The WNBA tips off Friday, May 18th and debuts the first regular season game outfitted by Nike over Adidas. The 8 year partnership between Nike and the NBA, WNBA, and NBA G-League began October 2017. In a press release, the Connecticut Sun officially noted that the new #NIKExWNBA jerseys will be revealed at the 2018 #WNBADraft. While the NBA’s new jerseys are more of an evolution than revolution, the same does not hold true with the women’s pro league. Previous WNBA uniforms heavily stated Adidas influence on the upper right-hand shoulder and distinctive three stripe lining on the jersey’s side. Nike will do a complete overhaul when the 22nd WNBA season begins.
1.Jersey Colors. Before #NIKExNBA pushed the color-versus-color agenda this 2017-2018 NBA season, the WNBA introduced this trend in 2016 (20th season) with the elimination of Home White Uniforms. The WNBA and the NBA G-League have been a testing ground for NBA experimental ideas. Color-versus-color (light vs. dark) uniform trend is no exception and will likely continue for the W.
2a.Advertising Patches (Center of Jersey). Again, another WNBA first and NBA second, advertising patches are an important source of revenue for the league. While it’s financially responsible for the league to do this, I’m wholeheartedly not in favor of the ad patch directly in the center of team jerseys where the city or team name normally presides. Recently, while playing in the WNBA Play Now mode in EA Sports’ NBA Live 18, my partner confused Mayo Clinic as the team name for the Minnesota Lynx. It’s safe to say this isn’t the only instance of this type of confusion. In 2017, 7 of the 12 WNBA teams had center ad sponsorships with 6 of those teams making it into the playoffs. Earlier this year, the Chicago Sky announced that UChicago Medicine will take the center jersey spot as the team’s official medical provider and sponsor. That makes 8 of 12. Additionally the San Antonio Stars franchise were sold and purchased by MGM Resorts International to become the Las Vegas Aces. It’s safe to assume MGM will be prominent ad space on the center jersey. That’s 9 of 12. Due to teams’ undisclosed sponsorship contracts, it’s still likely this center ad remains, even on Nike unis.
2b.Advertising Patches (Bottom of Jersey). Previously Boost Mobile and currently (since 2016) Verizon occupied the jersey spot below the uniform numbers for 10 of 12 teams. The two teams without this Verizon logo were the Connecticut Sun (who had an ad partnership with wireless service provider in Frontier Communications) and the San Antonio Stars (whose move to Las Vegas makes this TBD). This was a multiyear deal for the league and will likely continue next season.
2c.Advertising Patches (Upper Left-hand Shoulder). If you didn’t think there was enough real estate on a jersey for another sponsor, you thought wrong. Reported by USA Today, another jersey patch can be added to a separate new sponsor on the upper left-hand shoulder opposite the Nike swoosh. Prior seasons this location occupied an anniversary patch, the team logo (for some teams the only resemblance of the team logo due to the other ads), or for the Chicago Sky, the primary sponsor ad patch. With all these brand logos on the WNBA uniform, there’s a legitimate chance of ZERO team logos or city names on the jersey. I’d predict this not happening, but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if the uniforms were just solely brands and ads.
3.Jersey Template. The Adidas three-stripe jersey template is out, Nike’s tailoring silhouette is in. To predict its look, I reference the UConn women’s basketball team, the Oregon women’s basketball team, and the 2016 USA women’s basketball team jerseys and noticed a similarity amongst the three: a straight-edged and boxy outline around the collar. I predict Nike continues their minimalist approach to the WNBA jerseys, possibly mirroring the USA WBB Olympic jerseys or 2018 NBA All Star jerseys with minimum to no flair on the sides. Prior seasons had a standardized Adidas template amongst the entire league. I’m hopeful for distinction in the team uniforms, but I’m under the assumption that the WNBA jerseys would follow the G-League jerseys into standard jersey templates.
The last time Nike made basketball gear better for women in 2016 a key request was different cuts for women. This Fortune article stating a slim, long body fit for Elena Delle Donne and short, wider hipped fit for Sue Bird. I’d would think Nike would abide by this request from athletes in 2018.
4.Shorts Template. The non-centered triangular cutouts (as seen on #NIKExNBA shorts) should also appear in WNBA shorts as they appear on the current UConn WBB shorts as well as this Atlanta Dream practice jersey.
5.Shoes. Last season, any WNBA player without an official shoe deal had two options for #WNBAKicks: wear free Adidas sneakers or cover the logos on whatever else they chose to wear (information via a Nick DePaula article detailing Adidas’s exclusive WNBA footwear rights). For example, prior to her Puma deal, Skylar Diggins-Smith wore Adidas Dame 3s after her Nike contract ended. I can imagine Nike negotiating for similar exclusive footwear rights for the next 8 years.
From neck to toe, jersey to shorts, these are my predictions for the #NIKExWNBA uniforms. We will get an answer to all my predictions in around 24 hours when Nike reveals the jersey at the WNBA Draft, held at Nike’s NYC Headquarters. I will be back again potentially for jersey rankings (unless jerseys end up standardized) and if not, a wish list for 2019’s jerseys. It’s an exciting time for the WNBA. Thanks for reading.