What comes to mind when you think of the Olympics? Is it patriotism? Competition? Interlocking rings? Doping scandals?! The triumph of the human spirit?!?! Take it away, Katy Perry:
Indeed, all of these are good answers, but don’t forget about another hallowed Olympic tradition: Nike’s commitment to insecurity, which is as integral to the Games as the Olympic flame.
The latest manifestation of the sports apparel giant’s self-doubt came Monday, when USA Basketball’s official picture was released:
Three things immediately stand out:
1. Umm … is DeAndre Jordan wearing a leather jacket?
2. Why the hell is DeAndre Jordan wearing a leather jacket?
3. Isn’t it crazy that only the sneakers of Team USA’s three non-Nike-sponsored players are hidden? I smell a CONSPIRACY.
As The Vertical’s Nick DePaula noted, Adidas endorsers Kyle Lowry and Harrison Barnes and Anta man Klay Thompson may as well be barefoot. Meanwhile, everyone else’s kicks — all of which conveniently feature a swoosh — are plainly visible. (Don’t even try to use DeMarcus Cousins’s partially obscured Nike-branded footwear as a sign of plausible deniability, Nike.) Surely this couldn’t have happened by chance, right? I mean, Jimmy Butler could have just stood behind the much shorter Lowry, but Butler is literally crouching in front of Lowry and pressing a basketball into the ground, obscuring his teammate’s shoes.
Lest you think this is merely a coincidence, Nike has a history of engaging in this sort of corporate tomfoolery. In the basketball team’s 2008 portrait, Mike Krzyzewski put an invisibility cloak on Dwight Howard’s Adidas signatures:
Hilariously, while everyone else is arranged in descending height order, Chris Bosh looks to be taller than Howard in this photo, but Howard is placed at the far left, allowing Coach K to block him like Nate Robinson.
Team USA’s 2012 squad included just one non-Nike player — Kevin Love, who was signed to China’s 361 Degrees at the time (although a “comfort clause” allowed him to wear Nike for some of 2012) — and what do you know, his kicks were nowhere to be found in the team portrait:
More recently, Team USA cut Adidas signee Candace Parker under sketchy circumstances, and now we have this year’s photo, with all the Nike players getting front-and-center treatment.
The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Germano tweeted that “as outfitting rights holder, Nike pays to be [the] only logo in official USA Basketball media.” Which, fine: If I were paying Team USA a shitload of money to sponsor its uniforms, I probably wouldn’t want my competitors’ logos showing, either. But it’s still funny that the richest brand in sports could be so insecure as to view Barnes, Lowry, and Thompson as threats to its bottom line when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Draymond Green, and five others are proudly repping the swoosh in the same damn picture. Maybe Nike should focus on bigger things, like not losing the next Steph Curry to Under Armour.