For NBA teams, the 2019-2020 season gives them a fresh slate. It also provides them with a feeling of change – and it starts with their uniforms.
This season, as many as 17 NBA clubs – nine in the Western Conference and eight in the Eastern Conference – have released their new Nike uniform designs. Every year the NBA and Nike work on incorporating features of a team’s city into the uniform’s design. They include everything from architecture, cultural landmarks, famous figures, and city mottos.
For the Brooklyn Nets, their involvement with Nike’s experimental uniforms dates back to last season. They collaborated with Brooklyn-based artist Eric Haze on a Coogi-themed City Edition jersey that paid homage to the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. It also had a “BED-STUY” mark etched above the jock tag on the authentic jerseys.
“We loved Eric’s signature hand-style, and felt his aesthetic really clicked with our brand,” said Mandy Gutmann, senior vice president of communications for BSE Global. “When we saw that fans were on the same page, we decided to take the partnership to the next level and feature Eric’s work front and center on our 2019 Statement Edition.”
With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joining forces in Brooklyn this summer, Haze wanted that to show in the Nets’ inaugural Statement Edition jersey. One of the fundamental principles of design is to create something that remains crisp and professional-looking – regardless of size, said Haze.
He designed this year’s kit by hand, which features hand-drawn “BKLYN” letters across the chest, his signature star down the left side of the jersey and “NETS” spelled out down the left side of the shorts.
Haze debuted the 2019 Statement Edition jersey during the Nets’ third-annual Practice in the Park at Brooklyn Bridge Park on October 5. Haze believes that the positive reviews it garnered – both internally and on social media – were the most he’s received in the Instagram era. But one voice whose opinion stood out above the many wasn’t a player or influencer, but David Levy, the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center.
During Practice in the Park, Levy approached Haze and not only commended him personally but also mentioned that players loved this year’s Statement Edition jersey. “To be told that by the head of the organization – that sealed the deal for me,” Haze said.
The uniforms are now available for purchase at the team’s online store and also at the Barclays Center’s Swag Shop. When the Nets take the court on November 1 against the Houston Rockets donning Haze’s Brooklyn-inspired uniform, he too will feel like he’s right there with them.
“I consider myself part of the team – at this point, I’m along for the ride,” Haze said. “This is yet another flashpoint and a new beginning for the relatively new organization. I want to see this team win, I want to see everyone wearing rings and I remain committed to supporting the brand in any way possible.”
The Nets aren’t the only Eastern Conference club to be representing their local ties with the Statement Edition jersey. For the Chicago Bulls, they love to remember their 1996 season which saw an NBA title and a then-record 72 regular-season wins, said Senior Director of Marketing Lisa Nucci.
Working with Nike this year, Nucci and her team decided to add a subtle-gloss pinstripe to the Bulls’ black alternate jersey. It also includes six stars in the form of the Chicago flag that’s on the belt buckle – a nod to the franchise’s six NBA championships. It’s not only a modern take on Chicago’s pinstripe look but allows them to use it as its Statement Edition uniform for many seasons to come, said Nucci.
While Nucci didn’t mention how well the Statement Edition jerseys are selling, she added that their retail success isn’t the primary indicator of success. When the Bulls debut the new uniform on October 28 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, it provides a sense of connection for every generation of fans.
“Bringing our fans together – that’s really what our goal is,” Nucci said. “Every time we launch a new jersey, it gives fans a reason to unite under the experience of the jersey. It is also a modern interpretation of a legendary moment in our brand. It allows us to lean into that narrative and carve out spaces for us to share our history. But it also propels our brand forward to all of our fans – not just the ones who were around for the championship years.”
One team’s milestone is another team’s heartache. And no team knows the latter more than the Utah Jazz, who lost to the Bulls in the 1997 NBA Finals. Despite the vast amount of media attention around the Bulls’ six championships in the 1990s, there was also recognition paid towards Jazz legends Karl Malone and John Stockton, said Bart Sharp, the team’s senior vice president of marketing.
Now with Utah currently led by players like Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, Sharp wants the current generation of Jazz fans to see the organization’s long-lasting history. On October 26, the Jazz introduced their 2019-2020 Classic Edition uniforms at home versus the Sacramento Kings.
Based on the road uniform during Utah’s consecutive NBA Finals trips in 1997 and 1998, its Classic Edition purple jersey featured the white-to-purple mountain range that’s also trimmed in purple, teal, white and copper.
The Jazz’s 1990s wordmark is located on the front chest, with white jersey numbers trimmed in copper and teal directly underneath. The shorts contain a white mountain range on the left leg, the “UJ” secondary mark on the right leg, and the tertiary snowflake basketball logo on the waistband. It also includes the Nike logo on both the jersey and shorts and the Jazz’s 5 For The Fight partnership patch on the jersey as well.
The Classic Edition jerseys are now available online at the Jazz’s team store. They can also be purchased in person at the Vivint Smart Home Arena team store. Since Utah launched its Classic Edition rollout video on Twitter in late August, it’s eclipsed one million views, said Sharp. When the jersey went on presale, it was the largest day in the team store’s history in terms of sales.
“They’ve demonstrated to us that as they speak and share their voice, we’re going to try and do our best to listen to them,” Sharp said. “Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, we’re unable to do that – but we’re in an industry where it’s about having fun. We get to do something fun every day and provide that entertainment to everybody. And so it’s okay to just listen to the fan base and if they’re clamoring for something, let’s see how we can deliver for them.”