The Official Uni Watch 2021-22 NBA Season Preview

For the league’s 75th anniversary, a ton of changes and wild new looks are afoot

October 18, 2021 6:11 am
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In 1946, a bunch of businessmen launched a fledgling league called the Basketball Association of America, which three years later changed its name to the National Basketball Association. That means the NBA — the league, if not the name — is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and that in turn means we have lots of anniversary-related things to discuss in this year’s Uni Watch NBA Season Preview.

How will the anniversary affect this season’s uniforms and other visuals? Here’s a quick rundown:

For starters, the league has a new diamond-shaped version of its familiar Jerry West-inspired logo (because the 75th year is traditionally known as the diamond anniversary). You’ll be seeing a lot of it this season, especially on the backboards:

Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Toronto Raptors goes up for a slam dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers during preseason action at Scotiabank Arena on October 4, 2021 in Toronto, Canada
Yuta Watanabe of the Raptors goes up for a slam dunk against the 76ers during preseason action
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

In addition, the Nike logo on jerseys and shorts has been rendered in a diamond-crystal pattern (ditto for the Jordan logo on Statement uniforms and the Hornets’ full uni set), although the swoosh often looks more white than crystalline, as seen in this preseason photo of the Magic’s E’Twaun Moore:

E'Twaun Moore #55 of the Orlando Magic looks on during the second half of the preseason against the Boston Celtics game at TD Garden on October 04, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.
E’Twaun Moore of the Magic looks on during the second half of a preseason game against the Boston Celtics
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The good news about this is that it makes the swoosh harder to discern on white uniforms, creating a textbook case of addition by subtraction. Consider, for example, this preseason shot of the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown — the swoosh is barely visible:

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics looks for a shot against the Orlando Magic during the second half of the preseason game at TD Garden on October 04, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts
Jaylen Brown Celtics looks for a shot during a preseason game against the Magic
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In another potential glitch, the standard flat swooshes were sewn onto the jerseys, but the new diamond swooshes are apparently glued on and at least somewhat prone to falling off, at least judging from this preseason shot of Raptors forward Sam Dekker:

The NBA logo on the rear jersey neckline and the front of the shorts has also received the diamond treatment:

The new diamond-inflected NBA logo

The three franchises that can trace their histories back to the league’s 1946 founding — the Celtics, Knicks and Warriors — will have new throwback uniforms. (You’ll see those in our team-by-team rundown, which we’ll get to in a minute.)

With the exception of the Suns and Jazz, who are reprising their City alternate uniforms from last season, this year’s City unis will honor the league’s visual heritage by featuring a mash-up of design elements from each team’s history. These designs, which some folks are already referring to as “mixtape uniforms,” aren’t due to start appearing on the court until early November and haven’t yet been officially released, but several of them have leaked via reliable sources, and you’ll see those leaks in our team-by-team rundown.

So as not to detract from the anniversary, all teams’ primary white and colored uniforms, as well as the Statement alternates, are remaining the same this season. That means a larger number of teams than usual currently have no new uni news to report on, although they’ll all be unveiling their new City alternates soon enough (and more of those City designs will probably leak ahead of the official unveilings).

About those leaks: Most of them come from a Brazilian fan named Igor Coelho, who tweets as @CamisasDaNBA. Your friendly uniform columnist usually maintains a healthy skepticism about unverified leaks, but Coelho, who has developed a network of contacts at a variety of Nike factories, has proven himself to be a credible source with a spotless record of accurate leak reportage. (You can read an exclusive Uni Watch interview with him here.) If he says a certain design is a team’s new alternate jersey, you can bank on it.

Okay, enough preliminaries. With the season set to tip off on Oct. 19, here’s all the team-specific news you need to know.


