Good Saturday morning, Uni Watchers. I hope everyone has had a good week and is enjoying good health. I myself am still battling this flu (I think it might have been RSV), but now, two weeks on, I think it’s finally almost over.
I think we can all agree that this past year’s NBA “City” editions have been among the worst we’ve ever seen, almost as though Nike and the teams have thrown in the towel — which is not surprising since every team has at least three or four uniforms, and incorporating a new one every season (City edition) has led to diminishing returns. But what if teams took a new angle towards uniform/jersey design?
Today I’m joined by designer Trevor Paxton who has a new twist on NBA jersey design: what if teams based a jersey on the influence of an important music artist hailing from that city? Sounds fun, right? I’ll let Trevor take it from here…
NBA Artist Series | Volume 1 (Part 1)
by Trevor Paxton
My name is Trevor Paxton, and I’m a graphic designer based in Phoenix. My love for basketball started as early as I can remember — gathered around our TV, watching Sir Charles battle MJ in the ’93 Finals. My uncle played D1 ball, I attended basketball camps, the whole nine. I’d shoot fadeaways on my Fisher Price hoop until my parents had to hide the ball.
My obsession with music also started at an early age, with bands like AC/DC, Queen, Kiss, and No Doubt blaring from my garage. I took that love to the next level as a music major in college, as well as on-and-off-again stints as a music journalist over the years.
I’m incredibly excited and honored to have partnered with ProLine Mockups to host what I’m calling the NBA Artist Series, where I blend my love for basketball with my obsession with music into jersey concepts inspired by an influential musician from each team’s city.
This project has been an awesome experience, where I can highlight some legends, shed some light on some lesser-known acts, and even learn a thing or two along the way about the music that makes a city move.
Atlanta Hawks x OutKast
You can’t mention Atlanta music without mentioning Three Stacks and Big Boi, so the selection for the Hawks was pretty simple. Still, there are plenty of ‘Kast concepts out there, but the classic crown logo in Hawks colors was too good to not use.
The ATL wordmark is inspired by the iconic OutKast crown logo, and you’ll see S.W.A.T.S. above the jock tag — slang for “Southwest Atlanta, Too Strong” that was coined and often used by OutKast and Goodie Mob in the ‘90s.
Charlotte Hornets x J. Cole
For Charlotte, I had to go with J. Cole. He was born on a military base in Germany and raised a couple hours east of the city in Fayetteville, but he is the first artist that pops into mind when you think of North Carolina.
This design is primarily inspired by his “Born Sinner” album, with the “devil horns” on the upper corners of the wordmark (inspired by the classic ‘90s uniforms), and the iconic crown from the album cover above the jock tag.
Chicago Bulls x Earth, Wind & Fire
The Windy City. Sheesh. It was hard to choose just one influential Chicago artist — you should have seen my initial list — but I ultimately decided to highlight Earth, Wind & Fire, a band that pushed boundaries, blended genres & is universally loved. (Oh, and they’re one of the best-selling artists of all time.)
This design features elements from several albums, including “That’s the Way of the World,” “Spirit,” and “Gratitude” — and of course, a little “Do you remember…” on the jock tag. The number 25 also highlights the astounding 21 studio albums and 4 live albums recorded and released by the band.
Denver Nuggets x John Denver
As hard as it was for me to not think “That John Denver is full of shit, man” while designing this (classic “Dumb & Dumber” line), the choice for the Nuggets was an easy one. Even though he was born in Roswell, NM, no musician evokes Colorado quite like John Denver.
This jersey pays homage to a true legend and beacon of positivity, tragically taken from the world in a plane crash at age 53. The wordmark is heavily inspired by Denver’s “Back Home Again” album, with a Rocky Mountain range design and lyric from the chorus of “Rocky Mountain High” on the jock tag. (Fun fact: “Rocky Mountain High” is the state song of Colorado.)
Detroit Pistons x J Dilla
Detroit’s importance in music history is underrated. From Motown to Bob Seger to The White Stripes to Eminem (just to name a few), the Motor City is home to a tons of legendary artists. It’s also home to one of the most influential and innovative figures in hip-hop (and music) history, J Dilla — who embodied the creative spirit of Detroit until his untimely passing in ’02.
This jersey is packed with inspiration — highlighting various designs and albums in his discography (The Diary, Donuts, The Shining — and a nod to Slum Village), plus color accents inspired by the ‘90s Pistons kits.
Los Angeles Lakers x Dr. Dre
It’s like this and like that and like this and a… collab piece with ProLine Mockups! With this concept, the Lake Show pays homage to one of Los Angeles’ most successful musicians, the mogul, the Father of G-Funk, the one and only Dr. Dre and his 1992 classic “The Chronic.”
This design adds in some classic Lakers designs with the movement lines added to the Compton wordmark, as well as a nod to L.A. hip-hop’s Main Street, Rosecrans Avenue above the jock tag.
Ain’t nuthin but a G thang, baby.
Memphis Grizzlies x Elvis Presley
What is there to say that hasn’t been said about The King? Here, the Grizz pay homage to the Elvis’ former home (read: mansion) and final resting place with Graceland — located just 15 minutes south of the FedEx Forum — emblazoned across the chest.
