After weeks of teases and trickled out bits of info and partial images, all 30 of the NBA's franchises have offically announced their "City Edition" uniforms to be worn on special occasions during the 2018-19 regular season. But are they all really that wonderful, despite the hype? Of course not, and we're about to have a fun time picking apart these jerseys, stitch by stitch.
The NBA has experimented with many different jerseys over the past few years. We've seen more and more teams introduce sleeved alternates and now we have the "City" editions and we all know it's simply a cash grab for the NBA. However, that doesn't mean fans can't enjoy seeing their team rocking a different look on occasion. Even the more storied NBA franchises who rarely change their jersey look have managed to pull off some cool alternates.
Who's to say how long these jerseys will be here, as the NBA will surely introduce more and more alternates in coming seasons, but for fans whose teams really nailed it in their city editions, it definitely may be worth grabbing while they're being worn on the court.
Naturally, many of these are excellent alternative uniforms, and worthy representations of those teams that made smart and thoughtful decisions in crafting them. The NBA brand continues to grow and appeal to a young demographic and some of these jerseys are sure to help their cause. To find out which team's alt-jerseys scored--and those that clanked off the rim--keep on reading...
30 Boston Celtics
Yes it's true, the NBA's most successful franchise with 17 championships bottoms out this list with their newly revealed alternate "City" uniforms that serve as a fitting ode to...the Seattle SuperSonics? This move by the Celtics is a misguided attempt to replicate the "warm-up jackets" donned by the 1980s Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-era Celtics.
Instead, it makes it appear that the jersey shipment was sent to the wrong address, and they were actually intended for Oklahoma City to be the Thunder's alt-jerseys honoring their Seattle roots. Being in tradition-rich Boston, both from a sports and historical perspective, surely the C's can come up with something more interesting and unique next year.
29 Memphis Grizzlies
The city of Memphis may have a great cultural tradition of wrestling, but the colorfulness and vibrancy of the sport of rasslin' is hardly reflected in these drab alternates. This alt-jersey misses the mark, from the bland steel grey coloring (intended to represent the "steel chairs" of wrestling, but it's way too much of a conceptual leap). An even more reaching attempt to link the Grizzlies with wrestling is having the side patterns of the jersey represent a championship belt. But it doesn't closely enough resemble a wrestling belt to work visually, and any connotation of being a "champion" is hardly fitting for this franchise with zero titles.
28 Portland Trail Blazers
When it comes to brand-new alternative uniforms, you simply expect more from the Trail Blazers, who usually are actual "trailblazers" when it comes to incorporating forward fashion sensibilities into uniform design. This is especially true given the franchise's long association with Nike, style-setters for generations. Yet, all the Blazers can muster for the 2018-19 season is "RipCity"-- for the second year in a row, which is even more disappointing. The red lettering on black isn't bad, but again, we've seen it with Portland, and little "PDX" and "BlazerMania" emblems look desperate rather than natural
27 New York Knicks
Another classic East Coast franchise, another lost opportunity to create a memorable alternate. The blue and orange piping is in honor of the uniforms of the 1952-1961 Knicks. Laughably, you're also supposed to be impressed because it's the first Knicks uniform with a "non-arched New York woodmark," which makes it sound more complex than quantum physics. Imagine some guy on a first date at a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden telling the woman, "Say honey, did you know that player is wearing a non-arched woodmark?" She'd probably go home with someone else.
26 San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are one of two NBA teams that retained their alternative "City" jerseys from the 2017-18 season, and they are definitely the inferior of the two holdovers. For the second straight year, the Spurs are doing the "army camo" theme. It's too bad the Spurs couldn't come up with an original idea. Perhaps in the future the Spurs can be a little more innovative, and be inspired by their unique Southwestern locale for an alt-jersey design. Especially since they're the only major pro sports franchise in their city.
25 Detroit Pistons
This is the lesser of the two "racing" themed NBA alt-jerseys this year, and the Pistons' uniform goes "off-road" due to its dull approach. First, there's the generic "Motor City" lettering in white with two bland racing stripes with a derivative black and silver color scheme that seems out of place. The Pistons could have gotten really creative with this and probably should have opted for a ultra-colorful graffiti look, maybe of a super souped-up car engine that's come to life. Imagine how cool Blake Griffin would look in something like that!
