Decade’s Worst: Jerseys
The ’03 Rockets and Thunder inflict fear to designers.
by Jonathan Evans
When it comes to unfortunate NBA jerseys there is certainly a healthy supply of candidates. Indeed the League has been ripe with jerseys that should have never seen the light of day. Even now as the decade is winding to a close, it seems as if teams are still fighting to set new lows for on court fashion. Amongst all the decade’s offenders, the hardest part is picking out the worst of the worst. In a world of clashing colors, garish fabrics, and unfortunate logos, there are two jerseys that stand out amongst the rest. The dubious honor of worst jersey of the decade is shared by the Rockets (1995-2003) and Thunder (2008-present).
Like other teams in the era, the Rockets convinced themselves that slapping their primary logo on the front of their jerseys as big as they would be a good idea. The Raptors and Hawks made similar moves with similarly disastrous results. Making room for the garish logo meant moving the number on the front of the jersey up and off center to the chest. This break with convention should have been the first indication for the Rockets that they weren’t on the right track. But no, they pushed forward to new depths of ugliness by butchering the very notion of pinstripes.
Pinstripes, in and of themselves, can be a fine detail that subtly adds depth to a jersey’s composition. The Rockets misfired in trying to be too clever. Instead of using them as a background element, they made them so think that you can’t not look at them. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas. But wait, it gets worse. As a finishing touch, these fat stripes were given a bit of flare with a gradient glow. Obviously the fatness wasn’t enough, these stripes have to glow. All and all, these jerseys look more like a costume to be mocked than a uniform to be respected.
The birth of these jerseys coincided with the end of Houston’s two-year championship run. Whether this is a coincidence or aesthetic karma is up to the basketball Gods. Nonetheless moving forward the Rockets should be in good graces now that they have atoned for their aesthetic sins with a new clean and inspired look.
The Rockets getups were indeed a colossal failure but at least they had the guts to swing for the fences. It’s one thing to step up in the batter’s box swing and miss. Another, arguably more offensive failure is when a team doesn’t even step up to the plate. If the Rockets struck out swinging, than the Thunder get called out for bunting foul with two strikes. Their jerseys rank as the decades worst not just for ugliness but also for their uninspired blandness.
Point blank it looks like the Thunder didn’t even try. Their entire branding strategy looks as if they were given 30 minutes and Microsoft Paint and told not to get to crazy. Granted the pull for a solid, quiet look that doesn’t repeat the failures of teams that tried to do too much is well intentioned. But that position doesn’t mean that the jersey should be devoid of personality or aesthetic intent. The shortcomings of the jersey should not be much of a surprise after the Thunder’s logo was initially released. A poster on The Denver Egotist put this together which pretty thoroughly outlines how the Thunder essentially ignore basic design fundamentals.
The home jerseys, in all their generic high-school like glory, are quietly competent. Overall they’re pretty clean, and in taking cues from other NBA jerseys, they blend in without distinguishing themselves in anyway. The only subtle offense on the home whites may be the navy blue piping accents. The color looks out of place as its nowhere else in the jersey and calls attention as to why the team has two contrasting shades of blue in its color scheme in the first place. That minor detail aside, the home jersey is decently average. If the Thunder were a franchise that has been around we would likely turn the other way. But for a team needing to embrace a new identity it shrinks from the challenge. A sin that is multiplied many times over when looked at the dullness that is their road jersey.
Let’s begin with the color. As renowned uniform blogger Paul Lukas has already pointed out – the sky blue is an odd color choice for a team named after ominous weather patterns. Also, seeing as how 16 other teams wear blue on the road, going another way could be an opportunity to establish a unique identity. Instead it looks like the Thunder decided to slap together the Nuggets and Warriors colors and call it a day. The blue works as a banal, safe choice. Ultimately it’s the tope wallpaper of NBA jerseys.
Moving on, the font adds to the disappointment with the Thunder road jersey. For a team so proud of its new permanent home, the lettering for “Oklahoma City” is wispy and wimpy and doesn’t at all look bold or proud. Further, their size and placement of the text looks squeezed and uncomfortable. It’s understandable that the long city name makes it difficult to place on a jersey, but it’s not impossible to make it work. During their stint in the area, the Hornets figured out a solid way to make the “Oklahoma City” text work in a confident manner. Instead of showing pride in their city’s name the font looks more like something from a computer screen. Watch out western conference, here comes the Blue Screen of Death.
The recent creamsicle sneaker gimmick was cute but more than anything, it pointed out that a guy that could be a marketing force in the League is stuck wearing some unfortunate colors. Having a once in a generation talent like Durant is obviously something that a team should want to take advantage of. That, coupled with the circumstances around the move from Seattle almost demanded that the Thunder create a strong identity to rally around. The haphazard and lazy product does not do that. One can only hope that the uninspired jersey will take its rightful place in the jersey graveyard and Durant and Co. will one day get a jersey that matches the promise of their talent.
For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.