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.
Before NBA had special Christmas unis, they tried to create red/green pairings for 12/25, like Mavs/Blazers in 2008. pic.twitter.com/uZJin0RCn3— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
2008 was when the NBA began using a snowflake pattern for the league logo on Christmas Day. pic.twitter.com/GwAU9V6X1A— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
Christmas 2009: Knicks wear their green St. Paddy's Day unis against the Heat, creating a Christmas-y color pairing. pic.twitter.com/wwuH1soP1O— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
NBA continued to use the snowflake pattern for the league logo on Christmas Day 2009. pic.twitter.com/U4M8MrDwDP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
Christmas 2010: Knicks once again wore their green St. Paddy's Day unis, this time against the Bulls. pic.twitter.com/KRtN6OvlrP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
Due to lockout, 2011 NBA season opened on 12/25. Reigning champs Mavs wore gold-trimmed unis & O'Brien Trophy patch. pic.twitter.com/kGnj1qQxlK— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
The NBA's 2012 "Big Color" Christmas uniforms were difficult to read. pic.twitter.com/rgD9c71ikC— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
More shots showing how the NBA's 2012 Christmas uniforms were hard to read. pic.twitter.com/DizG4kVNwt— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
This shot pretty well sums up the reaction to the NBA's 2012 Christmas uniforms. pic.twitter.com/aVXconlfgQ— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
Christmas 2013: The "Big Logo" program, with uni-numbered sleeves and silver-toned team logos. pic.twitter.com/rNqQTMslWX— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
Another shot of the sleeved Christmas jerseys from 2013. pic.twitter.com/5GUqGnr0o4— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
More from Christmas 2013: pic.twitter.com/QoHe7iPD7W— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
The NBA uniforms for Christmas 2014 had the players' first names on the back. pic.twitter.com/sSTx9eBx1O— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.
Last year's NBA Christmas uniforms looked pretty sharp. pic.twitter.com/kmFkAa4qaq— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
Some of last year's NBA Christmas uniforms. pic.twitter.com/Wyy28TVX2D— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) June 1, 2016
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.