Last Friday I had an ESPN column about how uniform designer Todd Radom collaborated with Ice Cube to create the uniforms for the new BIG3 basketball league. That piece was the product of two interviews that I conducted — a short one with Cube (he’s a busy guy), most of which ended up in the story, and a fairly long one with Todd (that’s him at right; photo by his daughter, Hannah Radom), much of which ended up on the cutting room floor.
It seemed like a waste to lose all the good info Todd had provided, so today I’m going to run a transcript of the interview sections that I didn’t end up quoting in the ESPN piece. I smoothed over a few transitions, but nothing drastic. Here we go:
How did you get involved with BIG3?
I was approached by somebody at the Firm back in, I would say, mid-September. They wanted me to get involved with the league’s primary logo, so that’s where it started — they found me.
How were they steered toward you?
You know, I think they found me on the internet. It was one of those wonderful stories where you google “sports design” and there I am. That’s my understanding.
And how did that balloon into doing all the team logos and uniforms?
As Ice Cube and I moved our way through the primary logo, we just clicked to an extent that it made sense to continue this relationship, so they commissioned me to do the whole deal.
Had the team names already been selected at that time, or did you have a role in that process?
I did not have a role in that. They already had a list of names, and Cube would basically feed them to me: “Alright, let’s start with 3-Headed Monsters,” then “Let’s do the Killer 3s.” And that’s how it went.
One important thing to mention here — and this was made pretty clear to me at the beginning of the process — is that this is a legitimate league. It’s not a vanity project. These are professional athletes here. It needed to look legit, professional, first-class. It had to have some gravitas, some staying power. No gimmicks. That really informed everything that we did.
Killer 3s was one of the first ones we did, and it was pretty apparent what it should look like and what the color scheme would be. So I put together sketches and sent them to Cube, and he would chew on it for sometimes an hour, sometimes a day. And he shared some of these things with some of the players, with the rest of his group, but it was mostly just the two of us doing this and it made for a very tight collaboration. And a big part of that is that everyone understood that we had a very limited amount of time to put this together, so the whole thing had to move at a pretty good pace, and it did.
Did you consult with any of the players?
I did not. I know Cube shared many of the designs with some of the players, because I would get a text from him saying, “I showed this to this guy and he loved it!” Lots of very positive feedback, and you know that’s very empowering.
I’ve always maintained that basketball uniforms present more of a design challenge than other sports, because you don’t have as much space to work with. There’s no headwear, no sleeves, no long pants, and you’re required to have uniform numbers on the front and back, which eats up a lot of your prime real estate. Is it trickier than designing for, say, baseball?
It’s definitely trickier, because everything’s more compressed. And also, when you think about it, this is a half-court league, so everything is going to be compressed even further. I should also say that I designed the court for this league, which was interesting. But anyway, you want some vibrancy and some personality, but on the other hand this is a very crowded space and the uniforms have to sort of conform in some way to that visual culture. So there were definitely some very different dynamics involved.
How did you arrive at some of the design choices you made for the various teams?
Take a team like Tri-State. What is that? It’s not going to lend itself to easy depiction of imagery. So I thought about Interstate highways and the shield-shaped Interstate signs, and I thought about the old shield logo used by the New Jersey Americans, who later became the Nets. And then, what do you know, Dr. J is named the coach of Tri-State! So sometimes these things work out.
Then there’s a team like Ball Hogs — it pretty much has to be a hog that’s not letting go of a basketball, and he should have a headband. Power is a tough one — it’s a very short word. What do you do with it? So it just had to look powerful.
How long did it take to do the eight team identities?
We started on the team logos in earnest right around the first of the year and they were wrapped up by the end of March. It was a lot of work, I will say, but it was such a good collaboration with Cube. My intent all along was really to have a visual program that was robust, because there needed to be some licensing involved, I was thinking about how is this going to look on TV, and so on. So if you start with a primary logo, then there are secondary logos and there are team wordmarks and lettering. And if you lay down that foundation, then you can pivot to uniforms pretty seamlessly, so it all combines for this large suite of assets that all work together.
Out of the eight teams, five of them don’t have a white uniform, so most of these games will be color vs. color. How did you decide which teams would get a white uniform and which ones wouldn’t?
