Passing Judgment: The NBA Name Game

ShuttlesworthSo the NBA is considering putting nicknames on the backs of Nets and Heat jerseys this season.  This is completely ridiculous.  This is the National Basketball Association – not the XFL.  But I get it…the NBA wisely markets its superstars and superteams to its young fan base and they will willingly shell out dollars to buy these jerseys with “King James” or “The Truth” on their backs.  I have no doubt that this will spark a buying frenzy at first, so congratulations to the marketing executives at the NBA for finding another revenue stream.  But this is completely ridiculous.

I love what Kendall Marshall of the Phoenix Suns had to say about this:

These players should be proud of the fact that they are wearing a jersey of one of the professional basketball teams in the league.  While the name on the front of jersey should always be more important than the name on the back, it is still YOUR name on the back.  Players can market themselves under whatever moniker they want, but they have names that they should be known as when representing the team and its colors.

Basketball is now a global sport.  To David Stern’s credit, he has marketed the NBA and professional basketball all around the world to the point where its popularity has never been so great.  I applaud him for that.  But in the United States, basketball will always be in third place behind football and baseball.  Say what you want about football and baseball, but they honor the names and numbers on the jerseys of the players that wear them.  The NBA and its players would be doing a disservice to the league itself by devaluing its jerseys with silly nicknames and catchphrases.

Maybe I am just a purist who at 34 years old has lost touch with what teenagers want out of their favorite athletes.  But when I was in high school, I rooted for my Knicks but also wore jerseys of some of my other favorite players like Charles Barkley, Mitch Richmond and Shawn Kemp.  I know for a fact I never would have made my father buy me one of those jerseys with a silly nickname on the back (ok, maybe if Shawn Kemp’s jersey said “Baby Daddy”).

He Hate MeIs this going to affect my life or anyone else’s for that matter?  No.  But as a basketball fan, I think a marketing ploy such as this makes the NBA look more like the XFL than the NFL.  I would mock and dismiss both a “He Hate Me” and “Shuttlesworth” jersey if they were on a rack next to each other.  But if I didn’t see what team was on the front, I wouldn’t know which jersey belonged to a defunct sports league from over a decade ago.

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