The 2019 Uni Watch NBA Season Preview
A closer look at the new uniforms, logos and — sigh — advertising patches for all 30 NBA teams
The sports world is about more than who won, lost or covered the point spread. There are also the New York Yankees’ iconic pinstripes, the Oakland Raiders’ classic silver and black, and the Atlanta Hawks’, uh, distinctive look. In other words, there’s the visual aspect of sports, the most prominent part of which is the world of uniforms.
That’s where Paul Lukas comes in. For the past two decades, he’s been writing about sports uniforms, logos and field designs via Uni Watch, a column that has appeared on ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated as well as its own dedicated daily blog. Now he’s bringing his obsession — the aesthetics of athletics — to InsideHook just in time for the start of the NBA season.
Remember when NBA uniforms were as simple as wearing white at home and colors on the road?
In today’s Nike-fied NBA, there are no more home or road designations (the home team can wear whatever it wants, and the road team must wear something of sufficient contrast). Instead, each team now has uniforms with names like the Association Edition (for the primary white uni), the Icon Edition (primary colored) and the City, Statement, Classic and Earned Editions (the various alternates, some of which are redesigned every single season), all of which can get a bit confusing:
Things will actually be a little easier to keep track of this year, because the Earned alternates, which had been added to the repertoire of the previous season’s playoff contenders, are being scrapped — a textbook case of addition by subtraction, since most of the Earned designs were weak to begin with, plus it’s a pretty low bar to “earn” something when more than half of the league’s teams qualify for the postseason.
But there are still loads of new uniform designs set to hit the hardcourt this fall, with a bunch more in the pipeline but not yet officially announced. So with the regular season set to tip off October 22, here’s Uni Watch’s annual team-by-team rundown of all the new uniforms, logos and court designs you can expect to see. Ready? Deep breath — here we go.
No uni-related news out of Boston so far, but it’s worth noting that newly acquired point guard Kemba Walker will be wearing No. 8 with the specific blessing of Antoine Walker, who wore that number for the Celtics from 1996 through 2003:
The Nets hired Brooklyn artist Eric Haze to design the insignia for their new Statement alternate, which has a graffiti feel to it (good background info here):
Meanwhile, remember last season’s black City alternate with multicolored trim, which was inspired by Biggie Smalls’ Coogie sweaters? Multiple sources indicate that the Nets will have a white version of that design this season:
Down on the hardcourt, the Nets will be playing on what is believed to be the first gray floor in NBA history this season:
New York Knicks
The Knicks have a new blue Statement alternate. It’s not bad, although it feels a bit superfluous — not much of a departure from their standard look:
Lots of news out of Philly this season. Let’s start with their new throwback design, which features an endearingly clunky chest script that the team originally wore back in the early 1970s (additional photos and info here):
In addition, the Sixers have changed the chest script on their red alternates from “Sixers” (which looked more like “Suxers” — no wonder they’re changing it) to “Phila”:
There also appears to be a new blue alternate that the team has teased in several social-media posts, though an official release is yet to arrive:
In a more subtle move, the Sixers have also changed the logo on their primary shorts:
And in one last noteworthy tidbit, the Sixers’ arena has a new video board that appears to be state of the art:
As the league’s defending champions (and the first non-American champs in NBA history), the Raptors now get to wear a gold championship tab on the back of their jerseys. They’ll also have some gold-themed courtside gear for their home opener (additional info here):
In addition, the Raptors are bringing back their inaugural 1995 white uniform as a throwback:
The best part of this is that Toronto will be wearing this design for two games against the Grizzlies, who’ll be wearing their own 1995 throwbacks, all of which should make for a very Canada-in-the-’90s affair. Full details here.
In addition, while not officially confirmed yet, multiple leaks and sources indicate that the Raptors will pair this uniform with a throwback court design:
Meanwhile, there are few things your friendly uniform columnist likes less than reporting on uniform ad patches. So let’s get it over with and quickly note that the Raptors’ uni advertiser has changed its patch design:
In a related item, Raptors superfan Drake supposedly wants to be the team’s next uni advertiser. Oh boy — can’t wait.
The Bulls are bringing back pinstripes — silver this time, instead of the old-school red — with their new black Statement alternate (additional photos and info here):
The Cavs are marking their 50th season with a new commemorative logo, although it’s not being worn as a jersey patch:
The Cavs are also one of several NBA teams with 1990s throwbacks this season. In Cleveland’s case, they’re bringing back one of the most garish designs in league history (additional info here):
The Cavs are going all-in with this throwback by wearing it for their season opener on Oct. 26. You have been warned!
Also: Prior to the throwbacks being released, there was a leak of several new NBA court designs, including a Cavs retro court that matched the eventual throwback uniform release. Most of the other court designs from that leak have proven to be accurate, and the subsequent release of the uniform seems to confirm that this court will likely be paired with the throwback uni:
From a leak of the courts for 19-20, the 90s throwbacks are coming back. Here is the court that will accompany the jersey. pic.twitter.com/G3VOhoSrNq
— #GPODAWUND (@Believeland1994) August 24, 2019
Speaking of court designs: The Cavs are inviting fans to submit their own court design concepts. The best entries will be shown on a wall at the team’s arena.