Boston Celtics

The Celtics, as one of the league’s three remaining charter franchises, are marking the NBA’s 75th anniversary by adding a 1946 throwback to their uni rotation. It also features a throwback Nike logo:

The Celtics’ new 1946 throwback

Meanwhile, the Celtics’ uniform advertiser, Vistaprint, has changed the design of its ad patch:

Also: Point guard Dennis Schröder wore No. 17 while playing for the Hawks, Thunder and Lakers. But that number wasn’t available when he signed with the Celtics (it’s retired for John Havlicek), so Schröder invited fans to vote on his new number. He ended up with No. 71 (17 backwards), making him the first Celtic ever to wear that number

Finally, while nothing has yet been officially announced, the Celtics’ City alternate has leaked:

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have a new uniform advertiser this season. Motorola is out and WeBull is in (additional info here):

David Duke Jr. #30 of the Brooklyn Nets poses for a portrait during Brooklyn Nets Media Day at Barclays Center on September 27, 2021 in New York City.
David Duke Jr. of the Brooklyn Nets poses for a portrait during Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Al Bello/Getty Images

New York Knicks

The Knicks, like the Celtics, have a new 1946 throwback with a retro Nike logo:

The Knicks’ new 1946 throwback
New York Knicks

Meanwhile, the Knicks’ jersey advertiser, Squarespace, has changed its ad patch design:

Philadelphia 76ers

Back in 2016, the Sixers were the first team to sell space on their jersey to an advertiser. That deal, with StubHub, has now expired, so the team has inked a new uni ad deal — this time with a cryptocurrency market (additional info here):

Tyrese Maxey #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers stands for a portrait during Philadelphia 76ers Media Day held at Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex on September 27, 2021 in Camden, New Jersey.
Tyrese Maxey stands for a portrait during Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Also, the Sixers’ new City jersey has leaked, and it’s a doozy. The chest lettering is inspired by the team’s 1970s uniforms, and the rainbow-striped side panels evoke the Spectrum’s old center-court logo:

The Spectrum theme apparently extends to the logo on the City uniform’s shorts, as teased in this tweet from team CEO Chris Heck:

Toronto Raptors

No announced uni changes for Toronto, but it’s worth noting that pregame proceedings at the Raptors home games will now include a land acknowledgment to recognize that the team’s arena is situated on Indigenous lands.


Chicago Bulls

Since 2017, when NBA home teams were no longer required to wear white, the Bulls have primarily worn red at home. This season, however, they’re going back to white as their primary home color.

As for the Bulls’ new City alternate, a leak suggests that it will be red with a white “Chicago” script:

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are the hosts of this season’s NBA All-Star Game, so the game’s logo has been added to the sideline of their court. That’s one of several reported adjustments to their floor design:

Detroit Pistons

Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham wore No. 2 at Oklahoma State. The Pistons retired that number in 1997 for former coach Chuck Daly, in honor of the two championships he won, but they’ve now unretired it for Cunningham, with the blessings of Daly’s family.

The Pistons also have two new court designs, including one featuring Detroit’s “313” area code:

Indiana Pacers

No announced changes or uni news.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks won last season’s NBA title, so the little gold tab on their rear collar — the one that tracks how many championships each team has won — has been changed from “1” to “2”:

Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks


Atlanta Hawks

No announced changes or uni news.

Charlotte Hornets

No announced changes or uni news.

Miami Heat

Remember the “ransom note” alternate uniform that the Cavaliers wore last season? A leaked shirsey design suggests that the Heat may have something similar in store for this season’s City uniform, with lettering drawn from throughout the team’s uniform history:

Remains to be seen whether this design will really show up on-court, although some folks are hoping it doesn’t.

Orlando Magic

No announced changes or uni news.

Washington Wizards

The Wiz have worn a Geico ad patch for the past three seasons, but that deal has expired, so for now their jerseys are nicely ad-free (although they’re presumably hunting for a new advertiser, so enjoy it while you can):

 Deni Avdija #9 of the Washington Wizards handles the ball in the second half against Evan Fournier #13 of the New York Knicks at Capital One Arena on October 09, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Deni Avdija of the Wizards handles the ball in the second half against the New York Knicks in a preseason game
G Fiume/Getty Images


Denver Nuggets

Nothing official yet, but a retail shirsey may have provided a hint about the Nuggets’ upcoming City alternate:

