If It Ain’t Broke…
Retrofitting the NBA’s ill-suited.
The NBA has a rich history, and part of that history is rooted in its uniforms.
From the Boston Celtics to the Los Angeles Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers, past dynasties are seen with the iconic uniforms, which now include Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant of their respective Celtics and Lakers threads.
But of the current 30 teams that round out the Association, nine teams require some old-new attention—and by that, they should probably resume their organizational identities with some old uni love.
Throwback inspiration: “Three Js” era (‘94-96, through 2001)
The Dallas Mavericks of the 2000s are known for their winning, boisterous and exuberant owner, and the NBA’s best German import since Detlef Schrempf. If anyone forgot, the Mavericks played the previous 20 years of their NBA existence in green, blue and white, with basic numbers and letters at a slant in the 90s for what ended up being a classy, basic look.
It was the look synonymous with losing, notably in those “Three Js” years with Jimmy Jackson, Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn—but who cares if that was a losing look! They’re winners now, and instead of keeping that custom Nike “horizon-V” neckline that only a handful of teams continue to use from the ‘99-00 season, go for something that’s not going to bring back memories of the silver-dark pewter garbage bag look (that lasted one game in 2003) or anything with Puff Daddy (the current green alternates).
Throwback inspiration: Dikembe Mutombo years (‘93-96, through 2003)
It was a joy when the Denver Nuggets committed to a new look and logo back in 1993. The rainbow look of years past was a complete joke and reminded more of Lucky Charms than gold diggers. In fact, the Nuggets dug for more iron oxide than anything else. Despite this, ditching the blue/green/yellow/red/orange/purple color scheme in favor of midnight navy blue, burgundy and metallic gold was a winner.
The jerseys were lined with open-hole mesh, the gold and dark red hue hits were subtle, and suddenly the Nuggets didn’t look like the jokes they were. But after losing throughout the 90s and early 2000s, management kept the logo, and went with then-executive Kiki Vandeweghe’s former alma mater’s color patterns, utilizing UCLA’s sky blue, gold and white.
It hasn’t been all bad as the “Rich and Creamies” (as analysts dubbed them because of their dazzle mesh uniforms) enjoyed great merchandising sales and renewed interest with Carmelo Anthony… but it’s just not the same. They should go back, re-adopt the old colors and introduce a metallic gold or burgundy alternate for emphasis and pop. Yeeeeah.
Golden State Warriors
Throwback inspiration: “TMC” era, ‘89-91 (through 1997)
How pathetic the Warriors of the Golden State have appeared for the past 12 seasons. Not that the royal blue-and-gold Warriors of the Tim Hardaway-Mitch Richmond-Chris Mullin days were perfect, but they were dramatically better just by the sheer simplicity of the uniform’s makeup.
There were no lightning bolts or galactic centurions present. Orange didn’t get any love for a warmer, fuller color palate—nope, all was well with the off-set numerals and bold “WARRIORS” wordmark at a slight slant, with the state of California matched with a golden basketball on the shorts. Oh, is that too basic? Just keep navy as an accent-only hue and revert to the former days of glory, then enjoy. Repeat as necessary.
Throwback inspiration: Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider years, (‘92-96)
A change is due because the Timberwolves were less complicated to identify. Instead of tree print necklines, there was green and white striping. Instead of unusual numeral designs, basic rounded numbers did the trick. And when black in alternate jerseys was relatively saved for teams with brighter companion hues like the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls (not the dark flint blue that the T-Wolves adopted), bright frost blue did an admirable job.
To say the least, the current faux V-necklines and Disney-esque mesh venting is cheap, and the addition of the secondary logos and wordmarks on the high back and buttocks are even more pathetic.
New York Knicks
Throwback inspiration: Road jersey, “P-Ew” era (‘85-96)
There’s not much to get upset about with the New York Knickerbockers’ current uniforms because on a basic level, they are the same as always. Simplicity isn’t the matter—the problems are in the details.
