Uni Watch NBA season preview

Uni Watch NBA season preview
From ESPN - October 13, 2017

The NBA season tips off Oct. 17, and it's one of the most significant years ever for the league's uniforms. After 11 years of being outfitted by Adidas, the NBA is now having its uniforms made by Nike, which has sent lots of changes rippling through the league's apparel.

It's important to note that many of these changes are more about evolution than revolution. When a league gets a new uniform outfitter, many fans mistakenly think every team will get a wholesale makeover, but that's not how it works. Many teams are perfectly happy with their uniform designs and see no reason to change. Sure, there are some leaguewide adjustments as teams shift their graphics over to Nike's tailoring silhouette, which we will get to in a minute. But in terms of the actual team designs, the changes are fairly conservative. Of the 90 nonthrowback Nike uniforms you will be seeing in this report, 58 of them -- almost two-thirds -- are more or less the same as their Adidas predecessors.

With that in mind, here are 10 things to watch for regarding the Adidas-to-Nike changeover:

1. The maker's mark. For the past generation, uniforms throughout most of the sports world have carried the logos of their manufacturers -- the Nike swoosh, the Reebok vector, and so on. The NBA has been the lone holdout -- until now. For the first time ever, NBA game uniforms will feature maker's marks this season, with 29 of the league's 30 teams carrying the Nike logo on their jerseys and shorts. (The Hornets will instead wear the Jordan Brand logo, a nod to team owner Michael Jordan.)

2. The advertising patches. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has done many commendable things during the first three years of his tenure. But in an unfortunate development that will forever be a stain on his legacy, he has presided over a new program that allows teams to sell corporate advertising space on their uniforms for at least the next three seasons. The widespread expectation was that all 30 teams would go ad-clad this season, but so far that has not been the case. As of this writing, 17 of the 30 teams have announced ad-patch deals. This is a fluid situation as teams are free to strike last-minute deals before the season starts, or even during the season, so stay tuned.

3. Anniversary patches. With all those Nike swooshes and advertising patches, there is not much room for other graphics. That may explain why the Bucks, Suns and Nuggets all have new 50th-anniversary logos this season but are not wearing them on their uniforms. They are only using them for marketing and promotion.

4. No more home whites or road colors. As of this season, home- and road-uniform designations have been eliminated. Home teams can now wear whichever uniform they choose, and road teams must wear a design of sufficient contrast. How will this play out on the court? Some teams may opt to keep wearing white at home, others may come up with new protocols (the Bulls, for example, have announced that they will wear red at home), and others may change things up from game to game. One thing's for certain, though: We will see a lot more color-versus-color games, which is a good thing.

5. The "editions." Instead of home and road designations, Nike has given each team four uniform "editions," three of which have been unveiled so far. There's the "Association Edition" (the team's white uniform), the "Icon Edition" (the primary colored uniform), the "Statement Edition" (an alternate design) and the "City Edition" (another alternate, to be unveiled later this fall). Those names are cringe-inducing and confusing, so we will just call them the white uniform, the colored uniform and the alternate uniform. Simple.

6. The throwbacks. In addition to the four basic uniforms in each club's wardrobe, eight teams -- the Bucks, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Lakers, Pacers, Suns and Warriors -- will have throwback uniforms (or "Classic Editions," as Nike has dubbed them). Three of those teams -- the Bucks, Hornets and Suns -- have already revealed their throwbacks. The others will follow soon.

7. The collars. Many teams have changed their collar styles as part of the Nike changeover. Ironically, one of the biggest casualties is the "wishbone" collar style, which Nike pioneered for the Lakers in 1999 and which was later adopted by several other teams.

8. The backs of the jerseys. Nike's tailoring pattern is not drastically different from Adidas', but the jerseys have seams on the upper shoulders that look a bit odd, especially on jerseys with pinstripes. The visual effect is sort of like the side of a gift-wrapped package, or maybe the way a napkin is folded at a fancy restaurant. In addition, the seams make it impossible for piping to run 360 degrees around the entire armhole.

9. The shorts. NBA shorts have had little triangular cutouts at the base of each leg for many years. Under Nike's tailoring pattern, that cutout has been positioned toward the front, instead of being centered. It supposedly makes for better ergonomic performance, but it can look strange for teams with striping or other patterns running down the sides of the shorts because the striping is centered but the cutout is not.

