When I was in fourth grade, I signed up for a local youth basketball league. I remember the uniform very clearly, because it was so disappointing: plain red shorts with no piping or other adornments (and they were really short) and a plain yellow T-shirt with a red number on the back. The T-shirt really bugged me — why couldn’t we wear tank tops, like real basketball players? Sleeves were for amateurs.
Those memories came flooding back the other day, when reader Cory Wright alerted me to the situation at Proviso East, an Illinois high school with an interesting visual signature: Their basketball jerseys have sleeves. You might think the sleeves were part of an old-school look, but the uniform graphics are actually pretty contemporary, with modern side piping and Nike-ish collarbone horns. The jerseys just happen to be T-shirts, not tank tops.
I wondered if this was a new design for this season, so I started poking around and discovered that Proviso East has been wearing sleeves for a while, as you can see in these pics from March 2007 (that shot is a capture from this video clip), December 2005, and January 2005 (here’s another shot from the same game). I also found this and this, but I’m unsure of the dates.
Sleeved hoops jerseys are rare phenomenon. Has any NBA team ever worn them? In the college ranks, the only school that comes to mind is Evansville, but they switched to tank tops a few years ago. Then again, basketball isn’t my strongest suit, so maybe there are lots of other sleeved examples out there — please feel free to bring me up to speed.
Anyway, the Proviso thing got me thinking: Have basketball jerseys always been tank tops? I figured the earliest ones must have had sleeves, if only because cultural standards of modesty were much more conservative back in those days. But if you google “early basketball team,” you get images (many of them spectacular) like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this — not a sleeve in sight. The earliest photo I found was this one, from 1895, featuring a mix of tanks and tees. The only fully sleeved team I found was this one — from 1950, surprisingly. (Think they intentionally alternated the sneaker colors in the front row, or did it just work out that way?)
So it looks like basketball has almost always been sleeve-free. Which makes Proviso East’s sleeve-iness all the more puzzling. This is definitely a topic I’d like to explore in more detail — contributions welcome.
Research Reminder: In case you missed it late last week, I’m currently compiling examples of interesting uni-borne memorial gestures. Not just the standard black armband or uni number inside a black circle — I’m looking for things a bit more inspired. Historical precedents are good, too. Send likely suspects here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Looks like Shaun Cody’s trying (and failing) to keep his jersey snapped into his pants (good catch by Donald Moe). … Danny Kroll was recently given a pair of game-used Miami Dolphins cleats (additional pics here, here, and here) but can’t figure out who they belonged to. Anyone..? … Dustin Burns reports that one of the officials in last night’s Blues/Red Wings game apparently lost his gear and was forced to wear a generic, numberless jersey and skates borrowed from a player. … Here’s the very definition of a flagrant foul.