24 Philadelphia 76ers
No, you're not watching Philly practicing pick-and-rolls on a dreary Saturday afternoon in February at the gym, those gray things are indeed their alternative uniforms they plan to wear during actual NBA games. But hopefully not too many games. Considering how exciting things are with the 76ers these days--the acquisition of two-way star Jimmy Butler in November gives Philly their very own "Big 3," along with superstars-in-the-making Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, gray seems to be the exact opposite shade that should be used on "City" jerseys representing the direction of this franchise.
23 Dallas Mavericks
Is that a stylized horse head...or a half-moon on the Mavericks' alternate uniforms? ind of hard to tell with that design and color scheme. And it's never a good thing when an alt-jersey results in ambiguity, despite the Mavs' commendable attempts to incorporate animal imagery. The best alt-jersey design schemes are streamlined and clear--not obscure and/or hard to distinguish the primary logo. It's too bad Dallas couldn't come up with a better "City Edition," because the team has taken on a more high profile status this season than in recent years due to the emergence of rookie Luka Doncic, who has energized the Mavs in 2018.
22 Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers may have LeBron, but there's nothing unique about their alt jerseys, and it's too busy with all the lettering. The purple is always a cool visual, but it's already their primary color, so that's not special. This uniform is supposed to be a tribute to the Magic Johnson-era Lakers (the 1980s), but it comes across as an ego trip. Magic, now one of the controlling elements of the Lakers' destiny, is said to have personally had a hand in the design of the jersey; the pinstripes are to symbolize Johnson's "business side" (his net worth is some $500 million dollars). Too bad no one thinks of big biz when they think of L.A., but more like movie studios and beaches.
21 Brooklyn Nets
There's apparently some "street cred" associated with this alternative design because of the Biggie Smalls connection, but it doesn't really seem to reflect the Notorious B.I.G. The tribute is the multi-colored "Coogi sweater" pattern for which Biggie was known for wearing. The Nets score some points with this jersey because the trim is unique and has an Afro-centric quality. But there's nothing special at all about the "Brooklyn" lettering. Maybe next time around the Nets can consider something influenced by living legend Brooklyn filmmaker Spike Lee.
20 Cleveland Cavaliers
They're colorful enough and serve as tribute to past Cavaliers' jeseys, but the finished product more closely resembles a popsicle wrapper from the 1970's, and doesn't really make you think of the city of Cleveland. Perhaps they're meant as a distraction from a truly awful Cavs team that's already fired scapegoated coach Tyron Lue. Amazing what losing a mega-superstar like LeBron James will do to a franchise's fortunes. Of course, if the Cavs land the number overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft--a distinct possibility---they could draft Zion Williamson out of Duke, a player some consider to be the next LeBron James. Maybe he'd look better in these jerseys.
19 Milwaukee Bucks
While Milwaukee's alt jerseys are visually appealing and certainly colorful, they also too closely resemble soccer uniforms--and if there's any two diametrically opposed sports, it's basketball and soccer. The former offers more scoring in one minute than the latter does in an entire game; put bluntly, the NBA defines excitement, soccer does not. And while these new alternative uniforms were inspired by the floor of the Bucks' old home, the MECCA, it's still too much. Instead of saying "We're Milwaukee, We're Colorful," these jerseys scream, "We're Milwaukee, We're Trying Too Hard!"
18 Charlotte Hornets
Uh oh, look out for the scary hornet! Actually, the sting from a hornet--the largest of the wasps--can be more deadly than that from a bee, but still, it's not exactly the most intimidating mascot. Something about naming your team after an insect subconsciously implies weakness to most folks' ears. Still, Charlotte must work with what they've got, and this particular jersey isn't a complete lost cause. For example, the neon teal is aesthetically satisfying, and a good choice for an alt-jersey, which should take an existing uniform concept and break the boundaries of expectations. Otherwise, why bother?
17 Houston Rockets
Wait, is this another Cavaliers jersey? This is the lesser of the two Mandarin influenced "City" uniforms on this list, the better yet to come as you read on. That factor, combined with the color scheme that instinctively suggests the Cavs more than the Rockets, has this alt-jersey ranked on the lower tier. This jersey is unique, but still comes across as corporate, pandering to China, economic giant and NBA partner.