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves were the rare NBA team without a uniform advertiser last season. The bad news is that they’ll be wearing an ad patch this season; the good news, at least for fans of geeky consistency, is that they managed to find an advertiser that, like the team itself, doesn’t include the horizontal cross stroke on the letter “A” (additional info here):

Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves walks toward the locker room during half time against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on October 8, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.
Anthony Edwards of the Timberwolves walks toward the locker room during halftime of a preseason game
C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

The Timberwolves are also among the teams whose new anniversary alternate has leaked:

Meanwhile, down on the hardwood: Last season’s Timberwolves floor design featured the team’s full primary logo at center court and full-length baseline lettering. This time around they’re going with a modified version of the center logo (without the team name), and the baseline lettering has been scaled back. You can see the new design in this video clip:

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder’s arena has a new name and some very flashy exterior lighting, thanks to a new naming rights deal (additional info here and here):

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers have a new jersey advertiser. Biofreeze is out and the cryptocurrency app StormX is in (additional info here):

Anfernee Simons #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors in the first quarter during the preseason game at Moda Center on October 04, 2021 in Portland, Oregon
Anfernee Simons the Trail Blazers handles the ball during a preseason game against the Warriors
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Utah Jazz

NBA City alternates are supposed to be worn for only one season, but the Jazz’s “red rock” alts were so popular that the team kept them around for three years. Last season they were finally replaced by the “dark mode” alternates — which, sure enough, were so popular that they too are being rolled over for another season. They’ll be part of the Jazz’s uni rotation this year, and as a result the team will not have a new City alternate.

Meanwhile, looking ahead: Team owner Ryan Smith recently confirmed rumors that the team will be changing its color scheme and logo, although not until next season at the earliest.

Finally, the Jazz deserve credit for continuing to stick with their “5 for the Fight” ad patch, which they introduced in 2017. While other teams have used the league’s uni-advertising program to further the spread of corporate culture while cheapening their own brands, the Jazz have used it to raise millions of dollars for an important cause. Good for them.


Golden State Warriors

Golden State, whose franchise history dates back to the 1946 Philadelphia Warriors, has a new throwback based on Philly’s 1961-62 road uniform. The throwback uni will be paired with a throwback-themed floor design, which features a new 75th-anniversary logo at center court (additional info on the logo here):

Nike uniform
The Warriors’ new 1946 alternate uniforms
Warriors Court
The Warriors 75th-anniversary court design

LA Clippers

No announced changes or uni news.

Los Angeles Lakers

Lots of Lakers news to report! Let’s start with LeBron James: As you may recall, he wore No. 23 with the Cavs, then switched to No. 6 when he took his talents to South Beach, then went back to No. 23 for his second go-round in Cleveland (except in practices, where he wore No. 6), and stuck with No. 23 when he joined the Lakers (again, except in practices). Now he’s officially changing back to No. 6 for this season. You got all that?

Next: The Lakers have a new jersey advertiser. Wish is out and the South Korean dumpling chain Bibigo is in (additional info here):

Trevor Ariza #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles as he speaks to the media during Los Angeles Lakers media day at UCLA Health Training Center on September 28, 2021 in El Segundo, California.
Trevor Ariza of the Lakers speaks at the Los Angeles Lakers media day in September
Harry How/Getty Images

Also: The Lakers plan to retire Pau Gasol’s No. 16 at some point this season, although the date for the ceremony hasn’t yet been announced.

Finally, while not yet officially announced, the Lakers’ new City alternate has leaked:

Phoenix Suns

The Suns will not have a new City alternate this season. Instead, their popular “The Valley” design, which was introduced last season as the team’s City uniform, will be rolled over for another season — an unusual move, as City designs are usually produced on a one-and-done cycle.

