In The Lab: The Science Behind The New Nike X NBA Uniforms

The New Nike X NBA Uniforms were introduced in Mid September and are loaded mind blowing with intricate  details. You can read about the technological aspect of the jerseys in the post below.

Introducing The Nike NBA Connected Jersey, Get closer To The Game

Nike is all about performance and will do anything to enhance their athletes productivity in their respective disciplines. Basketball in the 90’s was all about the Big Men. Centers were highly valued and most of the game was played in the low post. The games were physical and I can see why many of the legends we know now didn’t have lasting careers. The amount of abused their body received caused them to end their careers prematurely. Changes have been made over the years and now most teams in the NBA have adopted a more balanced motion offense primarily reliant on quick cuts to the basket, fast breaks, spacing and the Spurs and Warriors are the epitome of this type of offense. For a motion offense to be effective, players  have to move faster, hence the amount of distraction on their body has to be minimal. The sneakers basketball players wear now are getting lighter. And if shoes are getting lighter, every thing else the player wears must be weightless, comfortable and distraction free. That’s where Nike comes into play and what you’ll read below explains how the brand engineered the jerseys,

when Nike’s partnership with the NBA was cemented in June 2015, Nike designers went to work immediately building the new uniform with the goal to minimize distractions by keeping the athletes cool, dry and completely mobile — all in an updated sleek look. They had 25 years of institutional knowledge to build on and were approaching a once-every-four-years opportunity to get feedback from the world’s greatest athletes: the Rio games.

There, the players debuted the Nike Vapor uniforms that featured high-performance knit jerseys and shorts built with Nike AeroSwift technology. The kit was Nike Basketball’s most advanced to date. “Still, it was our starting point,” says Parker. “To prepare for the NBA, we had to re-examine every part of that uniform, and we’ve changed pretty much everything since Rio.”

Nike engineers and designers focused their re-examination on three areas: movement, thermoregulation and fit. In terms of movement, third-party sport researchers gathered data that showed that no athlete moves quite as diversely as a basketball player. During an average game, a player may cover more than four miles with full-speed bursts that last about 1.6 seconds. An athlete can change directions every two seconds, totaling 1,000 per game. Some jump up to 42 times with an average liftoff time of .16 seconds. “Basketball is a game of transition more than any other sport,” says Parker. “A player will go from sitting on the bench to sprinting top speed to jumping as high as he can within seconds.”

To figure out exactly how to create a uniform that would run, cut and jump with each player, as well as to gather information on temperature regulation, the team put in countless hours of rigorous testing, including everything from snag and burst testing to pilling and wash testing, as well as creating atlas maps — a process that involves taking a digital body scan to evaluate sweat zones, contact zones and where basketball players need full range of motion. “We’ve used atlas mapping before, but this is the first time we’ve done it specifically for NBA athlete body types,” says Parker.

Designers overlaid the three atlas maps to understand how to design a uniform in three dimensions. For example, the maps indicated that the chest produces sweat and it’s a cling zone. “You’ll see guys constantly trying to pull their jerseys off of their chest — LeBron does it all the time,” explains Parker. “So, we realized that we needed to figure out a way for the jersey to wick the sweat without it being too baggy or too tight.”

Because the team was working with an engineered knit fabric, they were able to program the knit structure to create a three-dimensional zone to allow air to flow through, and placed tiny nodes on it to help prevent it from sticking to the skin.

The front of the jersey has a dimensional texturized yarn that stands off the skin to help reduce cling and increase breathability. The back of the jersey uses a slightly different open-hole mesh engineered texturized yarn that maximizes breathability and air flow. img via Nike.com

Temperature is huge,” says two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. “When a fabric breathes better and absorbs sweat better you can stay warm — but not be too warm on the court.” In this case, by helping to improve temperature control, the maps also created a solution for the way the jersey feels. “Typically, the result of the game is decided in the last five minutes, so the last thing you want to do is fuss with your jersey during that time,” says Parker.

Similarly, designers modified the uniform based on range of motion information gleaned from the maps, including scalloping the back of the jersey around the shoulder (rather than using the continuous rib design that’s always previously been used) and shifting the motion vent on the short toward the front so that when a player makes a cut or is on defense, it opens in a spot that allows them to move more freely. “Typically, players would size up to get more range of motion from their uniforms,” says Parker. “But thanks to these maps we were able to streamline the fit by tailoring the uniforms to their need, resulting in the lightest uniform in NBA history.

Designers also shifted the motion vent toward the front of the shorts to facilitate more range of motion. img via Nike

To put the design to the test and to gather insight on how the athletes feel in the uniforms, several NBA teams including the Jazz, the Mavericks and the Blazers, as well as various college teams tested the uniforms. “They practiced in the uniforms and immediately shared feedback with designers and product managers on things like how much coverage they wanted in the strap or around the arm hole, how long the short would be, and so on,” says Parker.

The process was iterative: Nike would research and make a version of the uniform, put it on the athletes for about a week’s worth of practices, take the athletes’ feedback to refine the uniform and create a new silhouette that they would then go back out and test on those same players, and so on, which went on for about a year.

Another key to wear testing was solving for the reality of the players’ diverse body types. The uniform needed to be versatile in that one style had to look amazing on every athlete, but it also needed to feel like it was made specifically for each player. “These guys are superhuman size, so you have to make something that works for KD at 6’9” and 240 pounds, LeBron at 6’8” and 250 pounds, Isaiah Thomas at 5’9” and 185 pounds and everyone in between,” says Parker.

Style was also a consideration. After all, the league ranges from 19-year-old rookies up to 40-year-old veterans, all of who have personal opinions on fit and feel. “We find the older guys are more set in their ways of wanting a bigger, baggier uniform, and then the younger guys are a lot more open to shortening the shorts and slimming the jersey.”

ayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics in the new jersey (the league’s slimmest yet) and shorts (which are shorter and more fitted than past silhouettes). img via Nike.com

Beyond the functional and style details, the athletes indicated that honoring their emotional connection to the uniforms was important. “When you make it to the pro level, and Kyrie talked to us a lot about this, it’s like an elite fraternity,” says Parker. “They’re proud of that.” That feeling has the potential to power their performance. “When they look good, they feel good and they play good,” says Parker.

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My Name is Tayib Salami and I'm the founder of Housakicks. I'm part of the AHN network dedicated to provide our audience with more in depth information on sneakers. I provide my audience with performance review on sneakers; every so often I educate the readers as it pertains to identifying Replica sneakers ( quick tips to spot the fakes and more). The AHN network covers a variety of sneaker related topics