The NBA’s official jerseys are already amazing. Double-layered, air-permeable fabric, lightweight and breathable, a custom fit–they’re the kind of thing that makes you think about the invention of fabric. But for some reason the NBA doesn’t seem to want to allow people to make their own jerseys. They have given no hint of why this is so; you could guess from the design of the jerseys, but then again maybe not.
But it turns out that these jerseys are pretty easy to get around. You can buy a replica jersey for about $30 (on sale; I bought mine on Amazon), and then there are quite a few places online where you can buy blank jerseys that look exactly like the real thing–but cost less than $20 and can be made in minutes.
As I said before, a good blog is one in which you know it’s going to be around when you read it. So here’s the risk: what if no one ever reads this blog? What if no one ever buys my NBA jerseys? What if the NBA owners find out that someone is making money off of them?
The answer is: I don’t care. That’s why I feel free to blog about it. And the answer is also why I’m blogging this now instead of back when my first jerseys were selling really well. It wasn’t because I was worried about these risks at the time. I was too busy worrying about other things. The only thing that made me worry about them in the first place was me worrying about them.
In the late 1980s, a guy named David Stern started pushing for NBA players to wear numbers on their jerseys. He argued that numbers would help stop smuggling of jerseys, which had become a big problem during the big inflation of the decade. Stern made his pitch at the owners’ meetings and won.
No one understood why numbers would protect jerseys from smuggling. Numbers were already used to identify people in stores: what purpose would they serve? But Nike and Adidas both agreed to make jerseys with numbers on them, so that was that.
The jersey-numbers-cost-less mantra has been flattened over the years, but it is still true. The cheapest way to make NBA jerseys is to provide no numbers at all: make plain white shirts instead of numbered ones; use plain white pants instead of numbered ones; and put NO NUMBERS ON THE JERSEYS!
It may seem strange, but when you look at it purely as a question of cost, numbering is actually expensive. Numbers are big, plasticky stickers with raised letters; they aren’t just printing costs, they’re additional labor costs too. Numbers are also expensive because you have to make them in sets — you can’t just print off one or two; you have to print off lots
In the NBA, one player can make a huge difference. A star can lift a team from 28th place to 4th place in the Eastern Conference in just one year, and that’s their whole career. Other players might not have the same impact, but their combined total of talent is greater than that of most teams’ entire roster.
Imagine if you could assemble a team composed entirely of stars; an NBA All-Star team. It would be like a math problem: you know exactly how many stars there are (in the NBA there are only 30), how much talent they have (every player has to be at least as good as an average NBA starter), how many years they’ve been playing pro ball (mostly five or six) and how old they are (mostly 27 or 28).
It’s actually a very difficult question. I tried it out by myself, but it didn’t make sense even according to my own subjective judgment. Here’s what I came up with:
Worst case scenario for this team: every player gets injured before he becomes an All-Star, so no one makes it to the All-Star game. Then it would be like reading about Othello without knowing who Othello was, except that instead of Othello
We can see the score on the jumbotron, but we don’t really know what’s happening on the court. We have to watch it over and over again to learn anything.
And that’s even if we’re watching at home. If we’re in a sports bar, we can see pretty much nothing but our friends’ faces. And if it’s a night game and we get out of work at 5:00, there is no chance at all of seeing any play at all on TV.
My blog is not about basketball. I’m a lawyer, and I couldn’t care less about basketball. To be honest, sometimes my friends don’t realize that. But when I write about the NBA, it’s more of an intellectual exercise than a way of following the game. That is to say, it’s more about what the NBA does for us than what the game does for us.
If you are interested in basketball, you might have noticed that certain teams are better than others. Meanwhile there’s a whole lot of random statistical noise involved (why do some teams win more often than others? why do some teams have monstrous seasons but not win anything at all?).
As we saw in the last post, this is not just because the players are different (which they are). It’s also because the team owners manage them differently — which is why some teams go out of business or change colors while others remain great.
But how do you think those decisions get made? For example, why did Air Jordan retire when he did? Was he fired by his team owner? Or was he fired by someone else who was an owner? How did that affect his decision to retire? What other factors were involved?
The best way to avoid getting caught is to pretend not to notice you’re doing it.
There are a few basic strategies for cheating at Monopoly, but the best one is to just pretend that there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, and that you don’t know you’re cheating.
If you do this, it will never seem like there was anything wrong in the first place.