How much will the new-look Pelicans shake up uniform hierarchy.
In the ever-changing world of on-court fashion, whose uniforms are the best in today's NBA?
There are the classic looks, the visionary designs and the strivers that fall far short of those two categories. At their best, basketball jerseys can be both attractive and iconic; the alternative risks being boring or downright nonsensical under the wrong circumstances.
A great jersey can capture more than just beauty. It becomes a signifier of that moment in a franchise's history and the emblem of a team's personality. Whether your favorite team is trotting out the same duds as always or unveiling yet another new style, that's the ultimate goal.
The Toronto Raptors can just never get it right, though that's certainly not from lack of trying.
Ever since they moved away from the cartoon dinosaur logo—silly as that was, admittedly—the Raptors have been mixing and matching with a now-outdated color palate.
The black base belongs back in the early aughts. The dull font evokes nothing. Toronto comes closest to a unique wrinkle with the side paneling, but the shiny triangular stripes are just garish and distracting without adding any character.
They need to go back to the drawing board north of the border. What they're working with now just isn't working.
At this time next year, the Hornets will be back in our lives. For now, we're stuck with the Charlotte Bobcats.
From the bright orange of the original unis to the generic navy blue in today's look, the Cats never successfully nailed down a visual identity. In fact, this jersey is stuck between a failed past and an undefined present. The semicircular side panel still has some ineffective flash, but the rest is simplistic and faceless.
You can't look at these uniforms and connect with the team or the place in any way. Without the name of the Queen City on the front, there would be no way to know. Just look at the next jersey for proof.
Man, the Bobcats copped such an uninspired design.
The Dallas Mavericks need to get some green back in their jerseys. It made the blue resemble denim for a more rugged appearance, true to the team's nickname. The combination of blue shades with some silver touches they have now don't create anything unique.
It also doesn't work. Dallas gets the nod over Charlotte because they came to this design first and used it for a cleaner look, but the dark lettering and light numerals are a negative together. The light blue base would work with each of them individually, but it's all just a mess as is.
The good news: the Phoenix Suns have finally ditched gray from their color scheme. Why the color of storm clouds were in their repertoire was always a mystery, so at least that's gone.
The bad news: nearly everything else about their new threads.
Let's not even get into the short-sleeves debacle here. The monochromatic combo of jersey and shorts is the real issue. It's tough to go too simple with unis, but Phoenix accomplished that with these shorts, which make the Suns look like a rec league team.
The sun rays and the numerals are inspired, but it's not enough. Phoenix's slight step forward came with three steps back.
It's nice that the Orlando Magic are nodding to their great '90s look; they're just doing a bad job of it.
Whereas the original Orlando unis had all straight lines, everything curves now. Between the pinstripes diving back to the sides and the lettering arcing on an entirely different axis, the effect is disorienting. Even if that can be rationalized as Magic-related, there are more sensible ways to make that connection.
The black is also misplaced here. It's another callback to the alternate base, but it doesn't work well with the light blue. The side panel also adds even more curvature to the design, making this unpleasant to look at from every angle. Nostalgia is the only positive here.
The Sacramento Kings will always get props for sticking with regal dark violet, but they're failing with everything else.
There's so many jagged elements here. Why? It's not exactly clear. The slashes along the side are entirely off theme and aren't particularly good-looking. That's what happens when a jersey tries to hard to be cool and instead comes off nonsensical.
At least the crown dotting the "I" is nice, but the rest of the font is still just modernity for modernity's sake. There's ways to make that work, but it's combatting the simple power of the purple, which is discouraging. A more cohesive design would have a lot of potential, but this isn't it.
The Minnesota Timberwolves own that particular shade of blue. Everything else around it could use some improvement.
Let's start with the lettering. We need to do away with the oversized last letter to mirror the first. It's a misguided shot at symmetry that just ends up looking stupid. At best it makes you double-take and think about why it's formatted "MinnesotA," and at worst it looks like a typo.
