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The Uni Watch NBA season preview

Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves got the full-uniform-makeover treatment this offseason. VCG via Getty Images

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'll 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'll 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 hasn't 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 isn't 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're 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'll wear red at home), and others may change things up from game to game. One thing's for certain, though: We'll 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'll 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 isn't 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 isn't.

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 haven't. 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'll look at how the new white, colored and alternate uniforms compare to the old Adidas designs, and we'll also cover new logos, new courts and so on. Ready? Here we go.

Atlantic Division

• Even if you're 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've 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'll 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'll 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 hasn't 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 -- has 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've 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've also designated their white design -- the one they used to wear at home -- as their preferred road look (although they won't be able to wear it, obviously, if they're 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 don't 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're 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 doesn't 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 hasn't kept them from being the most garish-looking team in the league. The one major alteration is that they've 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'll 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):

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

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• The Magic have inked a jersey advertising deal with the Walt Disney Company -- a natural pairing, since Walt Disney World is in Orlando.

Aside from the ad patch, the Magic have toned down the swoop of their pinstripe pattern and have tweaked their side panels, although their overall look is still familiar.


• The Wizards have stayed the course, sticking with all three of their basic uniform designs (additional info, plus a full home uniform schedule, here):

Pacific Division

• The Clippers have been saddled with one of the worst uniform sets in the league for several years now. Their uniforms are still in the league's lower echelon, but they've made some small upgrades to their designs this year. Most notably, their primary colored uniform -- formerly their road uniform -- has changed from red to blue (additional info here).


• The Kings were one of the first teams to jump aboard the uniform-advertising bandwagon, inking a deal with Blue Diamond Almonds:

In addition to adding the ad patch, the Kings have removed the little crown logo from all of their jersey chests and made some other small adjustments. Also, the purple "Sac" jersey, which had been an alternate, is now the team's primary colored design, replaced the purple "Kings" jersey (additional info here):

Also, when the Kings wear their black alternates at home, they'll also use a new black-themed alternate court design, which can be accessorized with Mandarin or Hindi lettering for the team's Lunar New Year and Bollywood theme nights (additional info here and here):


• The Lakers will be wearing an ad patch from the e-commerce site Wish:

The ad patch notwithstanding, the Lakers are in an odd position. For many years now they've worn yellow at home, purple on the road and white as an alternate. But Nike's new uniform system called for them to initially release a white uni and a colored uni, followed by an alternate. So they went with white and yellow for their two primary designs, and purple is now officially designated as their alternate. It remains to be seen how this will all play out on the court.

In addition, the Lakers have removed the outlining on the lettering for the players' names:

Meanwhile, if you were wondering whether the Lakers would retire No. 8 or No. 24 for Kobe Bryant, the answer is that they're retiring both! It'll happen during halftime of the team's Dec. 18 game against the Warriors.


• Downgrade of the year goes to the Suns, who've scrapped one of the best uniforms in NBA history and replaced it with something utterly generic-looking. Sigh.

On the plus side, the team's black alternate uni has undergone some modest improvements, but it's too little, too late.

Also, the Suns are among the eight NBA teams that will be wearing throwbacks this season:

The throwback design is part of the team's 50th-season promotional campaign. Naturally, there's a commemorative logo, but it won't be worn on the team's uniforms.


• The Warriors will be wearing an ad patch for the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten:

Aside from the ad patch, the defending NBA champs look pretty much the same, at least for their primary white and blue uniforms:

The Warriors also have the best new alternate uniform in the league. The jersey lettering, featuring "The Town," plays off the franchise's old "The City" uniforms and honors the team's current location in Oakland, which is known as "the town," while the oak tree logo matches the mark shown on Oakland street signs. First-rate!

In addition, the Warriors 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.

Southwest Division

• The Grizzlies have essentially imported their existing uniform set onto the Nike template (additional info here):

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will retire Zach Randolph's No. 50, although it's not yet clear exactly when the ceremony will take place. Randolph now plays for the Kings, who play in Memphis on Jan. 19 and April 6, so one of those dates would make sense.

Similarly, the Grizzlies have just announced plans to retire Tony Allen's No. 9, who left the team via free agency last summer and now plays for the Pelicans. No date has yet been selected.


• The Mavericks have tweaked the shade of blue used throughout their visual program:

Aside from that, the Mavs have survived the Nike changeover with their look largely intact (additional info here):

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that the Mavs' costumed mascot, Champ, has been wearing an old Adidas uniform during the preseason. Get with the program, Champ!


• Glory be, the Pelicans have finally increased the size of the jersey lettering on their white and blue uniforms. Not sure what took them so long, but it's a huge upgrade.


• Big upgrade for the Rockets, who've removed the big, billowy stripes from their white and red jerseys. Now, if they could just do the same for their shorts.

Meanwhile, the Rockets' black alternate uni -- one of the league's most boring and pointless designs -- is, well, still one of the league's most boring and pointless designs.


