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Uni Watch's Friday Flashback: A noel evolution in the NBA

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History of the NBA's Christmas jerseys (2:36)

UNI Watch's Paul Lukas examines past NBA Christmas jerseys. (2:36)

Earlier this week we had the exclusive news about the NBA's Christmas Day uniforms for the 2016-17 season. But how do those uniforms stack up in the larger context the NBA's previous Christmas unis?

From a sports perspective, the NBA has come to "own" Christmas in recent years, typically scheduling five games that span the full length of the day, and dressing teams in special uniforms. But it wasn't always this way. As recently as 10 years ago, the NBA had only one game on Dec. 25, and the two teams in that game -- the Lakers and Heat -- wore their standard unis. Here's a timeline showing how things have changed since then:

2008: With the Mavericks and Trail Blazers scheduled to play on Dec. 25 in Portland, the league decides to have both teams wear their road uniforms, creating a red-versus-green matchup on the count. In addition, the NBA logo on the front of the jersey appears in a snowflake pattern for all teams playing on Christmas Day.

2009: The league creates another Yuletide color matchup by having the Knicks wear their green St. Patrick's Day uniforms on Dec. 25 while hosting the red-clad Heat. All teams once again wear the snowflake-patterned NBA logo on their jerseys.

2010: The Knicks once again repurpose their St. Patrick's Day uniforms for the Christmas season, this time against the Bulls. The snowflake motif is used once again.

2011: Because of a lockout, the league presents the odd spectacle of Christmas Day also serving as Opening Day. With the Heat playing the Mavericks in Dallas, another red-green pairing is possible, but the Mavs choose to wear their home whites. They also eschew the snowflake pattern, instead wearing an O'Brien Trophy patch and gold-outlined lettering, denoting their status as the league's defending champions.

2012: A big change of direction, as the NBA and Adidas -- or maybe just Santa -- create a new set of uniforms specifically for Christmas Day. The designs, which are part of a program called "Big Color," feature outlined tone-on-tone lettering that many fans find difficult to read. The snowflake pattern, meanwhile, is retired.

2013: With sleeved jerseys having debuted the previous season, the league rolls out a line of sleeved Christmas uniforms. The concept, this time dubbed "Big Logo," is a radical reimagining of what a basketball uniform can look like, with uniform numbers appearing on the left sleeve, leaving the chest area free for large team logos. But fans once again react poorly, with many complaining that the jerseys look too much like T-shirts, practice jerseys, soccer jerseys, or pajama tops.

2014: The sleeves are scrapped and the uni design returns to something more conventional, but with a new gimmick: The players wear their first names, instead of last names, on the back. These designs get better reviews than the ones from 2012 and '13, although the contrast-colored nameplates on the back look a bit clunky.

2015: The league and Adidas finally nail it, unveiling a handsome set of Christmas designs with snazzy script lettering based on vintage holiday cards and lots of off-white cream tones. No sleeves, no gimmicks -- just a really nice set of designs.

And that brings us up to date. The 2016 designs, which are essentially a modification of the 2015 set, are the last Christmas uniforms Adidas will be making for the NBA, as Nike is set to take over the league's uniform contract beginning with the 2017-18 season. That's also when the league will begin allowing advertising on its jerseys. So will Dec. 25, 2017, feature NBA jerseys with ads for post-holiday closeout sales, or maybe for New Year's Eve party supplies? Check back here a year from now to find out.


Would you like to nominate a uniform or uni element to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.

Paul Lukas looks forward to seeing how Adidas handles its last major NBA assignment: the uniforms for the 2017 All-Star Game. 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.