Cube! He literally has a grid where he’s got this figured out. So, week one in Brooklyn, these will be the matchups — seriously. And you know, there is no instance in this league where you’re going to have black versus black, or anything like that. We thought about this, and I know he thought about it quite a bit. So yeah, every game is going to be contrast-y enough so that no one’s going to get confused.
Why do some of the teams have alternate uniforms or third uniforms, and others don’t?
Another Cube thing! Toward the end of the process — just a few weeks ago, in fact — Cube got in touch and asked if we could add a couple of third jerseys for a few teams. Because we did go back and forth with a team like 3’s Company, for example, we knew we wanted one of the uniforms to be gray, but then we kinda vacillated between having navy or orange for the other uniform, so why not have both? So for those teams with the alternate uniforms, that was all driven by Cube. And they all work.
I see that you followed the NBA protocol of including a basketball in each of the team logos. Was that your choice, or were you told to do that?
Totally my choice. And it was really because this is a total start-up. There’s no history to these teams, no memories. Memories will be made and history will be made on the court, but up until then there’s got to be some easy vernacular to kinda circle back to, to make it apparent what these teams are in a pretty overt way. It’s also smart from a trademark perspective: If this is an identity for a basketball team, you can differentiate yourselves in the marketplace — that’s part of what we have to consider throughout, how the mark can be protected. So that was part of it.
The NBA has experimented with sleeves over the past few years. Was there any discussion of using sleeves for BIG3?
Never. It never came up. Like I said before, we want to look legit, and
I didn’t want to get gimmicky at all in any way. And sleeves on a basketball uniform are, let’s face it, a gimmick. We may have seen the last of them now that the NBA season is over. We wanted a clean look where these team identities are allowed to breathe, so fans can become familiar with them.
Who’s manufacturing the uniforms?
OT Sports, down in North Carolina. They do a lot of minor league baseball uniforms, the D-League, stuff like that. They definitely know how to outfit a basketball league. The jersey colors and graphics will be sublimated, with the numbers and player names stitched on in twill. They’re making the shooting shirts, too — I designed those as well, which presented an opportunity to showcase the secondary logos.
Teams throughout the sports world tend to get new uniform makeovers on a pretty fast cycle these days. How long do you think it’ll be before these teams get new designs?
For a new league, you have to get your brand established, get these teams into the public consciousness, so you don’t want to make changes too quickly. Three years — that sounds reasonable. And I think the uniforms we’ve created are pretty versatile. You can swap out colors and retain the core look.
Did you design anything else besides the team logos, uniforms, and shooting shirts?
How collaborative was your work with Ice Cube?
This was a very tight collaboration with him, it really was. The number of emails, texts, and phone calls was probably close 1,000. But it was always informed by this real love for logos and uniforms, seriously. I really think it’s one of the best collaborations of my creative career. Each and every day, despite these very pressing deadlines, it was just joyous, and I’m kind of sad that that the bulk of it is over because it was such a great challenge. It’s been an incredibly fun process.
So that’s the interview. BIG3 debuted yesterday here in Brooklyn. I had other plans for the day, so I didn’t attend the games, but Todd was on hand to see his uniforms in action. You can see lots of game photos here. Of particular note: Several players wore nickNOBs. Allen Iverson, for example, had “The Answer”; Jason Williams had “White Chocolate”; and Brian Scalabrine had “W. Mamba” (apparently short for “White Mamba,” a play on Kobe Bryant’s “Black Mamba”).
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Culinary Corner: A year ago, almost to the day, I had a Culinary Corner installment about how the Tugboat Captain and I made paella on the grill, complete with shrimps, clams, chorizo, and chicken. Two nights ago we did it again. Turned out about the same as last time, which is to say it was really good, but next time I think we’ll skip the chicken, which doesn’t seem to add much to the dish, and replace it with more seafood.
In short: This is still a very worthwhile preparation. You can see a good instructional video by going here and clicking on the “Watch Every Step” link in the lower-right corner of the header photo. Here’s how Saturday’s version turned out:
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Naming Wrongs reminder: In case you missed it last week, all of the designs shown above have been added to the Naming Wrongs T-shirt project. You can read more about them here, and you can order them in the Naming Wrongs shop. (They’re also cross-listed in the Uni Watch shop, where card-carrying Uni Watch members can get 15% off. If you don’t already have the discount code, get in touch and I’ll hook you up.) I’ve also been updating our Naming Wrongs FAQ page.
