As you've probably heard by now, all 30 NBA teams unveiled new alternate uniforms on Friday night. The unveiling was part of the league's new uniform contract with Nike, which is marketing this new round of alternate designs as "Statement uniforms."
And just what sort of statement are these uniforms making? In many cases, the statement is "More of the same," because about half of the 30 new designs are essentially the same alternate uniforms that teams had already been wearing. So if you were expecting to see a new alternate uni from the Hawks, Bulls, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Wizards, or a bunch of other teams, you're out of luck. Those teams have all chosen to stick with their existing alternate designs (or, in a few cases, have made extremely minor tweaks that most fans won't even notice).
This is the latest in a series of developments -- or maybe non-developments -- that have caught many fans by surprise. So it bears repeating: Just because a league has a new uniform outfitter, that doesn't automatically mean that every team will get new uniform designs. Some teams are perfectly happy with the designs they already have. That appears to have been the case with about half of the NBA teams for this round of alternate designs.
So what about the other half? Here are one observer's picks for the five best new designs:
Good view of Warriors' new "The Town" alternates. Oak tree graphic is also used on Oakland's street signs. pic.twitter.com/Cr9zWnzAck— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) September 18, 2017
Here we have the one clear-cut winner from Friday's release. The design echoes the Warriors' classic "The City" design from decades past but swaps in "The Town" (which is the common term for Oakland, where the team currently plays). The oak tree shown on the jersey is the same one shown on Oakland street signs, which in turn are based on the Oakland city flag. Great design concept, great execution, and the latest success for a franchise with a long history of great uniforms (although this one would look even better without the annoying Rakuten ad patch).
Comparison of Nuggets' old skyline/rainbow alternate uniform (left) and new version, which retains skyline but loses the rainbow striping. pic.twitter.com/9EtLTHABdp— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) September 18, 2017
It's long been an article of faith among uniform fans that the Nuggets and rainbow striping belong together. But the team's new alternate, which retains the outline of the Denver skyline but scraps the rainbow striping, is a revelation. It looks so much cleaner, so much crisper, and the centered uniform number is a massive improvement as well. Early returns on social media indicate that fans don't like the updated design, but give it a chance -- it's going to look sharp on the court. (And for the record, the Nuggets should still wear rainbow striping, but they should do it on their home whites.)
This one's pretty simple to assess: If you liked the new white and navy uniforms that the Pacers unveiled back in late July, you'll probably like this yellow version as well. Your friendly uniform columnist thinks the circular chest lettering looks great, and the yellow design is a good addition to what's shaping up as a very nice uniform set.
Out of the 30 newly released alternate uniforms, this is the only one that's white. If you're thinking it looks a lot like the Knicks' regular white uniform, you're right. But here's the thing: The alternate version is actually the superior design, particularly when you compare the trim on the collar, armholes, and waistband. Does it break new ground in basketball uniform design? Not even a little bit. But will it look good on the court? You betcha.
This one seems likely to provoke either a love or hate response in most fans. The feeling here at Uni Watch HQ is that the minimalist design works really well, although it would rank higher on this list if they'd gone with navy or green instead of yellow.
And here are the five worst:
Detailed look at the Cavs' Nike "Statement Edition" alternate Jerseys pic.twitter.com/PwSg7guQAu— Heart of NBA (@HeartofNBA) September 16, 2017
Leaving aside the clunkiness of the graphics (the Cavs' "C" logo and that new number font just don't work well together), what's the deal with those diagonal stripes? according to the team, the stripes "invoke imagery of the grain of the sword to represent our team's toughness on the court." Even by modern uniform "storytelling" standards, that would be an eye-roller, but the reality is worse: The stripes look like a tire tread, and tires just happen to be the product made by Goodyear, which has an advertising patch on the Cavs' uniforms this year. Coincidence? Yeah, right. So the season hasn't even started yet and we already have the worst-case scenario that everyone feared regarding the ad patches: They're not just cluttering up the uniforms, but they're driving the designs.
The Timberwolves finally unveiled their Statement uniforms pic.twitter.com/Xnog1SWGCh— Everything Minnesota (@EverythinginMN) September 16, 2017
This is another one of those designs that almost seem calculated to be polarizing -- you'll either love it or hate it. Either way, can someone please explain how the Timberwolves ended up with something that looks like the Seattle Seahawks' Color Rush uniform?
3. Trail Blazers
Comparison of Trail Blazers old red alternate uniform (left) and newly released "Statement" version. pic.twitter.com/rijhY8qbn3— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) September 18, 2017
Too bad the Blazers weren't among the teams that stuck with their existing alternates. The new version eliminates all the white and silver trim, causing major legibility issues. A rare misstep for a franchise that usually gets these things right.
Comparison of chest scripts on 76ers' new red alternate (left) and recent Christmas jersey. pic.twitter.com/LArjEir2U6— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) September 18, 2017
At first glance, the Sixers' new alternate is a perfectly nice design. But take a closer look at that chest script. Look at how the "i" connects with the "x." Does that look like "Sixers" or "Suxers"? Come on, people -- we all know cursive writing is a dying art, but there's really no excuse for this, especially when you had a much better script on your recent Christmas jersey design. Remember?
Here is the new Nike Statement Edition Celtics uniform🔥 what do you think? pic.twitter.com/NKJx5zlMGV— Wicked Good Sports (@WickedGoodSprts) September 16, 2017
You can say this much for the Celtics' new black design: At least it's better than the gray sleeved alternate they've been wearing. But not by much.
You can see all of the designs from Friday night's unveiling here. There will be another round of 30 additional alternate designs released later this fall, after the start of the regular season.
Paul Lukas writes about uniforms for ESPN.com. 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.