• In an odd development, the Spurs have removed the outlining on their chest lettering but retained the outlining on their numbers. The resulting look is cleaner but has a bit less character (additional info here).

Northwest Division

• The Jazz have put an interesting spin on their advertising patch. They've partnered with the tech firm Qualtrics, but instead of wearing the Qualtrics logo, they'll wear the slogan "5 for the Fight," which refers to a Qualtrics-sponsored charity initiative to fight cancer. It's a great public-service approach to uniform advertising. Too bad no other team has gone this route, at least so far.

Aside from the new patch, the Jazz's white and blue uniforms are largely unchanged (additional info here):

Meanwhile, remember that weird sleeved alternate uniform with chest stripes and the music note? The Jazz have a new music-note-themed alternate this season:


• The Nuggets have sold advertising space on their jerseys to Western Union:

The ad patch is part of a larger uniform makeover that has scaled back the use of powder blue in the team's look, which now makes more prominent use of navy (additional info here):

In addition, the team's skyline-themed yellow alternate uniform has been updated. Your friendly uniform columnist thinks the new version looks sharp, although some fans are bemoaning the loss of the rainbow stripes.

The Nuggets are also marking their 50th anniversary this season. They have a commemorative logo but aren't wearing it on their uniforms. It will be on their new court design, however:

Also, the Nuggets will retire Fat Lever's No. 12 during the Dec. 2 game against the Lakers.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Nuggets' roster continues to have a No. 0 (Emmanuel Mudiay) and a No. 00 (Darrell Arthur) -- a rare distinction currently shared by only one other NBA team, the 76ers.


• The Thunder's basic white and blue uniforms look virtually identical to the old versions:

But the Thunder will be making waves with their alternate uni, which has a bold color pattern, a gradation stripe pattern on the back, and the player names located below the numbers (additional info here):

Also, the Thunder will be playing the Nets in Mexico City on Dec. 7. No word yet on whether they'll wear a special uniform or patch for that game.

Meanwhile, here's a cool video clip showing the resurfacing of the team's court:


• The Timberwolves have gotten a complete identity makeover, beginning with a new primary logo that's based on the team's old secondary logo (additional info here):

As for the uniforms, the Timberwolves will be wearing a Fitbit ad patch this season, but the patch is incorporated into the team's new jersey design in a fairly unobtrusive way, which is probably bad for Fitbit but good for those of us who don't like uniform ads.

The new uni design is a radical departure from the team's previous visual heritage. But when you consider that this franchise really had nowhere to go but up from a uniform perspective, let's call it an upgrade and see how we feel about the new designs after seeing them on the court for a few months (additional info here).

There's also a neon-green alternate. Love it or hate it, you certainly won't have any trouble spotting it:

Meanwhile, here's an interesting footnote: Wolves power forward Taj Gibson is poised to become the first NBA player ever to wear No. 67.

Finally, there's also a new court design:


• Lots of changes for the Trail Blazers. First, they've updated their pinwheel logo (additional info here and here):

They've also simplified their jersey typography. The lettering is no longer italic and doesn't have as many layers of outlining (additional info here):

Unfortunately, the Blazers have one of the weaker alternate uniforms, a red design with black graphics that has major legibility issues -- a big downgrade from their previous red alternate (here's some additional info and photos):

In addition, the Blazers have a new court design. Here's a time-lapse video of the makeover:

Finally, if you're into really subtle details, the Blazers have also tinkered ever so slightly with their "Rip City" logo:

Additional notes

• The NBA has tweaked the colors and typography on its own logo, although the old version will be used on uniforms for this season. Expect the new version on game attire in 2018-19 (additional info here).


• The little gold tab on the rear collar indicating the number of championships a team has won has gotten a new look this year:


• In case all those Nike logos on the jerseys, shorts and other accessories aren't enough, expect to see them on the socks as well. Nike's new uniform deal includes game socks, which means Stance's short reign as the NBA's official sock provider is now at an end (additional info here).


• Some additional Nike logos -- albeit much more subtle ones -- can be found on this year's headbands:


• With all of the fuss over the Nike changeover, the elimination of home and road designations, and so on, there has been no word yet on longstanding NBA programs such as St. Patrick's Day uniforms, Spanish-language uniforms, Christmas uniforms and more. We can expect to hear more about all of those as the season unfolds.


• The referees have new uniforms this season as well. And for the first time, they have a little slogan on their inner collars:


The league is going with a new format this season for the All-Star Game. Teams will now be picked by captains, regardless of which conference they're in. That means no more "East" and "West" uniforms, although it remains to be seen what the new uni format will be.


Phew! That's it. Did we miss anything? Yeah, probably. If so, you know what to do.

One final thought: Did you notice anything else about all of the new uniforms? No sleeves! Good riddance.

Paul Lukas will have his annual college hoops season preview in early November. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.