Detroit — No, the Pistons didn't have to take the plunge, even though the NBA in April 2016 made the surprising and somewhat controversial decision to allow teams to wear small advertisements on their jerseys.
But after weeks of debate and months of negotiations, the Pistons announced Wednesday they will become the 10th NBA franchise to add a sponsorship — and it'll be the red-and-white logo of Troy-based Flagstar Bank.
The logo will be a small rectangle on the left chest, opposite the right-chest placement of the Nike swoosh, the NBA's new jersey manufacturer.
The white jerseys and blue jerseys were unveiled during a press conference at the downtown Nike store, ahead of the Pistons' move back downtown. The blue jerseys will see "Detroit" across the chest, and the white jerseys will see "Pistons" across the chest. The new circular Pistons logo will be at the midsection, where a belt buckle would be. A secondary new Pistons logo, an intersecting "D" and "P," will be on the left thigh of the shorts.
"It's optional, but I think every team is trying," said Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment, in talking about the advertising placement on NBA uniforms. "This issue was debated at length among the teams and I think everyone really decided in the end it was worth trying. It's been very successful in Europe and around the world, and in soccer. I know other sports leagues are now looking at it.
"I think it was the right decision by the NBA."
The Pistons' deal with Flagstar Bank is for multiple years, though the exact length wasn't released. Financial terms weren't disclosed, but the contract also will include signage for Flagstar Bank in the soon-to-open Little Caesars Arena, as well as spots on Pistons' television and radio broadcasts.
The Pistons join the Boston Celtics (GE), Brooklyn Nets (Infor), Cleveland Cavaliers (Goodyear), Minnesota Timberwolves (Fitbit), Orlando Magic (Disney), Philadelphia 76ers (StubHub), Sacramento Kings (Blue Diamond Almonds), Toronto Raptors (Sun Life) and Utah Jazz (5 for the Fight) in signing on-jersey sponsorship agreements, and more are likely to be finalized before the start of the 2017-18 season.
The NBA is the first of the four major professional sports leagues to allow advertisements on its jerseys. Among other sports, golf and motor sports stars long have been walking, driving billboards.
It's surely a significant financial boon for NBA teams, during a time when the salary cap is rising in rapid fashion — from about $70 million two years ago to nearly $100 million for the upcoming season.
Tellem said the Pistons had discussions with several businesses about being the jersey sponsor, but that it didn't take long to focus in solely on Flagstar, which has been a corporate partner of the Pistons in recent years. The Pistons, Tellem said, were extremely interested in the jersey patch being awarded to a Michigan-based company.
"I'm a Detroit boy, I was born here in Detroit, raised here in Detroit, and been a Pistons fan my whole life," said Allessandro P. DiNello, president and CEO of Flagstar Bank, the largest publicly traded bank in Michigan.
"There's no bigger fan of the Pistons. I had season tickets when my kids were growing up, and it's great to have the team back downtown. This is where they should be, and we're proud to be a part of that.
"This is a big deal for us. The NBA is a big deal."
Reaction to the new jerseys on Twitter and social media among the fans was mostly negative, which isn't a surprise. Change typically is met with resistance among sports fans.
Interestingly, the Pistons say replica jerseys purchased at Little Caeasars Arena, team-sponsored stores and at NBA.com also will have the Flagstar Bank patch. Jerseys purchased at non-NBA affiliated outlets, such as the downtown Nike store, will not have the ads.
That could be enough to convince fans to make their purchases away from LCA, which could hurt profits.
Asked if that's a concern, Tellem said, "That's above my pay grade. That's for the NBA to worry about. The NBA is making those decisions."
Some fans, though, aren't as up in arms as others, like Jeremy Bloch, 33, of Canton. He owns nearly 40 replica jerseys across a variety of sports — mostly baseball — and said he wants the jersey just like what the players wear.
"At the price these things cost, it would bother me to have a lesser product," Bloch said. "I by no means love the addition of the ads, and I think the Flagstar one is lame, but I wouldn't want a (Steve) Yzerman (jersey) without the 'C.'
"Who wants a close to authentic but not quite option?"
The 2017-18 Pistons jerseys will be available for purchase starting Oct. 1, Flagstar Bank said.
While the Pistons only introduced two uniforms Wednesday — the white and the blue — a team spokesman confirmed the team still plans to wear some alternates next season, including the popular "Motor City" Sunday jerseys.
Nike in 2015 agreed to an eight-year deal to become the apparel maker for the NBA, starting with the 2017-18 season. It takes over for Adidas, and Nike is boasting about its "Vapor" technology in designing the uniforms — they feel lighter, dry faster, and regulate body temperature. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy also noted Nike says the jerseys will "play longer."
"I hope that means," said Van Gundy, "into May and June."
Pistons point guard Ish Smith, former Piston Earl "The Twirl" Cureton, and Pistons broadcaster Mark Champion also attended the jersey unveiling.