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NBA Christmas Roundup

Happy Boxing Day! Arguably the most surprising thing about the current NBA/Nike partnership, now in its third season, is the lack of Christmas uniforms. In 2017, teams just wore their regular uniforms; last year, some teams playing on Dec. 25 — but not all of them — wore those silly “Earned” uniforms (which they thankfully retired after one season); and yesterday they were back to wearing uniforms from their standard wardrobe (which yielded, among other things, the Warriors/Rockets uni matchup shown above — “Town vs. Town”!).

The lack of Christmas unis isn’t necessarily a bad thing (remember, most of the ChistmAdidas unis were awful, although they did get it right in 2015), but it’s certainly a surprising thing, since it seems like a missed opportunity to foist yet another round of retail product on the marketplace. This appears to be a rare case of the ratchet screwdriver actually turning back the other way.

Interestingly, the NBA’s marquee player isn’t happy about this:

Still, even if you don’t have Christmas-themed uni designs, that doesn’t mean you can’t have Christmas-themed uni matchups. For example, yesterday’s Celtics/Raptors game in Toronto (the NBA’s first-ever Christmas Day game in Canada, don’tcha know) should obviously have featured the Celtics in green and the Raptors in red. That’s an easy layup, right? Wrong:

Seriously, what were they thinking there? On the plus side, the Raptors did give away these cool snow globe T-shirts (click to enlarge):

(My thanks to Mike Chamernik for the LeBron tweet.)

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Super origin story: The sketch shown above was created in 1977 by a 28-year-old Seattle clothing designer named Kris Marshall. It eventually became the basis for the SuperSonics’ awesome arched uniforms. Four-plus decades later, Marshall (whose name is now Kris Steinnes) still lives in Seattle, and her design recently won a Seattle Times readers’ poll as the best sports uniform in the city’s history.

It’s pretty rare that we get to see an original sketch from that era. If you want to learn more, there’s a really good recap of the story here.

(My thanks to Mark Ribbing and Tim Cassady Jr. for sending this one along.)

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That’s it for today (sorry, no Ticker, because the entire Uni Watch team had the day off). Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and happy Kwanzaa to all who are celebrating today. In case you missed it yesterday, here are this year’s year-end raffle winners. See you back here tomorrow for a full slate of content. — Paul

27 comments to NBA Christmas Roundup

  • Fran Simmonds | December 26, 2019 at 8:19 am |

    Happy Holidays! The link for the sonics uniform origin story is missing.

    • Paul Lukas | December 26, 2019 at 8:20 am |

      Yup, just fixed it!

  • Edward Jacobs | December 26, 2019 at 8:42 am |

    The sixers vs bucks was another matchup that should’ve been red vs green, instead it was dirty looking off white (sixers) vs black (bucks)

  • Joe Rodgers | December 26, 2019 at 8:46 am |

    I know red-green would be fitting for Xmas, but what about color blind people? That’s probably why nobody went red-green yesterday.

    • Ian Isanberg | December 26, 2019 at 9:20 am |

      The NFL had that problem with Jets in Green vs. Bills in Red when Color Rush started. That’s why there’s a lot of white color rush uniforms now.

    • trevor | December 26, 2019 at 9:27 am |

      Good point – the NFL was hammered for the 2015 Bills Jets Color Rush red green game. I have no idea – have there been less red green games since then?

  • Matt Huha | December 26, 2019 at 9:20 am |

    Okay, I know this has probably been talked about somewhere before, but when they put those t-shirts on each seat, I’m assuming there is just one size for all on those? Wouldn’t it be easier to have shirts in boxes that they hand out at the gate in like 3 different sizes like they do at baseball games? At least they do it that way in Pittsbugh for the Pirate games at PNC.

    • trevor | December 26, 2019 at 9:28 am |

      I am surprised the Pirates do this considering how stingy they are with player salaries.

      • Matt Huha | December 26, 2019 at 9:05 pm |

        EVERY Friday or Saturday… it used to be everyone but now it’s first 20K.

    • Neil | December 27, 2019 at 8:48 am |

      Sometimes they put them on seats because not all sections get them. The premiums don’t always go to the cheap seats.

      Also, I’ve been at handout games where it feels like half the premium end up on stadium workers before they can be passed out.

  • Lou | December 26, 2019 at 9:57 am |

    Nike has not actually ratcheted down the unis. Yes, they eliminated the Christmas Day specific unis, but there are now more alternates than there have ever been. Even they seem to realize that there are only so many jerseys of a team that you can sell in a single season. It is all about the marketing, after all.

