The NBA's meteoric rise from forgettable pastime to global powerhouse never happens without the names on the backs of jerseys.
Whether you're a holdover from the days of Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson (or, further back, Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain), a follower since Michael Jordan was making flight plans or a newcomer growing up with players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, chances are superstars brought you to this league.
But for basketball purists, it's always been about what's stitched across the front of those jerseys. Superstars might drive ratings, but they can't win championships alone.
Thankfully, the fashion-conscious league has served up some sweetness for those purists this season. Several franchises have undergone wardrobe changes over the offseason, and the results have been, by and large, overwhelmingly positive.
So, which teams made the greatest additions to their closets? More importantly, which ones need to start shopping for new designers?
So it looks like we're stuck with this sleeve revolution, hoops heads.
The Golden State Warriors, who debuted these yellow pinstriped monstrosities last season, have returned with an alternate white look that the team plans to wear for all Saturday home games in 2013-14.
Here's the nicest thing I can say about them: they look better in white.
Other than that, what's the selling point here? Yes, these have sleeves, but nothing like the ones in my closet. Was there some secret basketball meeting where a great clamoring for sleeves erupted, but by meeting's end that emotion had subsided and they opted for half-sleeves?
The logo's the same as the sleeveless version, the lettering and position of text hasn't changed. It's the Warriors' home white jersey, only with sleeves added.
And it's also the worst of the NBA's new looks.
Quick side note: Why is Harrison Barnes the team's official sleeved-jersey model? Shouldn't his rookie hazing be over at this point?
The New Orleans Pelicans had a chance to make a statement with their new jerseys. After all, if you're willing to brand your business with the nickname "Pelicans," you're probably willing to take some risks.
So the design team in one of the league's most unique markets put its brains together, labored over the design table and came up with...this?
No chances taken in the color department. Blue, gold and red accents for a team that once rocked an eye-opening mix of gold, teal and purple. I'm not starting the rally cry for a return to the Mardi Gras threads, but this is so painfully boring.
Now, let's move on to the elephant in the room. What happened to the Pelican? No logo on the jersey, or even a reference to the team's name. If you're going conservative with colors, at least give me a giant bird scrawled across the front.
If you're willing to follow that two-tone stripe down the length of the uniform, you'll see the Pelican perched at the bottom of the shorts. Other than that, though, these unis are a no-fly zone.
To be honest, I really like the Pelicans logo. I just wish that I could see it.
Amid the flurry of offseason activity by the Detroit Pistons, I somehow overlooked one of their biggest changes.
Can someone please fill me in on when promising post man Greg Monroe was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks?
That was my first, second and third thoughts when I saw Detroit's newest threads.
These alternates, the franchise's first since 2005-06, could should have been special. I'm a big fan of celebrating Detroit's rich history with the auto industry, but aren't we getting a little too close to copyright infringement here?
From the dark blue background, to the red stripe and through the white lettering, these are way too similar to Atlanta's unis.
As if the Pistons weren't already going to be hard to recognize this season. Between a new coach (Maurice Cheeks) and a horde of new talent (led by Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and former Piston Chauncey Billups), this group looks nothing like the one we saw last April.
Unfortunately, it now resembles one of Detroit's Eastern Conference foes.
I'll be the first to admit: these rankings appear to have taken a hypocritical turn.
After blasting the Dubs for their sleeves, how can I reward the Los Angeles Clippers for theirs with the No. 5 spot?
Because unlike Golden State, Los Angeles did something different with its long-cropped jersey. As a throwback to the team's origin as the Buffalo Braves, the Clippers brought back the powder blues that fans hadn't seen since 1985.
Keeping the classy cursive script from its regular jerseys was a nice move. So too was the addition of three nautical flags on the sides of the shorts that the New York Daily News' Bernie Augustine noted represent the team's initials: LAC.
Innovative and still rich with history, this look almost soared to the top of my rankings. But, again, why ruin this updated classic with those three-inch sleeves?
Ditch the upper arm bands, and this might be my favorite jersey in the league—new or old.
Quick triggers are nothing new for the New York Knicks.
With a pair of gunners (Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith) leading the offense, Knicks fans have been forced to exercise patience as this team plays with anything but.
Not all of their players were so quick to fire last season, though. Then-sophomore Iman Shumpert attempted just the eighth-most triples on the team (2.8 per game) despite having the second-best success rate from distance (40.2).
But it appears the hyperactive ways of his teammates has rubbed off on Shumpert. The (tragically) formerly flat-topped star jumped the gun and delivered his Instagram followers this look at a possible Knicks orange alternate jersey.
He subsequently removed the post, but by then its presence had spread like wildfire.
Let's assume the Knicks are planning on adding this to their collection, although no official announcement has been made yet.
First off, this is a massive upgrade over the all-orange threads the team wore on Christmas last season. The filled-in numbers and white highlights allow me to actually read what they say, which it turns out is pretty important.
Beyond that, I'm just a big fan of the overall design. The blue pops out from the orange background. The white and blue piping at the shoulder and neck lines offers further visual relief.
I can't say with any certainty when exactly we'll be seeing these jerseys. But I'm looking forward to whenever that day comes.
Maybe it's my hopes for Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe leading the uptempo offense that new Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has promised to run. Or my unnatural (and at this point unwarranted) man-crush on lottery pick Archie Goodwin.
Or it could even be the fact that two years into their NBA careers, I still can't tell the Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus) apart.
Whatever the case may be, something has caught my eye with this new-look Suns team. And I'm starting to think it's probably this Suns team's new look.
It's simple but far from plain.
The streaks across the lettering and below the "Suns" offset an otherwise monochrome backdrop. The contrast of the solid black numbers (or orange in the case of the purple road jersey) strikes yet another visual cue.
My only complaint is that it would have been nice to see all of the colors used more in tandem. A throwback version of the old black-dominant jerseys would have been a nice addition.
Still, this puts a nice picture on the new direction of this franchise.
Two new entries into the Miami Heat's jersey collection this season.
Maybe that's an unfair advantage for these rankings, but there are certain perks when you're the two-time defending champs.
Drawing off last season's Christmas Day all-red look, the first addition is a red-and-white alternate. The jersey is somehow both bold and bland, but the red-and-white logo at the bottom of the shorts looks pretty mean.
The black threads donned here by LeBron James, though, are the real highlight of the new looks.
A throwback to the time when Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway ran South Beach, the switch from red letters to white ones creates an eye-catching contrast. Not to mention the slimming black leaves James' headband looking normal size for once.
The red is a little too red for my closet, and the black isn't quite different enough to send me running to the stores. But just because they won't be joining my wardrobe doesn't mean they're a bad addition to Miami's.
Was there really a question about which jersey would top this list?
I get it, these are largely the same jerseys that the Los Angeles Lakers currently wear. The lettering, the placement, the striping, we've seen this stuff before.
But simply changing the dominant color to black allows the purple and gold to pop like it never has.
Dubbed "Hollywood Nights," these beauties will be unleashed at select games this season. Per the team's official press release, the threads are meant as a nod to the star-studded crowds that pack the Staples Center but also to honor the behind-the-scenes workers of the entertainment industry.
Whatever puts the "Black Mamba" in a black uni, I'm all for it. The fact that it includes an added shout-out to the little people who often get overlooked in L.A., that's just icing on the cake.
I can't tell you the last time I went out and bought a jersey. Thanks to L.A.'s newest addition, I can tell you what the next one I buy will be.