Announced in June 2015, Nike’s partnership with the NBA begins with the 2017-18 season. Today, Nike and the NBA detail what makes the Nike Therma Flex Showtime Warm-up Jacket a first-of-its-kind garment.
Basketball players want to perform their best and look good doing it. “It gets cold in the arena, so we want to keep our heads warm and still be able to pay attention to the game, or warm up and stay warm,” says Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. “At the same time, we want to be in something with swag and style.”
But typically, performance and looks take a backseat to comfort when it comes to pre-game gear. “We saw guys warming up in standard team-issued hooded sweatshirts,” says Kurt Parker, Nike VP of Apparel Design. “The hood flopped around when they shot; the sleeves were baggy.”
That got Nike Basketball designers wondering why most players wear non-performance hoodies to warm-up, practice hard, sit on the bench and travel in. "When the players take the court before the game, they need to be able to move freely in any direction, so they usually take the hoodie off or cut off the sleeves," says Parker. The answer the designers were looking for was clear: Nothing like what the players expressed they wanted existed.
Armed with this athlete insight, Nike went to work on designing the first performance hooded jacket for NBA players to wear on the court during warm-up. Here's why this is not only a first-of-its-kind garment, but a huge step forward for performance basketball apparel.
The material is brand new. To make a performance jacket that’s comfortable, Nike created a new material called Nike Therma Flex. It’s similar to a mid-weight fleece, but inverted. “A typical fleece is fuzzy on the inside and flat on the outside, but we made this flat against the skin and super-soft on the outside,” says Parker. “The outside has a dotted texture to it that traps body heat in the fabric, and it’s soft to the touch and smooth against the skin.” So far, the Showtime Warm-Up Jacket is the only product that uses Nike Therma Flex, but the designers say there are plans to create more player and fan gear with it in the coming months.
It moves with the athlete. Unlike the typical fleece fabric used in standard team-issued hooded sweatshirts, the Nike Therma Flex fabric used in the jacket stretches in every direction, so athletes move freely and quickly without any restrictions from the silhouette. Zippers up the sides allow for additional mobility or venting when desired, while elastic cuffs stop the sleeves from falling over the hand.
A high-tech hood is court-ready. “We learned that most guys prefer to wear a hood up, but it impedes the way they can see and hear, it moves around and it can get really hot,” explains Parker. To solve for those problems, the Nike Basketball designers placed mesh over the ears to allow the players to hear their coaches and teammates before the game, and to vent and keep them from overheating. The hood opening is carved out around the eye, so when a player has the hood on he can have 100 percent of his peripheral vision. The elastic around the edge helps it fit without draw cords, which players said can be distracting.
The seams are strategic. Instead of putting the jacket’s seams in the exact same place as the jersey’s (which would mean the seams would stack and as a result rub together), the designers put the seams on the back of the shoulders. “It makes a slimmer silhouette, too,” says Parker. “So, there is a benefit to the contemporary aesthetic in this production.” And rather than using thread, they bonded the seams, so they're perfectly flat and distraction-free.