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StripeRite reminder: In case you missed it last week, four new StripeRite sock designs are now available for ordering. And as shown in the pics above, they’re plenty versatile.
My thanks, as always, for your consideration.
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Astros’ 2B Jose Altuve appears in this 5-Hour Energy commercial. There are no Astros logos on his jersey or cap — but the New Era logo still appears on Altuve’s cap (from Jimmy Lonetti). … Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen doesn’t get to hit much (he’s only had six at bats in his eight-year career), but the team apparently has a batting helmet on hand for him (from Max Wagner). … Looks like some teams are reusing their spring training jerseys for Dominican Summer League practices and games (from Zac Ipson). … Ian spotted a fan wearing a Johnny Manziel Padres jersey at Petco Park the other day. The Padres did draft him in the 28th round of the 2014 MLB draft. … The Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League wore “Kingsport Spirit” jerseys for yesterday’s game to celebrate the city’s 100th anniversary (from Daniel Patrick Owens). … The Salt Lake Bees will wear Salt Lake Trappers throwbacks on Monday for ’80s Night (from Mike). … The AA Trenton Thunder have used bat dogs instead of bat boys since 2000. On Monday they’ll wear “bat dog” uniforms featuring one of those pups, Derby (from Bobby). … We may have seen this before, but worth sharing again: Casey Stengel wearing a cap with Yankees, Mets and Pirates logos ””and another pic of Stengel wearing a logo-filled jersey (from Greg Niforos). … New uniforms for the Japanese national baseball team. … Pitchers Jorge De La Rose and Rubby De La Rosa are both on the Diamondbacks’ roster, but they use inconsistent NOB typography (from Josh M). … Latest one-day MiLB makeover: The Peoria Chiefs will become the Peoria Distillers on Thursday. … Jerry Kulig was traveling at the Milwaukee airport and spotted a truck with the Brewers’ old ball-in-glove “‘mb” logo.
NFL News: This mirror at a bar in Amherst Junction, Wis., shows the evolution of the Packers’ helmet through the years (from Michael Bialas). … Shane Hartline found this framed print of NFL QBs at a flea market. Note the FNOB and the stock block number font.
College Football News: According to this pennant, the Utah Uthes ”” not Utes ”” were the champions of the 2009 Sugar Bowl (from Daniel Malan). … An Ohio State fan in Sunbury, Ohio, owns a Smart Car and gave it the full Buckeye treatment (from Jason Hillyer).
Hockey News: Strange number placement for Canada during the Inline Hockey World Championship (from Wafflebored). They weren’t the only ones to sport garish jerseys. Check out more photos from the tournament here (from Charles Eldridge). … Kenny Kaplan was watching this video about NHL expansion and spotted some uni-notable moments. At the 16:00 mark, there’s a quick view of the Flyers and Kings playing color vs. color. And at 20:18, there’s a blurry glimpse of the Seals wearing a jersey that isn’t shown in any of the standard uniform databases. Anyone know more?
NBA News: Raptors G DeMar DeRozan talked with Sports Illustrated about why he loves wearing Kobe Bryant signature sneakers (from Brinke). … This is what it would look like if the Nuggets’ rainbow alts had different colorways (from Timbo Slice).
Soccer News: FC Lokomotiv Moscow, a soccer team in Russia, is letting season ticket holders take home their seats as the team prepares to renovate its stadium (from James Gilbert). … Trevor Williams reports that FootyHeadlines.com recently came out with an app for their website. “It is a better experience than their website, as I can apply a filter just for kit news,” he says. “Of course, the app is still full of ads and blurry pictures, as FootyHeadlines’ main goal is to break news first instead of having a clean format.”
Grab Bag: NASCAR driver Danica Patrick wore a camera mounted on the visor of her helmet during a race at Sonoma Raceway yesterday (from David Firestone). … Speaking of David Firestone, he interviewed Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria about her racing suit over on his blog. … What was the highest car number in NASCAR history? No. 999, worn by Wilbur Rakestraw during the late 1950s (from Graham Clayton).