nike’s most high-profile spokesman LeBron James, the whole event played out as something of a nightmare for Nike PR.
Nike did not comment publicly, Rovell also reports that executives within the company were as he put it, “extensively reviewing why the back of LeBron James’ jersey split down the middle on Tuesday night.”
Heading into the season, Nike was confident in how the new jerseys would perform, saying that they’d wick sweat 3 percent faster than their Adidas counterparts with the help of a combination of recycled polyester and what the brand called “Alpha Yarns.”
Now, it’s possible that the materials making up the jersey are a part of the problem, although select college teams did wear similar jerseys last season from Nike and had no tears of this nature.
While this tear was a particular nightmare because happened in primetime on national television to a high-profile player, it was not the first time the new jerseys have come apart during their brief stint of in-game action – during the preseason, Lakers’ guard Tyler Ennis’ jersey tore around the numbers.
The back of LeBron’s jersey ripped somewhere along the lines of that play.
Second time Nike has had this issue… pic.twitter.com/gPBrDKUuMk
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) October 18, 2017
Basketball fans on Twitter were quick to notice the tear, and make their jokes accordingly.
LeBron’s jersey looking like my heart
— Raza (3-2) (1-0) (@razau_) October 18, 2017
A Lebron jersey tore? That’s not supposed to happen until next summer
— Lakers Pulse (@LakersPulse) October 18, 2017
If Lebron had an @UnderArmour Jersey on it wouldn't have torn lol
— Justin Forsett (@JForsett) October 18, 2017
Kevin Harlan: "LeBron James' jersey has been torn"
Reggie Miller: "That's the second time I've seen one of these Nike jerseys rip"
— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 18, 2017
It is still early, but if problems like this persist, Nike may have to make adjustments to the way they construct their jerseys. At the very least, it’s not the type of publicity the brand was hoping for this early into their NBA debut.
That said, LeBron’s torn jersey will still be put to good use – the league announced before the start of the season that some game-worn jerseys would be auctioned off in order to raise money for hurricane relief, and the tear in the back of James’ jersey makes it quite a unique souvenir.
As of Thursday afternoon, the bidding for James’ jersey had already cleared $10,000.