If the team wanted to create a unique alternate uniform, they should honor the Nigeria roots in the city (Africa) community roots, as Houston has more people from Nigeria than any other city in America.
16 Atlanta Hawks
Give the Hawks credit for going for a completely different look. The gold is good, but there's little else to excite the senses and stimulate the imagination. The "bird feathers" on the uniform sides look more like the claws unleashed by comic book character Wolverine of X-Men fame. Gold is a solid alternate color scheme, simply because it's so appealing to most eyes, perhaps because of its perceived value and worth. Maybe in the future the Hawks could consider a "peach" hue, in honor of the state's famous fruit, or something with grafitti imagery--better known by its modern-day politically correct code as "street art."
15 Phoenix Suns
For the second straight year, the Suns "City" jerseys pay homage to an entire country--Mexico.However, both the lettering and design of this alt-jesey are uninspired and boring; it just says "Los Suns." Yet, the colors are rather striking, especially the purple hues. This uniform dichotomy fits the entire Suns' team this season; a lot of talent that's not yet able to string together cohesive wins. This jersey could have been so much more and one can only hope the Suns do more with it next year.
14 Orlando Magic
The Magic's alt jerseys for 2018-19 aren't all that different than those they wore last season, yet they are still visually agreeable. The "basketball-as-comet" image remains strong; however, they lose points for reducing the cool "astral pattern" on the side, dimishing its effectiveness. The blue, black and white color combo works synergistically, instead of clashing. Though on the surface the astronomical theme seems to contradict the Disney World mystical connotations of the team name, but surely, a comet basketball soaring through the heavens is nothing if not magical.
13 Denver Nuggets
On paper, there's a lot to like about these, and it's certainly upper tier on this list, paying fitting tribute to the Denver skyline, complete with the mountainous Rockies and rainbow striping. But the actual line work and coloring makes it all look like some kind of primitive computer printout from 1983, very washed-out and weakly defined. If you're going to go with the bold imagery of a skyline and rainbow, let's see the confident colors and inking to match. As further perusal of this list will prove, the right colors often make or break an alt-jersey. This "City" uniform also loses points for the "sleeveless" look (due to no stripes on the sleeve edges), which suggests practice gear or even, God forbid, underwear.
12 Minnesota Timberwolves
For their 2018-19 "City" gear, the T-Wolves have opted to reach down to their Minnesota roots and don these purple toned uniforms that serve as tribute to late music legend Prince. This vibrant neon theme will be better represented by an upcoming jersey on the list, but still, this alt offering is a solid commemoration of Prince in his Twin Cities home locale, despite the sordid details of the artist's untimely demise. The primary drawback holding back this particular alt-jersey from a higher ranking on this list is that there's nothing else that stands out or makes it specific to Prince, so it gets saddled in the mid-rankings.
11 Indiana Pacers
It's at this point on the list when we really start getting to the "better-to-good" portion of 2018-19 NBA alt jerseys, starting with the Pacers' ode to their home city's annual famed open-wheel open-cockpit formula race, better known to the world as the "Indy 500." The grey shadings that failed with the 76ers work here for Indy because it meshes with the auto racing concept and visuals. Likewise, the Pacers have employed a superior use of similar colors utilized by the aforementioned Memphis Grizzlies. As for the smaller details, the "Always Lead" slogan is corny, and not fitting--the Pacers have never won a title--but the little image of the state of Indiana is a nice touch.
10 Toronto Raptors
Is it traffic signage or the direction this franchise is headed towards? More of the latter, as this Raptors' alt jersey is effective, with a design pointing upwards containing the capital letters "NORTH" stylized to match the shape of the arrow-like image. This represents precisely what such surrogate apparel is intended to do; strike a completely different look for a franchise, yet still containing imagery, symbols and coloring that aligns the team with the city/region in which it plays. And from an NBA perspective, there's not much more "north" than Toronto, Ontario, so this is an instance of the Raptors boldly embracing their identity as Canada's lone NBA team.
9 Los Angeles Clippers
Like the aforementioned Lakers, the Clips are going with an 1980s inspired theme--but this one works much better, as it's based on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics iconography. The L.A. letters being in "motion" is a pretty cool effect, and fits the fast pace of basketball. In that way, the Clippers alt-uniforms are a tribute to L.A.'s history, whereas the forever self-absorbed Lakers franchise did a tribute to their own past. Besides, the Clippers "City" jerseys sport a great color scheme with a red white and blue distinct from the hues of the U.S. flag, yet still patriotic nonetheless.