10. The waistbands. Having a team logo on the waistband is nothing new in the NBA -- some teams have done it in recent years, some have not. But Nike has apparently decided to focus on this design element, because almost all of this season's uniforms include a waistband logo. It's an odd area for Nike to showcase, because so many players wear their jerseys in a baggy, bloused manner that tends to obscure the waistband anyway, rendering the logo moot.

OK, enough preliminaries. Let's get started with our annual team-by-team rundown, broken down by division. For each team, we will look at how the new white, colored and alternate uniforms compare to the old Adidas designs, and we will also cover new logos, new courts and so on. Ready? Here we go.

Atlantic Division

Even if you are mostly OK with uniform ads, that big, honking GE patch on the Celtics' uniforms looks pretty brutal, no?

The ad patch notwithstanding, the Celtics are keeping their basic white and green uniforms pretty much the same, as you'd expect (additional info here):

In addition, the Celtics have taken their black-lettered alternate uniform and basically flipped the colors. Instead of a green uniform with black type, it's now a black uniform with green type (hey, at least it's better than the gray jersey with sleeves):

Meanwhile, Celtics guard Terry Rozier is the latest member of the Roman-numeral club, with a "III" now added to the back of his jersey:

The Knicks will be wearing a Squarespace advertising patch this season:

The ad patch, which was unveiled Oct. 10, will make its on-court debut for the Knicks' preseason game against the Wizards on Oct. 13. Aside from that, the Knicks' two primary uniforms are largely unchanged (additional info here):

The Knicks also have an alternate uniform, but it's a bit of an oddity. For starters, it's white (all of the other alternates that have been released so far are colored). Moreover, it's extremely similar to -- and, frankly, better than -- the team's standard white uniform. Why bother to have both? Weird.

Meanwhile, does it look like the Knicks are using a lighter shade of orange in those photos? Granted, the lighting is different, and they have made no official announcement about a color adjustment, but some sleuthing reveals that the orange does seem to have changed.

The Nets will be wearing an Infor ad patch. Although the patch design is simple, its square shape makes it one of the more obtrusive of all the ad patches so far.

Aside from the Infor patch, the Nets' basic white and black uniforms are essentially unchanged.

The Nets also have a dark-gray alternate uniform. Instead of their standard "Brooklyn" lettering, it has "Bklyn." Much like the Knicks' white alternate, this is the best uniform in the Nets' set. They should make it their primary.

Also, the Nets will be playing two games in Mexico City in December. No word yet on whether they will wear special uniforms or patches for those games.

The Raptors will be wearing an ad patch for Sun Life, a Canadian financial services company.

Aside from the ad patch, the Raptors' uniforms look largely the same, except for a tweak to the side panels:

The 76ers were the first NBA team to announce a contract with a jersey advertiser. They will be wearing a StubHub patch this season:

The Sixers have also tweaked their white and blue uniforms by adding red drop shadows to their letters and numbers (additional photos here):

The Sixers have also updated their red alternate uni, which now has a script instead of block lettering (additional photos here):

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, that script reads more like "Suxers" -- a particularly inexplicable move when you consider that the team used a much better jersey script on its Christmas uniform a few seasons ago:

Meanwhile, the Sixers also have a new court design:

In addition, the Sixers also have an alternate court design, featuring a retro-styled Liberty Bell logo at center court. This floor will be used when the team wears its "City" alternate uniform, which has not yet been unveiled but is expected to be revealed later this fall (additional info here):

Finally, here's a fun fact: As we wind down toward the final roster cuts, it appears that the Sixers may end up with a No. 0 (Jerryd Bayless) and a No. 00 (Jacob Pullen) on the team. At present, only one other team -- the Nuggets -- have that distinction.

Central Division

The Bucks will wear Harley-Davidson ad patches on their jerseys this season:

Aside from that, the Bucks' basic white, green and black alternate uniforms are largely unchanged (additional photos here, here and here):

The Bucks are also one of the eight NBA teams that will have throwback uniforms this season. The retro design will make its on-court debut Oct. 26, when the Bucks will host the Celtics at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as the Mecca, where the Bucks used to play. The throwbacks will then be worn for select games throughout the rest of the season (here's some additional info and photos):

Also: The Bucks have a 50th-season logo. It's not being worn as a uniform patch (probably because the Harley and Nike logos are already taking up too much space) but will be used in various promotional capacities.