No announced changes or news.
The Pacers were recently victimized by a retail leak indicating they’d have a new retro-themed alternate based on their old FloJo design. The day after the leak began circulating, the team made the official launch announcement:
As you can see, it has some modern elements based on the team’s current branding, so it’s not a true throwback. Maybe we can call it a Floback? A Flauxback?
In addition, the Bucks have some interesting giveaway caps on tap for this season:
No announced changes or news so far for the Hawks, but it’s worth noting that Atlanta is in the Peach State, and a peach-themed Hawks court mock-up was part of a large batch of NBA court designs that leaked earlier this year. Several of the other designs in that leak have proven to be accurate. So while nothing is confirmed yet, we might be seeing this new Hawks court, with a new peach uni to match:
Want to look ahead to 2020-21? Hawks owner Tony Ressler has said that the team will likely have new uniforms next season — and not a moment too soon.
The Hornets have added a new purple Statement alternate. It seems destined to become known as the “Cha-Cha-Cha” design (additional info here):
And there’s more purple on tap, as the team is also adding a purple throwback:
And thanks to the expiration of a naming rights deal, the Heat’s arena will be getting a new name in 2020. No word yet on what that will be — stay tuned.
The Magic have a new blue Statement alternate, which is adorned with black trim that sort of looks like dominoes, or maybe Jenga blocks:
In addition, the Magic will have at least three court designs this season. Here’s a video that does a really good job of breaking them down. More teams should do this!
And then there’s this bit of info to ponder: Orlando is in Orange County, and there have been rumors about the team having an orange City alternate this season. By interesting coincidence, an orange-themed Magic court mock-up was part of the batch of court designs that leaked earlier this year. Several of the other designs in that leak have proven to be accurate. So while nothing is confirmed yet, we might be seeing this new Magic court, with a new orange uniform to match:
The Wizards have made minor adjustments to their Statement alternate, changing the chest lettering to “The District of Columbia” and going with a new waistband logo based on the DC flag:
In another dispatch from the I Wish I Didn’t Have to Report on This Dept., the Nuggets’ uniform advertiser has tweaked its patch design:
No announced changes or uniform news.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Lots of changes in Oklahoma, where the Thunder have four new uniforms. First, they’ve swapped the chest insignia on their primary white and blue uniforms:
Second, they’ve revised the typography and trim on their orange alternate uniform:
And in a more momentous development, the Thunder have a new alternate uniform that was designed in conjunction with the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which pays tribute to those affected by the 1995 domestic terrorism bombing of the OKC Federal Building (additional info here and here):
Finally, the great OKC Tracker account has broken down lots of additional Thunder-specific details for the coming season in this Twitter thread.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are marking their 50th season in a variety of ways, beginning with a commemorative logo. The good news is that it’s a clever variation on their familiar pinwheel logo; the bad news is that it looks more like “56” or “59” than “50”:
The logo will be featured this season at center court (additional info here):
In addition, the Blazers will be getting back to their roots with a new throwback uniform that hearkens back to the team’s 1976-77 championship squad (additional photos and info here):
And while not related to the anniversary festivities, the Blazers have updated their Statement alternate with some much-needed white trim — a big upgrade, though it’s a bit odd that the front number has black outlining while the chest lettering does not:
The Jazz are one of several teams turning back the clock to the 1990s this season, as they’re reviving their old “purple mountain” uniform as a throwback, with a corresponding court design to boot (additional info here):
You can see the dates when the Jazz will be wearing this uniform — as well as schedules for all of the team’s other uni designs — here.
Golden State Warriors
The Dubs are moving from Oakland to San Francisco this season, and they’re making plenty of changes along the way, beginning with some tweaks to their primary logo (additional info here):
The logo change has led to corresponding changes to the team’s primary white and blue uniforms:
Despite moving across the Bay, the Warriors are maintaining their ties to Oakland with their popular “The Town” alternate, whose tree-themed design is based on Oakland street signs. But they’ve made some adjustments to that uni as well:
So those are the old designs that have been updated for this season. In addition, there’s a new Statement alternate with “The Bay” insignia:
And Golden State will also have two throwback designs this season, which really seems like overkill, even though both designs are excellent. One of them — a white design from 1962 — takes some significant liberties with the original uniform it’s based upon:
Additional info on all six of the team’s 2019-20 uniforms is available here.
Los Angeles Clippers
Here’s a weird one: The Clippers chose to unveil their new City alternates on the cover of last week’s issue of Sports Illustrated:
The Gothic chest lettering, which resembles the Los Angeles Times’ logo and is also reportedly inspired by the logo for the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game, is nice, though it feels at odds with the conventional number font. Bit of a typographic mismatch, no?