For one, the road jersey (and maybe the home white uniforms, too) shouldn’t have black—it’s unnecessary. It doesn’t make the team look cooler, more in-vogue; it’s just a distraction and it doesn’t help to play up the true blue color. Secondly, the Knicks are known for their scoopneck collars, so why the V-neck? It doesn’t bring anything to the aesthetic!
And while I’m on the topic of details, the “subway token” NYC logo shouldn’t be anywhere on the jersey or shorts; the Knicks want to quit clowning around and make a real alternate that makes use of this fictitious logo color of black, or an orange/blue/white uniform, fine—but it keep it off of the classic road and home jerseys.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Throwback inspiration: Seattle SuperSonics!
The Thunder’s uniforms are a reflection of the neglect with which Clay Bennett treated the franchise by moving from Washington to Oklahoma. The SuperSonics enjoyed some of the most unique uniforms in the history of the NBA, and any of them surpass the bland, soulless appearance of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s sky blue/black/navy/orange/white color arrangement.
What’s even worse is the latest Seattle uniforms, a la Kevin Durant’s rookie season of ‘06-07, was the best that the franchise had ever used. *Sigh.*
Throwback inspiration: Shaq and young Dwight Howard eras, (‘92-96, ‘04-08)
The Orlando Magic have long been associated with blue, black, white and silver, and while their uniforms have never gone past “tolerable” on the scale from ugly to excellent, their current work attire is somewhat regrettable. Lavished with out-of-place black panels, fading pinstripes, an unnecessary, cartoony, secondary logo on the shorts and jersey and questionable lettering and numbering, the return to the Shaquille O’Neal days is an excellent choice.
Even the jerseys of the Dwight Howard’s first four years would be preferable, but they were so bland, they needed to be jazzed up themselves (pinstripes and/or a black alternate with the original “Orlando” wordmark would’ve been excellent modifications for that set). Basically in the Magic’s case, unless you’re going to use pinstripes and black inserts, don’t cheapen a new design with faulty placement. Let’s enjoy 1992 in 2009, please.
Throwback inspiration: Charles Barkley years, (‘92-96, through 2000)
For some reason, the Phoenix Suns felt that keeping the logo that they created for the ‘92-93 season was still good enough for 2000 (and even now), which was a great decision to stand by—the fault comes in when they felt that they needed to make a change from the sun ball graphic design on the jersey to the addition of flint gray and V-neck collars.
The Suns enjoyed a uniform that was great on a lot of different level for eight years; there was the then-never-seen graphic fading on the sun trail on the jerseys, the NBA patch on the opposite chest, the ambigram “SUNS” wording (which could be read right side up and upside down), the subtle usage of the black on the primary home and away jerseys, the revolutionary black alternate away duds, the big player names and rear numerals, and the on-tilt patches on the front. It was an example of great design that was simple yet fresh.
The Suns decided to go in a new direction for Jason Kidd’s last season in ‘00-01. The good vibes were killed by the (well, let’s see…): 1) Grey side panels on the away uniforms, 2) Unidentifiable armhole trim, 3) Absence of the actual sun that (still) dominates the primary logo, and 4) Usage of a “Phoenix” on the high neck.
They should just go back and they wouldn’t look a day out of place, either.
Throwback inspiration: Post-Lakers meltdown years (‘02-08)
The Kings switched uniforms in 2008. It was clearly a shift to the status quo.
Dazzle mesh (Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks). V-neck collars (everyone except the Boston Celtics, Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards). Like-colored armhole trim (the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Lakers, Heat, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors). Rear neck logo (over one-third of the League). Done, done, done and done. Blah. The best thing about the jerseys is that they make great use of royal purple on the shiny mesh.
The new threads aren’t terrible, but the previous ones weren’t nearly as superficial and actually were more unique in their conservative frame than people give them credit for (the wide, deep V-neckline; extra-baggy cut shorts; wide, arched chest wordmarks).