8 Golden State Warriors
This artistic tribute to the Bay Area's rich heritage is a winner for the final alternative jersey the Warriors will don in the city of Oakland, as the franchise relocates to San Francisco and the brand new Chase Center beginning with the 2019-20 campaign. The bridge on the uniform is not the famed Golden Gate, but the lesser known Bay Bridge, which connects Oakland and San Francisco, and along with the Mandarin lettering characters, this alt-jersey pays tribute to a local Asian culture much more effectively and subtly than the over-the-top Rockets, as previously noted.
7 Washington Wizards
The Wizards' design for their alternative uniform is simple, but rather powerful--and true power is best conveyed simply and clearly, with no ambiguity. This jersey takes advantage of the U.S. capital's uniquely designated administrative division, also known as the District of Columbia. Among all NBA teams, only the Wizards can legitimately use the "District" logo, and this alternative uniform also reflects the "toughness" of D.C with the black color scheme. We're frankly surprised the Wizards didn't get caught up in the whole Game of Thrones thing and try to incorporate dragons or sorcerers in their alt-jerseys. Maybe next season.
6 Sacramento Kings
Despite earning a top-10 ranking, this season's Kings' alternative uniforms are a step down from last year's "Emperor Lion" jerseys that were so regal, it almost made you wish you were a Kings fan. Except for the part where the franchise has mostly stunk playing in the capital of California since they relocated from Kansas City in 1985. Still, the powder blue is always a fantastic color choice, and "Sactown" is what everybody already calls the city anyway. For next year's alt jerseys, the team should find a new, original way to portray the "king" theme. Maybe one of these years Sacramento will have a team worthy of royalty.
5 Chicago Bulls
Now we're among the cream of the crop, the top five. And what better way to kick it off with perhaps the ultimate "City" jersey as the Bulls will don the flag of Chicago on their alternative uniforms. It's not a precise rendition of the Windy City flag--and it doesn't have to be, as the two familiar horizontal stripes of powdery blue are set against a black, rather than white, background, creating a very cool effect. The famous four red stars remain, representing a quartet of historical events in the city's history, including the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. These current Bulls burn their fans on a nightly basis, but at least they'll look good.
4 Miami Heat
The Heat's "City" renditions might not be "tough" jerseys with much "street cred," but the "neon Vice" coloring and '80s lettering mesh perfect with the South Beach aesthetic. For this year's alt-jersey, Miami simply swapped out the white background for black, but as previously noted, wow, what a difference a switch in background coloration can make. Actually, the change is pretty logical, as the neon stands out even more against the black because it's a "night time" color, and anything neon naturally looks better after the sun has set.
3 New Orleans Pelicans
You want color done right? Look no further than New Orleans. The Pelicans have crafted an alt-uniform that stands out with a unique, vibrant visual scheme that ideally reflects upon the "main event"--Mardi Gras--of the team's world renowned host city, one of the party capitals of the world. And the bright colors the Pels have incorporated in this uniform are the official hues of Mardi Gras; purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith. Besides, the colors look great set back against the white lettering of the "NOLA" acronym (stands for New Orleans, Lousiana).
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder's spectacular alternative uniform was revealed earlier than most, and was instantly destined for a top-5 finish on this list regardless of how good all the other teams' gear might have been. Yep, that's how great this alt-jersey happens to be, which graciously and colorfully pays tribute to the Oklahoma region's rich Native culture and heritage with the stylized "OKC" lettering and iconography. The coloring is also oddly reminiscent of the old Vancouver Grizzlies jerseys, but it really works well here for the Thunder.
1 Utah Jazz
The winner--and still champion--is the Utah Jazz, with their also ironically termed "City" jerseys, that depict a remote desert setting. The Jazz realized how popular and aesthetically pleasing these uniforms were last year, so they got brought back for a second NBA season, and it's little wonder. These uniforms perfectly capture the Utah experience, much more than their laughable "Jazz" nickname, which the team mistakenly kept when they relocated from the previously mentioned party town of New Orleans, a city that actually has jazz clubs.
The Jazz have already worn these dramatic alt-jerseys, and it's hard to take your eyes off of the colors and imagery.