Much was made about the Cleveland Cavaliers turning to their black jerseys in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. It seemed like a desperate attempt to switch things up for a team that had nothing going for it.
Heading into that Game 5, Cleveland was down in the series 3-1. However, once they went black, they didn't lose a single game. We decided to look at how much of a difference the jersey change really made, which is more of a fun exercise than an exact science.
Cleveland's points per game, by jersey:
The data bears out that the jerseys made a big difference. The Cavs wore three jerseys throughout the series: the black sleeved, the white while home, and the blue in their first two away games. Obviously, home-court advantage was supremely important—as illustrated by the fact that Cleveland had its highest points per game (110.67) at home. But switching from their traditional blue away jerseys to the black-sleeved jerseys made a huge difference for the Cavs.
In the black jerseys, the Cavs upped their points per game to 102.5 from the 83 they were averaging while wearing the blue jerseys. That's a massive 19.5 point swing.
The black jersey undoubtedly had the biggest impact on King James. Everything but his field goal percentage, which was highest at the safe confines of Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, was best in the black jerseys. It's an especially funny phenomenon because LeBron absolutely hated the sleeved jerseys before, and even had an Incredible Hulk moment when he ripped them off during a game against the New York Knicks last season.
However, James had the sleeves specially altered for him before Game 5, ESPN reports. It clearly made a huge difference. James PPG (34), rebounds per game (13.5), assists per game (9) were the highest (or tied for highest) peaked in the black jerseys.
Kyrie Irving's points per game, by jersey:
James wasn't the only one to feel the boost of the black jerseys. The Cavs point guard came into his own this series, but especially when he donned the sleeved jerseys. His points per game jumped to 33.5 while in the black jerseys. He averaged 29 and 18 points per game in Cleveland's white and blue kits, respectively.
The foreboding black jerseys also seemed to have a negative effect on the Golden State Warriors. The team's points per game dropped off a cliff when faced with Cleveland's black jerseys. The stat is especially crazy because Golden State was performing incredibly well at home (Cleveland was only allowed to wear the black jerseys while playing away games.) During the first two home games against Cleveland's blue jerseys, the Warriors averaged 107 points.
They finished off the series averaging 100 points per game in their white home jerseys—an average that was dragged down a ton because they only scored 93 points per game while playing the Cavs in their black jerseys.
Other style-related stats:
While his points per game were slightly higher, his net +/- cratered. He was +79 before the release of the shoes and -31 after.
Also, the Cavaliers are undefeated as long as J.R. Smith is shirtless.