Then there's the tri-colored streaks along the side. They don't form any sort of visually offensive blend, but they don't add anything, either. It's just very lifeless, failing to make an impact on top of the vibrant base. After a nice start, the Wolves are grasping for any decent details.
The further the Houston Rockets drift from the Yao Ming era, the less sense these uniforms make.
Rather than strive for timelessness, the Rockets are living in 2002. The red isn't a bad base, but it carries the memory of a rebranding campaign around a player who has already retired. This was once a savvy play for a new popular identity. Now it's just outdated.
It's also full of cartoonish swooshes. They all fit in with the general Rocket motif, but the spacey design just makes it look juvenile. On top of that, it clashes with the typewriter-esque font that has no business being in this design. A return to an even older look less specific to any individual would be wise.
This is another example of modern tweaking diminishing a successful starting product.
The Atlanta Hawks featured a brighter, more aggressive red throughout the '80s and '90s, but that seems to have been focus-grouped out. At least they're back on red as their primary color after some time mistakenly spent away from it, but the subdued red and dark blue are just bland together.
But even that's all still attractive, if generic. It's the sleek font that really detracts. Putting "ATL" on the front of the jersey was an inspired choice, but the swagger that comes with it is undone by a the corporate look of the lettering. There's no personality here, only a marketing ploy.
It can't be easy to come up with a logo to depict a part of an engine, but the Detroit Pistons would be better off with nothing than what they have.
The capital "P" floating askew on the left leg is both a different color and font from anything else on this jersey. That makes it confusing as a style element in addition to being useless as a logo. After all, a key feature of any uniform is being, y'know, uniform.
Beyond that, everything is pretty generic here. The blue and red are good complements, but not great ones. The side stripe is simple and effective, but not special. There's not very much wrong with this jersey. Unfortunately, that's about all you can say about it.
Now we come to part two of our series on bizarre capitalization.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the most egregious offenders in this overzealous quest for symmetry. It's possible to overlook the outsized "A" on the Timberwolves jersey due to the length of the word, but the first and last letters tower over the others here. In such a simple design, it's downright goofy.
A very good color scheme helps salvage the situation. Milwaukee's deep green is unique and plays well with the subdued red and white in the trim. If there's one knock here, it's in the lettering again, where the relative shine of the silvery white draws the eye back to an otherwise nice uniform's worst element.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are working with the well-intentioned strategy of trying to recreate a throwback, but any success is minor.
Part of that is a dearth of signature Cavalier moments. The burgundy and gold and triple stripes are here again because they are aesthetically pleasing, but they don't carry with them any grounded Cleveland nostalgia. As a throwback, it's empty in that regard.
Aside from that, the font is plain to a fault, and the symmetrical letter sizing drags it down a notch more. Fortunately, there's nothing else going on to detract from the nice coloration. Cleveland has nothing to be ashamed of here, but there's nothing to celebrate, either.
Switching the name on the front of the jersey makes a big difference for the Miami Heat.
The font isn't particularly interesting except for its one idiosyncrasy: the flaming "T" in the nickname. It taps into the Heat's commitment to their imagery, which spreads to the color and the fireball logo, as well.
However, the city name has no such flair to it. In this duller iteration, the element most reminiscent of the moniker is the red stripe spanning the bottom of the shorts. That's one of the weakest points of the design, so to draw any more thematic significance to it is a mistake.
The Los Angeles Clippers took the best of one world and combined it with the worst of another.
Though the Clips certainly don't have any more glory in their past than the Cavs do, the elegance of the script lettering and the red, white and blue color scheme make this a very worthy retro look. The logo just below the neckline adds little, but it's also unoffensive, leaving the classic design to dominate the front.
Everything going on with the side paneling is wrong, though. Do the people behind these details think fans are looking for more creativity in the armpit region? These swooshes vaguely refer to clipper ships, but it's a meaningless connection. All they do is draw focus away from something that works very well without them.
Now this is what the Mavs and Bobcats should have done.
Working with nearly the same color palette, the Memphis Grizzlies put together a solid design. The light lettering and numbers pop over the navy background, and the subtle yellow trim gives it a nice frame without overpowering anything.
