October 5, 2015

Baltimore Pride

A couple of months ago, an official "2015-16 NBA Season Identity Updates" sheet got unofficially posted on Twitter to the delight of folks like me craving any sort of NBA news in mid-July. I suppose the same image was leaked through other media outlets as well but since I get at least 95% of my NBA and Washington Wizards news from Twitter, from my perspective it was leaked on on that site. Now this sort of unexpected preview of uniform adjustments league-wide for the upcoming season is nothing new. It happens pretty much every summer despite the information being clearly labeled "CONFIDENTIAL." Somehow, someway an anonymous source finds one of these things, snaps a quick pic and posts it on the internet.

So there we had it. Our first look at all the upcoming uniform re-brands from the much improved Milwaukee Bucks' kits to the garish neon green/yellow in the Atlanta Hawks' new duds to the horrendous please make it go away 2015-2016 Los Angeles Clippers unis. The sheet also included some alternate uniforms for the upcoming season plus a series of "Pride" jerseys, which is the Adidas name for the sleeved or t-shirt type uniforms introduced by the league's exclusive apparel provider some years ago. In the far right of the Pride Uniform section was exhibited the first ever Washington Wizards sleeved jersey. Ugh!

Since the sleeved jerseys were forced on the NBA by Adidas during the 2012-2013 NBA season, the Wizards have managed to steer mercifully clear of these abominations. Call me closed minded for not embracing progress but they look like they should be handed out at a rec league by a hardware store or pizza restaurant sponsoring a local after hours team. To me, they are unnatural, have no legitimate precedent in the league and are just a way of making more money for the Adidas and the league. I guess someone may argue that folks are more likely to wear these things in public and I suppose that's true. Of all the uniforms in the four major sports, the NBA jerseys are definitely the toughest for guys like me (read: non-cool middle aged white men) to pull off.

Despite my pretty much universal hatred of these things since they were introduced, there are one or two that I have to admit I actually like. Last season the Detroit Pistons played in sleeved jerseys bearing the name "Motor City" which I love; Detroit and the automobile industry in the United States will always be unmistakably tied together and honoring that connection in a basketball jersey is terrific.

I also like the Los Angeles Clippers' sleeved kit, which considering their recent atrocious re-brand (yes I do pan this look every chance I get even if I've already done it more than once in the same blog post) ought to just be retained as their primary uniform. Their baby blue jerseys and shorts harken back to a design used by the team in the 1970s. I like the jerseys but I really really like the shorts, which use nautical alphabet flags to spell out LAC on the sides. I love these shorts a lot.

I'd consider buying a Motor City shirt or some light blue Clips' shorts but if I were a Brooklyn Nets' fan, I'd for sure buy one of their sleeved jerseys, which I consider brilliant. Most teams' sleeved jerseys are manipulated versions of their primary uniforms or logo sets which stay true to the colors and imagery in their primary home and away unis. The Nets decided to do something subtly different. Sure, the design of the shirts is about as straightforward and simple as their standard jerseys but they introduced blue and gray colors for their t-shirt jerseys to evoke the old Brooklyn Dodgers, who left New York for Los Angeles in 1957. The Nets relocation to Brooklyn was the first time that the borough had a major professional sports franchise since the bums split town. I love this idea and these shirts. I'd have one in my closet without question if I were a Nets fan.

Former Wizards Shaun Livingston and Paul Pierce rocking the awesome Nets sleeved jerseys.
I thought that the Wizards' somewhat complicated uniform design would act as some insulation against the team ever being forced to wear a sleeved jersey. Clearly I found out earlier this summer that I was wrong. The design of these things that were revealed in what is likely a camera phone snap of something that wasn't supposed to be seen showed a design similar to the uniforms that the team wore over 40 years ago when they were in Baltimore as the Bullets. Last week, we got an official look at these things, which either the team or the NBA has dubbed the Baltimore Pride jerseys. Bradley Beal and John Wall are modeling them in the photograph below for us all to umm…admire.

This is worse than I thought it could be. Not only do the Wizards finally get sleeved jerseys but they are based upon some of the most awful (if not THE most awful) uniforms the franchise has ever had. Uniforms designed with sashes on them like our players are in some sort of antiquated pageant weren't a good idea in the 1970s and they certainly aren't now. Sure the Portland Trail Blazers seem to pull this sort of thing off every year successfully but they aren't using the radiused corners on the blue and white stripe that the Bullets used in the 1970s or the Wizards are using this year.

There's no question that the Baltimore Pride unis do an accurate job of replicating their inspiration. Just check out Wes Unseld in the picture below. But I don't get why we need them and I'm certainly not buying one. I applauded the concept of the alternate blue uniform last year when it was revealed, although I also decried is as a shadow of the awesome primary home and away jerseys we enjoy most nights when watching the Wizards play. I won't do that here. Two thumbs down for these jerseys.

Finally, do any NBA players actually like playing in these things? I remember when the microfiber composite basketballs were introduced in 2006 and the entirety of the NBA Players Association revolted (well...except Gilbert Arenas who seemed to love them and the numbers show it) forcing the NBA to rescind the rollout. During the 2013-2014 NBA season, LeBron James actually blamed the sleeved jerseys for an off night of shooting. Now, if you read this blog regularly you know how much stock I place in LeBron's statements about everything and I can and will easily dismiss this as more whining to deflect blame from himself. But I haven't heard one player actually praise sleeved unis. Maybe in 2017 when the Adidas contract with the NBA expires we'll see the end of these things. Can't come soon enough for me. I'll be cheering just as loud as ever for the Wizards in their Baltimore Pride shirts but I'll be wearing a real jersey when I do.

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