Q+A: 2016 NBA All-Star Jerseys

by December 03, 2015

As you can see here on SLAM and probably some other sites in our business, adidas and the NBA have made the official uniforms and apparel for the 65th NBA All-Star Game, which will be held in Toronto this coming February, public.

Thanks to the kindness of our longtime friends at adidas, we were afforded the chance to see, hold and further learn about said uniforms and apparel at an exclusive availability yesterday in the game’s host city.

Few, if any, All-Star Games have afforded as many different storylines that can influence the look and feel of a weekend. Amongst other angles, this year’s:

-Is the first All-Star Game outside the US
-Comes at a time when more and more international players—particularly Canadians—are playing in the NBA
-Is held in the city that hosted the first-ever NBA Game (Huskies, baby)
-Is held not far from where the inventor of basketball, James Naismith was born
-Is being held in one of the hippest, hottest cities on the planet
-Is where adidas endorsees like Tracy McGrady and Andrew Wiggins came to prominence
-Is being held in a city that heretofore was better known as a hockey stronghold, home of the storied Maple Leafs and the Hockey Hall of Fame
-Is being hosted by an up-and-coming NBA franchise that boasts some of the most intense fans in the League

The expert we got to speak with about these uniforms is David Cho, NBA Partnership Director, adidas Basketball Marketing. You can rest assured that Cho—who manages elements of adidas’ 11-year global partnership with the NBA, from on-court uniforms and outfitting, to the US and international retail licensed businesses, as well as all event and sponsorship activities with the league—is WELL aware of every angle listed above. Does that mean he and his design team tried to incorporate all of them onto the apparel (keep in mind that this year’s uniforms also have a small KIA logo on them)? Read and learn.

SLAM: Can you give us an overview of this new All-Star uniform we’re seeing for the first time?

David Cho: What we wanted to do was capture the cosmopolitan energy of Toronto, and tell the story of basketball and the NBA in this city, as well as to the Raptors and their recent history of success. The front has a very subtle Maple Leaf, created through the dots and the fabric on the bottom. We wanted to incorporate Canada’s national symbol on the jersey, but not in an overly obvious way on the front. Most people will probably miss it. We also always try to incorporate an element of the host city, not just the host team. So for Toronto we did a color-contrast cityscape. You can recognize the CN Tower and the rest of the skyline.

We always want to tell an evolving story around the NBA All-Star logo history. This year the star is combined with the Maple Leaf in a multi-layered pattern.

Getting to the history of basketball here, this is one of the simplest single-layer fonts you’ll ever see on an NBA uniform. The story here is that the very first NBA game was held here in Toronto in 1946. Toronto Huskies vs. New York Knickerbockers. The Huskies uniform, and really all of the uniforms in that age, were simple. We wanted an element of the design to speak to that fact, of the very first NBA game being played in Toronto.

To incorporate the Raptors, we used the jock tags, making them in the black-and-gold that you see in their new alternate jersey, as well as a version of their claw logo. This is on all the jerseys, and also on the outside of the shooting shirts as well, which will be more visible since the tag on the uniform will be tucked in when the players are on the court.

The last element of the uniform that we want to highlight goes beyond it being in Toronto, Canada. With the global popularity of the game and the NBA, we wanted to highlight that there are so many international players playing in the League. So what we did was deconstruct the colors of the flags of all the countries that international players have represented in the All-Star Game to create this multi-colored pattern that you’ll find only on the inside of the jersey on the neck and the drawstring on the shorts. So we go from basketball, NBA All-Star, Toronto, Canada, to global game, all in what seems like a pretty simple design. Simple and timeless, clean and classy, but highlighting all those stories.

SLAM: Was this a fun process to have so many extra stories that you don’t have in a typical All-Star venue.

DC: Yes, specifically trying to tell the stories of Canada, and the new Raptors identity which was changing as we went through the process, and this homage to all the players who are All-Stars not from the US.

SLAM: Did adidas work with the Raptors on their new look?

DC: We were not. They worked on that themselves and we’re merely the outfitter that produced it. And for the All-Star jersey we work exclusively with the League, even while incorporating various Toronto Raptors elements.

SLAM: Besides showing respect to the host team, you also want to include their logo for the local fans’ benefit, right?

DC: Yes. They are the host. Toronto is the city, but it’s the team that is really hosting All-Star, so we want to acknowledge the host team. Some years there have been larger examples of host city executions, but I like where we are now is a great balance.

SLAM: And on the history front, are you referring just to the NBA and the Huskies, or also the fact that James Naismith was born not far from here?

DC: It’s both. The font really comes from the Huskies, but Naismith’s is a story we’re all going to hear a lot of. He was born here, he invented the game 125 years ago, all of that. So we’re aware of it, but there is no specific Naismith reference on the jersey.

SLAM: And how about the fact that this All-Star Game will be played in a city and country that is so known, historically, for another sport—hockey? Did that play into things at all?

DC: There wasn’t. There was a design direction that could have gone down that route, but I think an overt Maple Leaf on the front, too many ties to the Maple Leafs and hockey, we didn’t want to do because there are so many legitimate ties to basketball in Canada that we wanted to focus on.

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SLAM: Can you talk about some of the apparel that goes along with the uniforms?

DC: Yes. So we made the jackets as well. Heather-gray with black, the name, and a style that definitely looks more like a winter jacket. That was the design inspiration. The weight is about the same as a jacket typically worn on an NBA court, but the fabric and look is absolutely drawn from the colder climate here and the fashion of outdoor, winter clothing. We just brought it inside. And we carried over the nameplates and the military style accomplishments on the sleeve.

SLAM: This is a pretty unique look for a basketball jacket. Can you think of anything else like this?

DC: I can’t, and I think that’s what is going to draw so much attention to this jacket. It’s going to be absolutely functional as an outside jacket. Fashion influences everything we do, but you can really dial it up on a jacket.

SLAM: I think you guys are gonna sell a lot of these.

DC: [Laughs]