The History Behind the Washington Wizards’ Unfairly Maligned City Edition Uniforms

If the team can't win, at least they can teach fans about D.C. history

November 7, 2023 7:17 am
Washington Wizards City Edition uniforms for 2023-2024 season
Not a fan of the Wizards' new City Edition uniforms? Time to change your perspective.
Washington Wizards

The 2023-24 Washington Wizards City Edition uniforms were just released and they look…different. As such, the majority of the comments on the Instagram post announcement aren’t too kind.

“This is one of the worst color schemes I’ve ever seen,” said one user. “Vancover [sic] grizzlies colors smh” is a misspelled observation from another that’s echoed by a number of folks. Another fan took a different angle of attack: “These are fresh…but there’s not 1 person on the team’s jersey I would get.”

The grumbling makes sense. The team is living up to its pre-season record projections and currently sits in second-to-last place in the league. It’s difficult to envision any halfway decent player still on the squad by year’s end. Plus, this Wizards uniform does kinda look like the 2000-2001 Vancouver Grizzlies’ road getup.

But the story behind the jersey is actually great, and it’s a story seemingly no one in the comments knows.  

A short explainer video narrated by former Washington Redskin, Super Bowl 50 champion and D.C.’s finest Vernon Davis (they couldn’t get a former Wizard?) makes it clear that these uniforms are more of a history lesson than a fashion statement.  

“The boundary stones come to life in the Washington Wizards City Edition uniform,” says Davis. 

According to a press release, the colors are intended to recall D.C.’s historic boundary stones: the 40 milestones, laid in 1791 and 1792, which traced the outline of the 100-square-mile federal district. “The 2023-24 Wizards City Edition jersey leans into the past, with black, anthracite, red accents, and patina design around the trim of the jersey,” it reads. “The copper, teal, and red colorway signify both the old and new. The copper and teal patinaed pattern symbolize the oxidized metal fencing that now protects the stones as well as the natural flora that surround many of the stones.” 

Word salad? Maybe. But the story at the heart of the design — the story of the historic boundary stones — is still extremely interesting, and worth translating into jersey form.

“The boundary stones are literally that: stones that mark the physical boundary of the original federal city,” says Tim Krepp, Washington, D.C. tour guide and author of Capitol Hill Haunts and Ghosts of Georgetown. “But in a larger sense, they’re a connection with our unique identity outside of the states of Maryland and, for a time, Virginia. They’re a marker that for over 200 years, the District of Columbia has existed with our own political and cultural traditions, eventually our own governance, and ultimately our own identity. Also they’re cool stones to check out.”

You can still visit 36 of the 40 original boundary stones, the oldest man-made federal monuments in the United States of America. Trust us, the map showing where you can find them is extremely neat.

From an aesthetic point of view, these may not be great jerseys. From a historical standpoint, these jerseys are unimpeachably great. For a team that’s not going to do well, it’s probably a good idea to teach the fan base a history lesson. Some teams are so good they can just add the word “culture” underneath their logo and call it a day. The Wizards can’t do that. But they can share a bit of niche but compelling D.C. history with a large audience. In the Recent News section of the website sharing the history and location of the boundary stones, there are only four pieces of news since 2017. Good for all of us that such a high-profile promotion (“Washington Wizards debut uniforms based on the boundary stones”) should top the list. 

“These boundary stones defined the District that is displayed on our jersey and gives our city its nickname,” says Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chief Marketing Officer Hunter Lochmann. “We are looking forward to seeing these on the court and helping to educate our fan base on part of our city’s history, ultimately the goal of these NBA City Edition jerseys.” He admits it! This is a history lesson, not a style statement. And it’s a good call. 

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