Uni Watch: Story behind Pacers' 'Hoosiers' uniforms

The Indiana Pacers made big news Tuesday by announcing that they'll wear "Hickory" uniforms from the 1986 movie "Hoosiers" for select games during the 2015-16 season and beyond.

The uniforms look great, and the whole thing feels like a conceptual coup. But how did the Pacers' deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, which produced the film, come about? How authentic are the uniforms? And will the Pacers start running the picket fence?

Todd Taylor, the team's chief sales and marketing officer, addressed those and other questions on Tuesday in an interview with Uni Watch. Here's a transcript:

How did this come about? Did the Pacers approach MGM, or did MGM approach the NBA, or what?

Taylor: We wanted to create a uniform to be part of the NBA Pride program, and at some point somebody said: "Wouldn't it be cool if we could wear Hickory uniforms from 'Hoosiers?' " So we started doing some research and realized the 30th anniversary of the movie was coming up in 2016, so we contacted MGM. That was back in January of 2014. And both sides said: "Yeah, this would be cool, so let's figure out how to get it done." Once MGM was receptive, we contacted the league, and they worked with Adidas to create prototypes and designs.

Are you paying a licensing fee to MGM for the use of the design?

Taylor: I can't get into specifics, but it's a bit of a unique deal. We're in this jointly together. It's truly a collaboration between the two organizations.

I assume they're going to come out with a 30th anniversary release of the movie, right?

Taylor: Yeah, that'll be in the works, although I don't know their exact plans.

Had you ever considered doing this before?

Taylor: No. You know, we were considering a Pride uniform and thinking about what that might look like. And then we started talking about, from a brand standpoint, what did we want to represent? And it kept coming back to the history and tradition of basketball in the state of Indiana. And the movie captures that, so it seemed like a natural fit.

Had you ever considered wearing the uniforms of Milan High School, the school on which the movie is based?

Taylor: Yeah, we actually did talk about that a little bit. The reason we didn't go in that direction is that we want to connect with a lot of the great stories from Indiana. By using Hickory, which really represents the whole state, it doesn't force us to focus on just one team or one area.

Were you in touch with the high school about all of this?

Taylor: Actually, we kept it quiet. But now that the announcement has been made, we'll be reaching out to them. You know, the uniform is cool and very visible, but it lends itself to a bunch of other applications, honoring people for their contributions to Indiana basketball. We've talked with MGM about maybe auctioning off the uniforms and using the proceeds to provide uniforms to schools that need them. Those are the sorts of things we'll be able to do with this partnership.

People on social media are saying things like "So are you going to run the picket fence?" and making other references to the movie. Any chance of that happening on the court?

Taylor: I don't think we'd do that on [the] court. But I do think we can do a lot of fun things by re-creating scenes from the movie for marketing purposes. There's that great scene where they're measuring the rim -- I don't know if we'll do that one, but there's no shortage of ways to bring this to life creatively off the court.

You mean like in photo shoots, videos, commercials, stuff like that?

Taylor: Yeah, exactly. And you know, the movie can mean different things to different people. My 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter just watched the movie for the first time, and it was interesting to see how they responded to it.

That brings up another question: This movie came out in 1986. A lot of players on the Pacers roster hadn't even been born then. Do you think most of your players are familiar with it?

Taylor: I'm not sure. For the photo shoot, we worked with George Hill, and of course he's an Indiana kid -- played high school basketball in Indiana, played college basketball in Indiana and now with us. So of course he knows the movie. But I don't know about the rest of our players. But that's part of the fun -- it gets people talking.

Regarding the uniform itself, you obviously had to make a few concessions to modern fabrics and styles.

Taylor: We tried to keep it as authentic as we could. The first question I always got asked as we moved ahead with the project was, "Are they going to wear short shorts that are tight?" So we had to take some liberties.

Also, the shorts in the movie had belts.

Taylor: We thought about that, but it was a safety concern, because players' fingers could get caught in the belt loops. So we have sort of faux-loops stitched onto the shorts -- it's a little hard to see in the photos -- but they're sewn down, with no space for a finger to get caught. And, of course, there's no actual belt.

Interesting. Did that actually happen in the old days, with players getting their fingers snagged?

Taylor: I don't know. I think everyone's just more forward-thinking these days, erring on the side of safety.

Paul Lukas can't wait to see the Hickory uniforms on the court. If you liked 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, 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.