Speaking of unusual moves, the Suns recently announced that they’ve been developing a new Aztec-themed uniform design and asked fans for feedback on the concept (additional info here and here). It’s not yet clear whether the design will ever make it to the court — if so, that wouldn’t happen until the 2022-23 season at the earliest — but publicly soliciting feedback for a possible new uni design is a unheard of in top-level pro sports, so it’ll be interesting to see if other teams start floating similar trial balloons for their own developmental concepts.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings’ uniforms were blissfully ad-free last season. Alas, that won’t be the case this time around, as the team has inked a new uni-advertising deal with the business comms firm Dialpad (additional info here):

 Buddy Hield #24 of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the first quarter of the preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on October 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Buddy Hield of the Kings looks on during a preseason game against the Clippers
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

No word yet on the Kings’ new City uniform, but a new script logo that appeared on the team’s scoreboard during a recent preseason game may have provided a hint:


Dallas Mavericks

No official announcement yet, but a leaked shirsey may be providing a preview of what the Mavs’ new City alternate looks like:

Also, ESPN’s Zach Lowe — arguably the world’s foremost student of NBA court design — is reporting that the baselines and sidelines of the Mavs’ latest court will feature the names of every player ever to appear in at least one of the team’s games:

Houston Rockets

All uni ads are noxious, but the Rockets’ new one is particularly bad. About the best thing you can say about it is that at least it puts the operative sentiment front and center:

KJ Martin #6 of the Houston Rockets poses for a portrait during Houston Rockets Media Day at Post Oak Hotel on September 27, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
KJ Martin poses for a portrait during Houston Rockets Media Day
Michael Starghill/Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies

For the past several seasons, the Grizzlies have worn a FedEx ad patch. That contract has now expired, so the team has been ad-free during the preseason:

Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against Justin Robinson #55 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the first quarter during the preseason game at FedExForum on October 05, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Ja Morant of the Grizzlies handles the ball during a preseason game against the Bucks
Justin Ford/Getty Images

Uni Watch has it on good authority that the team is actively seeking a new advertiser, so expect a new ad patch to appear soon, although it’s not clear whether a deal will be nailed down in time for the start of the regular season.

Also, the team’s new City alternate has leaked:

Meanwhile: The Grizzlies are the rare pro sports franchise without any retired numbers. That will change this season, as they plan to retire Zach Randolph’s No. 50 (prior to the Dec. 11 game against the Rockets) and Tony Allen’s No. 9 (Jan. 8, Jazz). 

And speaking of numbers: Rookie power forward Romeo Weems will be wearing No. 00. Since the Grizzlies already have point guard De’Anthony Melton wearing No. 0, that means Memphis will join the rarefied ranks of NBA teams that have had a zero and a double-zero on the roster simultaneously (a feat that’s unusual but not unheard of). 

New Orleans Pelicans

No announced changes or uni news.

San Antonio Spurs

No announced changes or uni news.


• The NBA, unlike the other major pro leagues, makes its entire uniform schedule publicly available. So if you want to see what your favorite team will be wearing on a given date, just check the league’s LockerVision site.

• The on-again/off-again Earned uniforms — those are the participation-trophy unis that teams get to wear if they qualified for the playoffs the previous season — are off again this season. (For those keeping score at home, the Earned program was introduced in 2018-19, then scrapped for 2019-20, then revived last season, and is now being skipped again this season. Most of the designs were poor, so here’s hoping the program is gone for good this time.)

• This season’s All-Star Game will take place on Feb. 20 in Cleveland. No word yet on the uniforms, but here are the logos.

• For the NBA’s first several decades, the game balls were made by Wilson. That changed in 1983, when Spalding took over the ball contract. This season, however, the league is moving back to Wilson (additional info here):

• Last season, in deference to the pandemic, NBA coaches were allowed to wear casual attire instead of suits and ties. That policy is being extended this season, and at least one coach — Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff — couldn’t be happier.

• When NHL teams start wearing ads on their jerseys next season, at least one of them will be for a sportsbook. For now, at least, the NBA is not prepared to go down that road — betting ads are still off-limits.

• Want to keep up with the ever-shifting world of NBA uniform numbers? Then you’ll want to follow Etienne Catalan’s Twitter feed. (You can also see an exclusive Uni Watch interview with him here.)

And there you have it. Did we miss anything? Yeah, probably. If so, you know what to do. Enjoy the season!

Paul Lukas has been writing about uniforms for over 20 yearsIf you like this article, you’ll probably like his Uni Watch Blog and his weekly column on Bulletin, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you won’t miss any of his future InsideHook articles. Want to learn more about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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