Of course, I had to choose #1 — what other number would you choose for The King? The side panel detail was lovingly recreated to mirror the pickguard of Elvis’ iconic Gibson SJ-200 guitar, and the jock tag contains each year that one of his 18 No. 1 hit singles debuted.
Minnesota Timberwolves x Atmosphere
“When life gives you lemons, you paint that shit gold.
Slug and Ant. The Cadillac of DadRap. Born and raised in the city and the undisputed kings of Minnesota underground hip-hop, Atmosphere is as Minneapolis as they come — and proof that God Loves Minny.
The wordmark on this one is hand-rendered and inspired by the duo’s “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having” album. The “lemon slice” (complete with classic Timberwolves tree detail) is a reference to the “When Life Gives You Lemons…” album, and “God Loves Minny” is a nod to the “GodLovesUgly” album.
New York Knicks x Beastie Boys
New York City. Where to start? When doing my research for Knicks — a team from a city with no shortage of brilliant artists that call it home — I knew had to go with the b-boys from NYC (and one of my favorite groups of all time), the Beastie Boys.
This design features a custom-designed version of the jet from the “Licensed to Ill” album cover, with the classic Beastie Boys diamond logo blown up. The side panels pay homage to “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two,” with “To the 5 Boroughs” written above the jock tag. Number 81 was chosen for the year the group was founded.
RIP MCA | 05.04.2012
Orlando Magic x Death
Orlando is known for Disney, boy bands & sunshine, but the city also has deep roots in metal. Founded in 1984, Death pioneered the genre, fronted by Chuck Schuldiner until his passing in 2001.
The wordmark on this jersey is hand-drawn and inspired by Death’s iconic sickle logo, with the typography and detail inspiration coming from other albums in their catalog.
It’s time the NBA goes metal.
Philadelphia 76ers x The Roots
Like many east coast cities, Philadelphia was another where I could have gone in many different directions. Still, I couldn’t think of a better group to represent Illadelphia than one of the city’s most legendary and successful hip-hop groups, The Roots.
This design takes a page from most of The Roots discography, which is to say: simplicity can speak volumes. The primary design here is inspired by The Roots’ classic circle logo, with the jersey details and colors inspired by Iverson-era throwbacks. The “?” Instead of a number is a nod to Questlove, and the black jersey in honor of Black Thought.
P.S. You’ll see a fun trivia detail on the jock tag with the prior bands names crossed out before they landed on The Roots.
Portland Trail Blazers x Elliott Smith
We all know Portland = indie rock. So when researching my choice for #RipCity, there were tons of great options, but arguably none more influential than the Patron Saint of Heartbreak, Elliott Smith.
From his days in Heatmiser through his solo work, Smith has inspired countless artists, from Frank Ocean to Bright Eyes, Billie Eilish to Phoebe Bridgers — even Madonna said if there was any song in the world that she wished she had written it would be “Between The Bars.”
This jersey is heavily inspired by the album cover of his album “Figure 8” and features a nod to “Torment Saint,” the biography of Smith written by William Todd Schultz.
RIP Mr. Misery | 10.21.2003
Sacramento Kings x Cake
I want a girl with a short skirt and a loooong… jersey. Self-described as “an antagonistic answer to grunge,” Cake has always sought to push genre boundaries to create a truly unique product. Feels a little like this upstart Kings team — players who cross positional boundaries and meld into one of the league’s most exciting teams.
The design features Sactown prominently featured on the chest in the classic Cake typeface, with heavy inspiration from the iconic crown design from the cover of their classic ’96 album “Fashion Nugget.” The halftone dots on the side panels are a nod to other albums in Cake’s discography (most notably “Pressure Chief”), as well as a reference to lead singer John McCrea’s days working in a print shop in the early days of the band.
San Antonio Spurs x Emilio Navaira
Emilio. El Rey Del Rodeo. The Garth Brooks of Tejano. No matter what you call him, Navaira is as San Antonio as they come — from his birth in until his untimely passing at age 53.
The details here are steeped in Emilio’s signature look, from the paisley pattern in the sublimation (see his albums “A Las Personas de Mi Vida” and “Siempre Grande”) to the custom wordmark, with subtle hints of the Spurs’ Fiesta era in the serape-inspired trim.
Toronto Raptors x The Weeknd
A mysterious start that turned into one of the best-selling artists of all time. Embracing the city’s roots, this concept channels Abel’s Trilogy era and embraces and era of music that was truly mystifying in its debut, but captivating in its execution.
The subtle sublimation on the jersey matches the “Echoes of Silence” album cover, and of course, we had to remove a vowel in the wordmark — The Weeknd meets The Raptrs. On the jock tag, he Raptors’ battlecry of “We the North” is translated to Japanese — a design motif often seen during Tesfaye’s “Kiss Land” era.
Thanks, Trevor. Looking forward to Part 2!
[The jersey template is provided by ProLine Mockups, who offer mockup templates, design services and apparel — PH]