Coming up with an interesting basketball uniform design is tricky. There's no headwear, no sleeves, no long pants, most of the players don't wear high socks, and you have to put a uni number on the front of the jersey. That doesn't leave much room for creativity, so the difference between a good uni and a bad one often comes down to small details.
The two teams in this season's NBA Finals are both really good examples of that. The flame coming off the "T" on the Miami Heat's home jersey and the spur that stands in for the "U" on the San Antonio Spurs' home and road jerseys are both fairly simple design elements that totally work. And they're part of why this should be a very good-looking NBA Finals.
With that in mind, here are some uni- and visual-related items, past and present, about the Spurs, the Heat and the NBA Finals:
1. Patchwork: For years, NBA teams wore an O'Brien trophy jersey patch in the NBA Finals. Which was fine, except that the O'Brien trophy kinda looks like, you know, a wastebasket. The NBA hasn't changed the trophy, but three seasons ago it did change the patch, so teams now wear the logo of the Finals, which has been integrated into the NBA logo that everyone was already wearing. Much better.
2. Get the gray out: The Spurs haven't worn their white home uniforms at any point in the postseason. Instead, they've worn their gray alternate unis for all their home games (yeah, they call it silver, but come on -- it's gray). Now that the Spurs have made it to the NBA Finals, however, word from the team is that they plan to wear white at home.
3. Promise keeper: See that lettering on LeBron James' wristbands? It says, "I Promise," which is part of a commitment James made to third-graders in his native city of Akron, Ohio. Details on that here.
4. All tuckered out: We all know there's a lot of clutching and grabbing in today's NBA. But Tim Duncan seems to end up with his jersey untucked a lot more than the average player. That's particularly surprising when you consider that NBA shorts now come with a silicone band that's designed to help keep the jersey's shirttails tucked in. (Of course, there's one situation in which Duncan's untuckeditude could be forgiven, but he isn't back at that point just yet.)
5. Left is right and right is wrong: Every NBA team wears the league's red, white and blue logo on the upper-left chest area. But for the first 22 years of the Heat's existence, they wore the league logo on the upper-right chest. The thinking was that the logo might clash with the flame coming off of the "T." Silly, right? They finally wised up and got with the program in 2010.
6. Butt ugly: People forget this now -- and with good reason -- but the Spurs' home shorts used to feature this bizarre heart-shaped butt striping back in the late 1970s. Not a good look. Oddly enough, this striping wasn't included on the team's road shorts from that period. Maybe they figured road games were hard enough as they were.
7. Bird is the word: Another thing people often forget is that the Spurs used to be the Dallas Chaparrals, who had pretty much the best logo character ever. Of course, a smiling mascot would never fly (ahem) in today's world of rough, tough, furrowed-brow team mascots, but it's still a great piece of sports design.
8. Banner day: Most teams hang banners celebrating their championships and commemorating their retired numbers. But the Heat have a more free-form approach to what hangs from their rafters. In addition to all the usual stuff, they have banners for their players who've won Olympic gold medals. One of their retired numbers is 23, for Michael Jordan (who, in case you can't recall, never played for Miami). They even have a Dan Marino jersey up there because Pat Riley wanted to honor him as a great Miami athlete. At the very least, it makes for a more interesting viewing experience if you look upward.
9. Lost and found: The Spurs were involved in one of the sports world's most famous uniform incidents back in 1978. Here's the deal: The Spurs were in Washington to face the Bullets in a playoff game, but guard Mike Gale's uniform somehow got lost on the way to the arena. With no backup uni available (this was before the era of uniform merchandising, so they couldn't just grab a replica jersey from the arena's pro shop), Gale was forced to wear an inside-out Bullets road jersey, which was documented in a Sports Illustrated cover photo that has become legendary in the uni-verse.
10. Chris Andersen: This one needs no further explanation, right?
Paul Lukas wishes the Pacers had beaten the Heat because then we'd have two former ABA teams meeting in the NBA Finals, and maybe they would have brought back the red, white and blue ball! If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch website, 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.