LeBron James Blames Shooting Ills On Sleeve Jerseys

LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)

After appearing to blame his mask on his shooting woes in the first quarter last night — during a rematch in San Antonio of the 2014 NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs — LeBron James had a different culprit in mind following San Antonio’s 111-87 win. He takes umbrage with the NBA’s new sleeved jerseys, and says they’re impinging on his shooting motion and humbly adds, “I already don’t have much room for error on my jump shot.”

James spoke with reporters following the game, and spoke out about the polarizing new jersey design. Via Brian Windhorst at the Heat Index:

“I’m not making excuses, but I’m not a big fan of the jerseys,” said James, who had 19 points. “Every time I shoot it feels like it’s just pulling right up underneath my arm. I already don’t have much room for error on my jump shot. It’s definitely not a good thing.”

Back in January, the NBA’s VP of Global Merchandising, Sal LaRocca told Bleacher Report, “We don’t have any intention to do anything that is going to compromise the play on the court or that the players are against doing.”

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the issue over All-Star weekend:

“We know that shooting percentages are virtually exactly the same for games in which we have sleeved jerseys and teams in which the guys are wearing conventional jerseys,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said over All-Star Weekend. “So I’m pretty comfortable from a competitive standpoint that it’s having no impact.”

Silver said that while there’s an “enormous demand” from fans for the jerseys in stores, the league would address the issue if players felt uncomfortable.

This appears to be the case for arguably the NBA’s most popular player. But James has become even more persnickety following this recent busted nose, which forced him to wear a mask on his face during games. As mentioned last night, he tossed the mask aside in the first quarter and never put it on. His wife, Gloria James, might have a few words to say about her husband’s decision to junk the protective shield:

“I don’t like it,” James said. “I got a message from my wife at halftime telling me to put it back on, so I may be in trouble when I get home.”

But more than the sleeves, or the mask, it was Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard who had the most effect on the Spurs getting a small measure of revenge for their heart-wrenching loss in last June’s Finals. The former, the ageless Duncan, dropped 23 points (9-of-13 from the field) and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes last night:

The latter, Leonard, harassed James all night, and even found an opportunity to take him one-on-one (thanks to Pounding the Rock for the GIF).

So while James might humbly blame the sleeves, or implicitly the mask, for his wretched (for him) shooting last night, it was primarily Popovich’s plugged in team that did the most damage to the Heat — who have now lost two straight coming off a seven-game winning streak.

Luckily for James, this is the last time the Heat will be forced to wear the sleeved jerseys.


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