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Data Shows Decline in NBA Teams Wearing White at Home

The Athletic has an interesting article this morning about how the NBA uniform scene has changed since Nike took over as the league’s outfitter in 2017-18. Among the notable points:

  • The use of white uniforms by the home team has been in decline during the Nike era: “The [white] jersey is worn at the same frequency this season as it was during the 2017-18 season, Nike’s first year as the apparel distributor, but the split between home and road is stark. Teams wore their Association jerseys roughly 29 times per season in that first season under Nike, and an average of 17 games at home. This season, the Association jersey averaged 29 appearances per team but just roughly nine times at home.”
  • Wondering how many color-vs.-color games there are these days? According to the article: “About 22 percent of all games this season will feature a matchup of two teams each in a color jersey.”
  • Life on the road: “For each road trip, the Heat bring a game set of each uniform and a backup set, as well as a few blanks; that’s 40-45 uniforms in each color. If they intend to wear two different uniforms on a trip, they could bring almost 90 different sets. Then there is everything else: the warmups, the sneakers, the tights, the socks, the practice gear. In all, [equipment manager Rob] Pimental said his team and the training staff bring about 3,000 pounds of equipment on road trips.”

The article isn’t perfect. For example, it talks a lot about how teams try to get fans excited about their City uniforms but doesn’t address the paradox of those uniforms then disappearing after just one season. Overall, though, there’s a lot of good info. I definitely recommend reading the whole thing.

(My thanks to John Flory and Craig Harris for bringing this article to my attentin.)

Comments (18)

    Agree, it makes sense for baseball, but not basketball and hockey, you’d want to wear your team colors at home. Ditto for football except when there is excessive heat early in the season.
    Baseball: white at home, gray on the road.
    All other sports: team color at home, white on the road.

    Since white hockey sweaters look better than their color counterparts (there are exceptions), why not wear your best look for the home crowd?
    Makes sense to me.

    I could argue that your statement is blatantly untrue, or we could agree that it’s entirely subjective… either way, it doesn’t get us anywhere.

    It is entirely subjective.

    However, at least as far as hockey is concerned, the NHL mandated White at Home between 1970 and 2003, a time when many (most?) of us UWers came of age, so for us, white at home “looks” better as it is the look we associate with “our” teams. Road jerseys (dark) were always the enemy. I think at least psychologically, many of us — myself included — feel white jerseys are superior to color.

    Had we grown up with dark at home, we might feel differently.

    Just my $.02

    I couldn’t disagree more. From an aesthetic standpoint, it makes much more sense for most NBA teams to wear white at home because those uniforms tend to work better with the home court and present a much nicer overall contrast with the away team. Because the white uniforms are accented with the team colors, the home court brings out those colors more and makes them pop. When the home team wears full-color uniforms, the players tend to get lost in the paint and everything blends together (unless you’re Denver and have an unpainted key). At the same time, the away team’s accent colors on their white uniforms probably don’t have anything to contrast with and end up looking weak. Therefore, I think the away team should always wear full color, given that everything else in the arena is going to be the home team’s colors. If it’s your hometown team, it’s far more visually interesting to see road color vs. home white matchups because each game is different, instead of always being the same home color vs. the same away white.

    So then you don’t like MLB to wear white unis at home either? I actually liked the white home unis and seeing the color contrast from visiting teams. I realize a team like the lakers have a designated home uni that’s not white but still was good on TV.

    In MLB it makes the most sense, and I’d say is somewhat justified given that away uniforms are all grey (barring a few exceptions). Baseball has a lot of endearing quirks that don’t necessarily make sense, but they make the game all the more lovable, and for me the uniform traditions are one example.

    I don’t dislike MLB teams wearing white at home, but if suddenly all teams started wearing colour at home and grey on the road, I wouldn’t have a problem at all (again, with some exceptions).

    Tex Schramm’s feelings on this are why the Cowboys wear white at home. (Whether it is the reason white is sometimes a default elsewhere, I could not tell you. Hockey has gone back and forth over the years, for one.)

    Schramm felt that if the Cowboys wore blue at home, every Dallas home game would be a team in blue team against a team in white. He felt it was more aesthetically interesting if it was always a team in white against a team in a different color (brown, blue, green, purple, navy). Each game (for the most part) would LOOK different. Then it became a THING and now they do it for tradition, but that was his rationale.

    There’s merit to that, I think, especially in a circumstance where there are 22 players and you are usually sitting much farther away from them than you are at a basketball game, for instance.

    Feels like most NBA games could be color on color, given how many different color uniforms each team has. And if you travel charter, toting all the possibilities is harder on the equipment staff, but manageable from the plane’s cargo hold perspective.

    That was very thoughtful of Mr. Schramm, but for me it doesn’t hold up. Back then, fans may not have had many opportunities to see other teams’ uniforms outside of attending games in-person (don’t quote me on that, I have no idea what the coverage was like as I was born in the 90s).

    I would offer this counter: nowadays, Cowboys fans barely ever get to see their team in anything other than white – but maybe they don’t want to!

    My feeling for all sports is that the home team should wear their colours at home.

    As a eurosnob football fan, I’m used to colour vs. colour whenever I watch sporting games, I never understood why US sports did white at home and colour on the road only.

    Started (and in some cases, such as the NFL was mandated) in the mid-late 1950s with the advent of black & white TV. And it wasn’t *always* white home/color road — though in baseball, the home team always wore white and most hoops teams followed this protocol. But games had to be white vs dark, and usually the home team wore white. In hockey, between 1970 and 2003, teams wore white at home, dark on the road — before 1970, it was the opposite.

    Now that folks have (mostly) giant HD TVs and not 13″ black and white ones, it makes more sense to sometimes go color vs. color (so long as there is sufficient contrast). But when US sports truly came of age during the advent of television, white vs. dark — as opposed to color vs. color — was more of a necessity than anything else. Generations grew up watching white vs. color, and it just be came de facto what we’ve always expected. Prior to the advent of black and white TV, in the US, teams frequently DID go color vs. color (especially the NFL and NHL).

    I would imagine “road greys” became popular in baseball because laundry was more difficult for the road team back in the day. Visiting clubhouses were not as tricked out as they are today, and while the home team could easily wash its whites after a game, the road team might not be able to. And you could wear them for a couple days or a series. Ew.

    The only thing I miss about white, or yellow for the Lakers, being the default home uniform is that in the past when I’d see a picture of a game I knew who the home team was. Now I have to hope that the court paint/markings is visible, and even that isn’t assured with each team having multiple home floors available.

    As a Celtics fan, I HATE when they wear non-white jerseys at home. Just doesn’t look right. I wish the league would go back to one home jersey and one road jersey (maybe even one alternate would be acceptable), but we all know that’s never going to happen $$$

    I’m a Bucks season ticket holder and have been tracking the unis from every Bucks game since 2017. Can confirm that the Bucks, for that part, have been wearing white on the road and green at home markedly more than any prior season in the Nike era. Not even that close, actually.

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