This uniform will be paired with a custom court design, and the Clippers have also given a black-themed makeover to their primary court, including a black version of the center court logo:
Meanwhile: Do you remember — or did you even realize — that the Clippers used to be the Buffalo Braves? You won’t forget after you see the Clippers wearing their new Braves throwbacks for select games this season:
Finally, here’s something to ponder: The Clippers are planning to move into a new arena in 2024 (you can see some renderings here), and team owner Steve Ballmer has floated the idea of possibly changing the team’s colors or even its name to christen the new building. Stay tuned.
Los Angeles Lakers
Although nothing has been officially announced, it appears that the Lakers’ new City alternate will be very similar to the team’s existing gold primary uniform:
Having two very similar gold uniforms plays into a narrative that several Lakers fans have noticed: the team is dialing back its use of purple.
Meanwhile, one of the offseason’s uni-related dramas involved Lakers star LeBron James wanting to give his uniform number, 23, to newly acquired teammate Anthony Davis, who was traded to L.A. by the Pelicans in June and has always worn it. But league outfitter Nike put the kibosh on that because they would have been left with a mountain of useless LeBron merchandise (although maybe they could have shipped it all to Hong Kong), so Davis is wearing No. 3 instead.
The Suns have a new Statement alternate that’s very, very orange (additional photos, info, and the uniform’s schedule here):
The Kings are celebrating the franchise’s 35th season in Sacramento with a new early-1990s throwback design (additional info, including throwback game dates, here):
The Kings are also marking the occasion with a new 35th-season logo. No indication yet that it’ll be worn as a uniform patch, but expect to see it used for marketing and promotional purposes. It originally had backwards apostrophes, but the team quickly fixed that:
The Mavs have a new navy Statement alternate. Like so much of their visual program, it feels very blah. For good measure, they’ve posted a ridiculously pretentious unveiling video for it:
Want more Mavs uni info? Check out the new Mavs Uniform Tracker Twitter feed, which is off to a very promising start.
Meanwhile: In a nice gesture, the Mavs have added two silhouettes of team legend Dirk Nowitzki to their court design. They’ll remain there throughout the 2019-20 season.
The Rockets have revised their primary red-and-white uniforms. The new look isn’t terrible, but it’s nothing to get excited about either (additional info here):
In a more positive development, the Rockets are reviving their old diagonally lettered red design, which they wore from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s, as a new throwback:
The Rockets have one additional new uni in the pipeline. It is slated to be revealed in November, so stay tuned.
Also: The Rockets have a new black-centric secondary logo this season.
This season’s ’90s fetish will hit its peak in Memphis, where the Grizzlies are marking the franchise’s 25th season by reviving the old Vancouver Grizzlies teal uniform — one of the most garish designs in league history when it was introduced. Like so many wacky uniforms, it has achieved a nostalgic “So bad it’s good” status over the years:
As noted in our Raptors entry, the best part of the Grizzlies’ throwback is that they’ll be wearing it for two games against the Raptors, who’ll be wearing their own 1995 throwbacks, all of which should have everyone partying like it’s 1995. Full details here.
Meanwhile, in an unusual move, the Grizzlies have unveiled an additional throwback uni that won’t be worn until next season. This one will mark the team’s 20th year in Memphis:
Both throwbacks will be paired with a new retro court design:
New Orleans Pelicans
No announcements so far from the Pelicans, but a video-game leak suggests that they may have a red alternate in the works:
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs tend not to tinker too much with their uniforms, so going back to their old shorts logo practically qualifies as a momentous occasion:
ADDITIONAL NOTES …
- You can see the entire league’s uniform schedule for the entire season on the NBA’s LockerVision site. The site, which is a godsend for uni geeks, allows you to sort by team, month, and home or road games.
- As noted earlier, the “Earned” program is being adjusted this year. Instead of getting an additional alternate uniform, last season’s playoff teams will instead get new sideline gear.
- If you’re particularly fond of throwbacks, the uniform dates for all of this season’s throwback designs can be found here.
- If you like to keep track of uniform numbers, you’ll want to follow Etienne Catalan’s Twitter feed. A fan based in France, Catalan has emerged as the go-to source for all the league’s uni-numerical news.
- Remember the “Ninja-style” headbands that became popular with many players last season? The league banned them this summer, supposedly due to safety concerns.
- A trademark filing suggests that the NBA may be making some teeny-tiny changes to its familiar Jerry West-based logo:
- No word yet on this season’s All-Star uniforms, or on several other uniform programs that have been popular in the past (Spanish-language, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and so on), but we’ll probably be hearing about them soon enough.
Did we miss anything? Yeah, probably. If you know of any NBA uniform changes that weren’t covered here, drop us a line.
Paul Lukas has been writing about uniforms for more than 20 years. This is his first piece for InsideHook. If you like this column, you’ll probably like his Uni Watch Blog. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for his mailing list so you’ll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise or just ask him a question? Contact him here.