    • Paul Lukas | December 26, 2019 at 10:10 am |

      I didn’t say they had ratcheted down the over unis overall. I just said they had stopped doing the Xmas Day unis, which is a surprising retreat. Just like it’s hard to stop doing camouflage uniforms because everyone will say, “Why do you hate the troops?,” it’s hard to stop doing something like Xmas unis because people will say, “Where’s your holiday spirit?” (or whatever). Once the baseline is established, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube — or at least that’s what we’ve usually seen. This seems to be a rare exception.

      • Lou | December 26, 2019 at 11:09 am |

        Fair enough. I still think it gets down to sales though. When the Christmas jersey was the third jersey for some teams or maybe the fourth there was a sales opp. With it now being at best a team’s fifth jersey they likely felt there wasn’t enough in it. I think we have truly gotten to the tail wagging the dog point. I thought we were there before, but the current NBA uniform situation is absolutely insane.

  • Dave Mac | December 26, 2019 at 10:23 am |

    There are a billion jerseys per team in the NBA so I’m glad some are being mothballed. It’s at the point where I will turn on a game and have no idea who is playing. There is no coherent visual identity anymore which has made me lose all interest in the sport.

    • Lou | December 26, 2019 at 11:37 am |

      I am with you.
      When teams had an alternate it was special.
      Now it is insane. The Nets, for example, will be wearing their “Bed Stuy” jerseys more than any other jersey.
      Just ridiculous.

    • MJ | December 26, 2019 at 12:15 pm |

      Agreed. But it isn’t just the NBA, though they are probably the biggest offenders and go furthest outside the team’s regular colors. Part of sport is “team colors”, and a good visual identity should make it clear instantly that Teams X and Y are playing.

      • Paul Lukas | December 26, 2019 at 12:43 pm |

        What you’re saying here (and I agree with it, of course) applies to the functionality of uniforms as something worn by the players.

        But that is no longer the primary functionality of a uniform (it is, at best, secondary). The primary functionality is to be the showcase for a retail line of lifestyle apparel. Lifestyle apparel customers don’t care if something is in proper term colors, and may not even be fans of the team or the sport. They only care about what looks cool at a given moment.

        This is why I’ve been saying all along that the uni-verse would be better off if jerseys and caps weren’t sold at retail. Sigh.

    • Murphy | December 26, 2019 at 1:52 pm |

      Couldn’t agree more!! Too many uniforms per team! It Made me not even interested anymore .

  • VandyDelphia Mike | December 26, 2019 at 10:25 am |

    Sixers/Bucks could have been Classic (white base, red numbers) for Philadelphia, versus Icon (green base, white numbers trimmed in cream) for effective contrast and Christmas color incorporation.

  • Dick Butt Farts | December 26, 2019 at 10:51 am |

    Every uniform matchup from yesterday technically wasn’t from each team’s regular rotation as each one featured both teams wearing their new City Edition uniforms. Uni-Watch has always seriously lacked when it comes to getting accurate basketball information and appropriate details. I understand that the NBA will always take the backseat to the other three major sports leagues to everyone here, but even Phil’s NBA City Edition uniform article from last month was so upsetting to me personally that I nearly stopped visiting this website altogether after visiting it daily for the last ten years. I’m not suggesting that every staff writer find a newfound love for basketball uniforms, but can we get at least one semi-passionate NBA fan? Maybe one person that can at least use the proper vernacular?

    • Paul Lukas | December 26, 2019 at 10:55 am |

      Every uniform matchup from yesterday technically wasn’t from each team’s regular rotation as each one featured both teams wearing their new City Edition uniforms.

      Actually, City alternates *are* part of the teams’ regular rotations (as are the Statement alternates). I didn’t say they wore their primaries; I said they once again drew from their standard wardrobe options instead of wearing a holiday-specific design. Which is true.

      Am I not a big NBA fan? Guilty as charged. But was I “seriously lack[ing] when it comes to getting accurate basketball information and appropriate details” in this case? No, I was not. But thanks for your feedback!

  • Will S | December 26, 2019 at 2:07 pm |

    Boxing Day is now here; with it comes the traditional start of IIHF World Juniors:

    https://www.iihf.com/en/events/2020/wm20

  • Patrick in MI | December 26, 2019 at 5:17 pm |

    Thanks for the link to the Sonics uniform story. That was great! Although I wonder if their uni being voted best ever in Seattle has something to do with nostalgia. Had they never left, where would that design rank? Interesting to think about.