Because Sports Are Art Too, Bro
by Andrew Menjivar
Staff Baller, Shot Caller
For the 2019-2020 basketball season, the NBA and 29 of its 30 teams—Memphis is wearing throwback alternates, instead of City Editions—have unveiled what they have dubbed “City Jerseys,” in an effort to connect each franchise to their individual fan-base in a unique and engaging way never before truly explored in American sports history. Some go above and beyond, while some fall short, and we here at the paper take a look at the best and the worst of the NBA City Jerseys: who truly captured the essence of town pride and spirit—and who took the League’s request and virtually threw it in the trash.
We start with the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte sees themselves at the bottom of our list, not necessarily for a poorly executed jersey design (Personally, I think the groutfit is coming back), but rather that they ignored some of rich history this city could’ve offered. Charlotte, a city of pride in the South, is known for its vibrant culture: delicious food, Southern charm, and its fascination with racing and aviation. While the Queen City offers ample inspiration for some fantastic uni’s, the Hornets decided to go with an all-gray jersey, with the wordmark “CHA” across the front and a hive-like pattern down the sides. Despite being a nice nod to the city’s nickname, this jersey simply looks like an empty canvas compared to everything that could’ve been.
However, while Charlotte may have missed the mark, there is one team that completely disregarded the memo of making a “city” jersey: the San Antonio Spurs. For what seems like the umpteenth time, the Spurs enter 2020 with few changes to past uniforms, opting for an all-black-and-gray camouflage jersey, with black numbers, lettering and a small Spurs logo on the lower chest. Now, Nike has stated that the inspiration for this uni came from the city’s rich military tradition, and while that is absolutely true and worthwhile, this Southern Texas metropolis has so much more to offer. With the Alamo, wide grassy plains, bright blue skies, and classic Old West charm, San Antonio is a city that had the potential for an exciting, inspirational jersey (Please, Spurs, if you need a quality desert-concept uni, check out the Phoenix Suns’ 2020 City Jersey, one of the most underrated). However, it is not only that they failed again to offer any more creativity, the design team continue to make one of the downright hardest-to-look-at kits in the NBA. Really, just please stop making your jersey the exact same color as its logo, but I guess that’s the point of camouflage…
Now, to start our Top 3, Denver. Inspired by the team’s original uniforms from the ’80-’81 season, the Nuggets brought back the iconic rainbow skyline design in 2018. The team redefines this look for 2020, switching over to a black base with no wordmark featured on the front, which is instead replaced by Denver’s skyline silhouetted with the mountains behind, all encompassed by a thick rainbow stripe around the chest. These uniforms are more than a simple throwback, but rather represent the different neighborhoods and people that make up the diverse cultural epicenter that is Denver. A successful uniform not solely on design, but also because they incorporated representation of all people living in the city, no matter what background, an idea that truly defines what it means to live in The Mile High City.
We next travel from the blistering cold to the Georgian heat, visiting the Atlanta Hawks. While the Hawks continue to struggle on the court, they find a win with these uniforms. Frankly, these all-black kits are sexy, with peach-colored stripes around the cuffs and down the sides, truly embracing the meaning of The Peach State. Beyond that, the team doubled down by writing “Peachtree” across the front, paying homage to the state’s most glorified fruit. Atlanta is a city known for numerous things—hot rappers, incredible nightlife, and being a hub of cultural activity—but these jerseys represent so much more than just a city: they represent a past, present, and future of a whole state. That is truly a uniting factor.
There’s only one team I can think of that can consistently make gorgeous uniforms: Miami. With some of the most incredible jerseys the league has seen in recent decades, the Heat take the cake this year. Inverting the colors on their 2019 City Jerseys, this power-blue uniform features hot pink, white, and black accenting, with the word “Miami” scripted across the front. These uni’s capture the essence of the city: the bright, vivid colors of its incredible nightlife, as well as the vice culture assumed during the 80’s and 90’s. These uniforms are the perfect example of how to stray from a club’s original color scheme and replace it with one that unites all people in this Southern Florida metropolis.
Today, the NBA is more than just a basketball association: they are paving the way to become one of the most fan-integrated sports of all time—and maybe, hopefully soon, they can inspire that Bronx-themed Yankees uniform we’ve all been waiting so long for.