As noted earlier, home teams can now wear whichever uniform they like. But the Bulls have done something interesting: They have gone ahead and declared that their red uni design -- the one they used to wear on the road -- will be their primary home look. They have also designated their white design -- the one they used to wear at home -- as their preferred road look (although they wo not be able to wear it, obviously, if they are on the road and the home team chooses to wear white). Aside from that, their visual presentation is essentially unchanged, at least from the front:

Most teams' waistband logos seem pretty rote, but the Bulls have come up with something pretty nifty -- a reference to the Chicago city-flag design:

On the back, the Bulls have simplified their NOB lettering (that's short for "name on back," for those of you who do not speak uni):

The Cavaliers have added a Goodyear advertising patch to their jerseys:

In addition, the Cavs have retooled their uniform set. The new type font is too cartoonish for this observer's liking, but that's the way it goes sometimes (additional info here and here):

The black alternates have gray striping that, according to the team, is intended to "invoke imagery of the grain of the sword to represent our team's toughness on court." Yeah, sure. And it's just a coincidence that it also resembles the tread on a tire, which happens to be Goodyear's signature product. Uh-huh (here's some additional info and photos).

Meanwhile, the Cavs have a new court design to go along with their new uniforms (additional info here):

The Pacers have gotten a full-scale makeover. The circular chest lettering is a big hit here at Uni Watch HQ, although the side striping feels a bit Marquette-ish (additional info here and here):

The Pacers also have a new court design:

Also, the Pacers are reportedly among the eight teams that will have throwback uniforms in their wardrobes this season. The design is widely expected to be a variation on Hickory fauxbacks, but so far there's no confirmation on that.

The Pistons have changed their primary logo to an updated version of their "Bad Boy"-era mark from the 1980s and '90s (additional info here):

As for the uniforms, we all know the best uniform advertising patch is no patch at all, but if the Pistons have to have one, it would make sense for it to be for a car manufacturer, right? Unfortunately, they are going with Flagstar Bank.

Aside from the ad patch, the Pistons have also changed their white uniform's side striping (it used to be red in the front and blue in the back; now it's reversed) and swapped in a new shorts logo (additional info here):

The Pistons have also updated their gray alternate uniform (they call it "chrome," but come on, it's gray). This one feels like a significant downgrade. The royal blue trim does not work as well with the base fabric color. This design will make its on-court debut Dec. 30 and will be worn four more times after that.

Finally, the team's new primary logo is featured on a new court design:

Southeast Division

The Hawks have sold advertising space on their jerseys to Sharecare, an Atlanta-based health-and-wellness platform (additional info here):

Aside from the ad patch, the Hawks look pretty much the same. Or to put it another way, the changeover from Adidas to Nike has not kept them from being the most garish-looking team in the league. The one major alteration is that they have changed the color of the numbers on their white uniform.

Also, the Hawks are reportedly among the eight teams that will have throwback uniforms in their wardrobes this season. No word yet on what the design will be or when it will be revealed.

The Heat have struck a uniform advertising deal with Ultimate Software:

Aside from the ad patch, the Heat's look is largely unchanged:

Also, the Heat will be playing the Nets in Mexico City on Dec. 9. No word yet on whether they will wear a special uniform or patch for that game.

All teams are wearing the Nike logo on their uniforms this season -- except for the Hornets, who have Nike's Jordan Brand logo instead, thanks to Michael Jordan owning the team.

The Hornets have also inverted the hierarchy on their colored uniforms. The purple design, which had been worn on the road, will now be the alternate, and the teal design, which had been the alternate, will now be the primary colored design. Both jerseys have new chest marks (additional info here):

Hornets' purple uniform had been road uni, will now be alternate. Chest lettering changes from team name to city name.

Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) October 3, 2017

Hornets' teal uniform had been alternate, will now be primary colored uni. Chest mark changes from city name to team name.

Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) October 3, 2017

Some additional Hornets pics. Stripes now thinner, secondary logo now on shorts.

Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 31, 2017

In addition, the Hornets are bringing back their inaugural teal design as a throwback. It will be worn three times, beginning with the Nov. 15 game against the Cavs (additional info here):

Pacific Division

Southwest Division

Northwest Division

Additional notes


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