MEMPHIS – Mike Conley’s place among the NBA’s elite point guards is solidified, but his status as one of the league’s most fashion conscious players is clearly on the rise.
Just ask him.
Identifying cutting-edge style is as second-nature to the Grizzlies’ playmaker as cutting through the lane for a clutch basket. So it’s easy to believe Conley when he insists the Grizzlies’ new Nike uniforms will be a hit among players and fans when they debut on the hardwood next season.
“They feel even better than they look,” Conley told Grind City Media during a promotional photo and video shoot. “They look good, but they feel even better. They’re thinner, lighter, a bit more snug, just like we wear our clothes nowadays – a little tighter. There’s a little Euro-fit action, snug to the skin.”
Conley was recently back in Memphis from his offseason travels and stopped by the Built Ford Tough Training Facility at FedExForum to test the new uniforms during a light workout. The Grizzlies are the latest among about a dozen NBA teams to reveal images of the new designs, with Nike replacing Adidas as the league’s licensed uniform and apparel partner entering the 2017-18 season.
While the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers are among teams that have unveiled uniforms that reveal more substantial design or color tweaks, the Grizzlies’ new-look digs feature subtler changes under Nike. Memphis’ color schemes remain Beale Street Blue, Memphis Midnight Navy, Grizzlies Gold and white.
The jerseys have returned to a more traditional tank-top look, with tailored cuts around the neck and shoulders to improve range of motion. In the same fashion as other teams, the Nike trademark ‘Swoosh’ symbols are stitched on the right front of the chest and on the lower left hip of the shorts.
The Grizzlies’ bear head logo now rests at the belt buckle line of the shorts on the new Nike uniforms. The former model had the bear logo at the base of the V-neck collar jerseys, just above the stitched lettering displaying the team name. Another change from the previous designs to the new models is a return to two primary uniform choices instead of multiple alternate options.
Nike, however, has tweaked the concept and moved away from traditional white-based ‘home’ and dark ‘road’ uniforms. Instead, teams have shifted to two themed editions. The ‘Association’ uniform, according to Nike and NBA officials, “pays homage to the tradition of the NBA white ‘home’ jerseys.” And the ‘Icon’ edition is designed to, “honor each team’s identity and color scheme.”
Conley tried on both editions of Memphis’ uniforms and shifted between NBA player and fashion critic. The Grizzlies new Nike gear will be available for retail purchase Sept. 29, team officials said.
“When you have a good anything, you notice the difference – whether it’s a good shooting sleeve or a pair of shoes or a jersey, we all feel the differences,” Conley said. “That’s why it’s pretty promising to hear from all of the other NBA guys that they like the uniforms. For me, just trying it on feels like it’ll be something we like. I’m looking forward to being able to use these at full go.”
Conley, 29, is set to enter his 11th season and is coming off the most productive campaign of his career. He averaged 20.5 points and shot 40.8 percent from three-point range – both career-high marks – and also posted 6.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season.
Players are defined by talent and not threads. But Conley believes comfort and fit go a long way in helping a player feel confident and free to operate on the court. Some previous uniform designs, such as the sleeved jerseys from recent seasons, have been a point of contention from some players.
But Nike officials said the new technology and intricate details they used will address any concerns players have expressed. The designs consist of recycled polyester fabric, lightweight engineered texture and airy fabric that proclaims to wick sweat 30 percent faster than previous uniforms.
“It’s a different fabric in different parts of the jersey, so you feel it breathing a little differently,” Conley said. “I’m sure it will work exactly as advertised, because you do get sweaty and you do get wet, you do get a little heavier. Hopefully, they’ve figured it out to the point where we don’t have to focus on it and we can worry about one less thing.”
Ultimately, Conley said the best performance uniforms are ones NBA players barely notice.
Fit and flexibility.
Those are the two things Conley likes best about the Grizzlies’ new jersey.
“It’s almost like you have your shirt off, shooting where you have the freedom to move,” Conley said. “Just putting it on, I feel that. I haven’t even shot yet in a game with it. But I’m looking forward to it.”
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.