That said, it's merely a modest victory for Memphis. The shine of the side paneling actually matches what's happening on the front of the jersey, so it's not so terrible this time. That keeps the Grizz from having anything special, but these are still just fine.
The Indiana Pacers can only go so far with such a basic design, but they make the most of it.
A unique color combo makes everything here. Indy uses the gold trim around white letters and numbers on a dark blue background, a unique blend that works wonderfully. The double stripe down the side also adds a nice touch, simple yet effective.
There's not much more to say here. The best-case scenario was a middle of the road uniform, and that's exactly what the Pacers got. For that, they might as well chalk it up as a win.
There's nothing wrong with what the New Orleans Pelicans will wear when they debut their new nickname. They just could have done better.
You can't blame New Orleans for keeping it low-key, but that's so counter to the city's style. Sure, the blue, red and gold troika was selected as a nod to Mardi Gras colors, but the resulting scheme hardly seems celebratory.
On the other hand, it was smart to play it safe and refrain from including some sort of Pelican imagery. While it makes for a great mascot, that particular bird could have very easily come off looking sophomoric on an otherwise very mature uniform.
It's a good start; hopefully the Pelicans will grow into a more ambitious look.
They have ditched powder blue as their primary color, but the Denver Nuggets have actually made their unis even more distinct.
This is a look back to the mountainous jerseys of the Alex English era, but the colors have been taken straight from Denver's most recent uniform. The white and shades of blue create a blizzard-like effect that complements the logo and frames the side of the shorts, while yellow is now the new base.
It works well to highlight the secondary colors, but it comes on very strong as the dominant color. Furthermore, it's a deviation from a long line of blue-heavy Nuggets unis, making this look an outlier as well as an homage. Denver has something that works, but it's a shock.
Forget about black as a decade-old fad. The Brooklyn Nets lift it past that.
Even when black became a uniform's main color back then, it was brought in to punch up the colors around it. Brooklyn went the exact opposite route in making its jersey. Black is practically the only element here, left to stand strong without frills.
The only thing the Nets lack is history. If one of the NBA's original franchises wore these, they would certainly be classics. If Mikhail Prokhorov has anything to say about it, Brooklyn will get to that point sooner rather than later.
The Philadelphia 76ers get a well-deserved free pass on their unimaginative color scheme.
What else do you want from the league's most patriotic team? Philly isn't just using red, white and blue because it's a tried and true combination. These are America's colors, and embracing them is just a means of really tapping into the history of the city and of the 76er name.
The red and blue still don't work together very well, but their interaction is limited. There's also a little bit of streaking by the bottom of the shorts that are anachronistic with the rest of the throwback look. But Philly has the right idea to mostly let the colors do the work and get out of the way.
It's pretty amazing that the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to do so well with such flashy colors.
Simple is often strongest, so the Thunder used a sparse design to highlight its electric look. No one can imitate their hue of blue, one which works so well with their nickname. The orange and black help create the thunder and lightning vibe without straying into gimmick with explicit visuals.
One downside here is the strange formatting of the city name. Oklahoma City did its best, and the layered words are a viable solution, but there are better ones. The Hawks have already set a precedent by putting "ATL" on front of their unis. OKC could be a good alternative here, too.
Of course Michael Jordan's jersey ranks highly, but the Chicago Bulls did have it comparatively easy.
Think about how often red has popped up on this list before now. It's the strongest uniform color there is, so of course just highlighting it with white and black was going to work wonderfully. Credit Chicago for a great look, but also dock it a bit for being a no-brainer.
The Bulls do have some inventive touches, particularly the pentagon on the shorts containing the team's logo. It might draw a little too much attention when it pops into view, but the white region is nice considering black is the predominant secondary color. Even so, it's not enough to raise Chicago above ninth.
While it's understandable that diagonal stripes seem too rash for anyone to add them now, they sure look great on the Portland Trail Blazers.
Don't think too hard about any connections to the old frontier and covered wagons. Just focus on how Portland has pressed on with this design after all others had abandoned it. Meanwhile, the Blazers have oriented their logo around the stripes and their uniform around the logo, giving visuals a great sense of unity.
They even make a great effort to keep the jersey and shorts coherent by running the stripes down the left leg. The right leg features only the logo, giving everything an odd sense of imbalance. It's a rough solution to the basic problem with diagonals, but it works well enough to let the strong points shine.
After years of trying to distance themselves from the Bullets, the Washington Wizards finally brought back that incredible design.
Washington gets a pass on the American flag look, but this uniform is good enough to get by on its own merit. The thing is though, it's pretty difficult to exactly say why. The stripes are not regularly sized, and thick and horizontal isn't exactly popular. But you can't deny it works.
The lettering, the stars by the hems and the DC logo are all awesome, with the only drawback being the absence of Bullets. This is essentially a throwback, but the word at the center of it has changed. It's still a tribute, but something will always seem the slightest bit off about it.
Way back in the history of the Golden State Warriors, there was The City. Today's team cannot forget those origins.
There's no better example of civic pride than the Warrior's logo. Between the blue and yellow, the team name circling the Golden Gate Bridge and the number embedded in the circle, it's a perfect meld of an organization with the place it represents.
Sometimes the Dubs go too far. At first glance, the fraying yellow lines on the shorts' legs are strange, but then you realize they are another nod to the bridge cables. It still looks iffy, but you can't knock the deep level of respect Golden State has for the Bay Area.
When you already have the most oxymoronic team name in American sports, you can really go for broke with your design.
The Utah Jazz may not make sense, but man, they found a way to visually blend the nickname and the game. Dark blue, green and gold fit harmoniously together, with white allowing each of the colors to really pop. And then there's the piece de resistance: the "J" as a musical note containing a basketball.
It's a perfect font flair for a franchise that desperately needs it. Utah and jazz fundamentally cannot combine into a real identity, so the facade of the design is all there is. The Jazz go a long way with that, but superficiality has its limits.
The important thing is that the New York Knicks have removed all instances of black from their uniform.
By replacing black with a muted silver, both the blue and orange stand out more. Those are the Knicks' emblematic colors, and they should be as prominent as possible. The black made for better outline definition, but it popped above the colors themselves. This way is better.
That said, we still have to address the waistband. Someone got overzealous here because this thing is out of hand. The orange works with the blue, of course, but it's a lot of orange and it's unclear why it's there in the first place. This is still a great jersey, but that head-scratcher is too glaring to overlook.
Before Brooklyn brought black back, the San Antonio Spurs were already using it perfectly.
There really isn't a simpler concept than the Spurs'. It's black, white and silver with only straight lines. The stripped-down look also fits the nickname, evoking an outlaw wreaking havoc throughout the Wild West.
But while the Nets kept it completely basic, the Spurs insert their logo right in the middle of their name. That look dates back to the ABA, but it's still genius. It allows San Antonio to both keep it classic and have some style, something teams constantly tinkering with their uniforms can only hope to achieve.
The Boston Celtics are synonymous with the color green.
Green with white letters, numerals, waistband and trimming. The only slightly modern addition to the design is the four-leafed clover on the waist, but the rest is just as it was back when Bill Russell was winning championship after championship.
Teams can trot out their St. Patrick's day alternatives, but no one would dare try to take Celtic green for their own. After so many years and so many titles, this has become the quintessential basketball jersey design, but the color makes it uniquely Boston.
The Los Angeles Lakers can match the Celtics for history, but the purple and gold give them the personality to top this list.
Given the superstars that have worn this jersey, it is imbued with swagger. Add to that the Lakers aversion to home whites, and the color combination carries even more power. The two tones and the white numeral are just so natural together, you wouldn't even think to question why.
A lesser uni wouldn't get away with the garishness or the quirks that the Lakers have. That's a sign L.A. is truly the greatest. The Lakers may not have their best days in 2013-14, but they'll look as good as they always have.