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The Story Behind NBA City Jerseys

In December of last year, Nike released a collection of “City” Edition jerseys in an effort to shake things up in the uniform department. The debut comes at the start of the eight-year deal inked between the NBA and Nike — that’s why you’ve started to see the Nike logo appear on official NBA jerseys this season — and the introduction of a new collection of limited-edition jerseys. During the 2017-18 season, ballers rotated between four Nike-made uniforms: the Association Edition, the Icon Edition, the Statement Edition and the City Edition.

The City Edition jerseys debuted with much fanfare about six months after we first saw a glimpse of the Association and Icon jerseys. In a statement announcing their release, the sports brand said this fourth jersey category was meant to honor the fans and “represent insights and emotion from the court to the upper deck to the cities’ streets, in pursuit of a unique way to capture each team and its city in a way that respects the past and present of the clubs while also positioning them for the future.” Take a look at some of the City jerseys below for examples.

Traditionally, teams only had home and road jerseys, with occasional “alternate” jerseys or “third” jerseys, which they wore during special games or when opposing teams had similar jerseys. Why do teams need so many jerseys if they only wear two styles — home and away? The answer has something to do with the fact that the NBA did away with home and away jerseys at the start of the 2017-18 season, so teams can now rotate the four looks as they please. The Association (home) and Icon (away) Editions are designed in the style of traditional home and road jerseys, but teams can choose which jerseys they want to wear.

The Coolest City Edition Jerseys and their Stories

We know that the City Edition jersey was meant to represent specific facets of a franchise that are important to the fans — the superstitions, the legends and even the unique aspects of the arenas where they play — so let’s check out some of the coolest versions and the stories behind them.

  • L.A. Lakers — The latest Lakers jersey is a unique City version because it’s part of a sub-series called the “Lore” series. This series was designed to pay tribute to some of the Lakers’ greatest players, and the first one was inspired by multi-year MVP Kobe Bryant. The uniforms are done in a sleek black snakeskin texture and have an “LA/24” insignia at the waist to honor the legendary Laker. Nike says it will unveil a new Lore jersey to celebrate other Lakers each season.
  • Golden State Warriors — The Golden State Warriors jersey has a fascinating history as one of the few sports franchises to showcase a prominent native landmark, but Nike replaced the team’s beloved Bay Bridge for the Golden Gate in the GSW City jerseys. The uniforms celebrate the birth of the Bay Area’s Chinatown with Chinese symbols of prosperity coupled with wording that reads “The Bay.”

  • Utah Jazz — The City version of the Utah Jazz jersey is easily one of the favorites of the bunch, mostly because of its bright and sunny color scheme. It features cascading primary colors — starting at a bright yellow and heating up to a vibrant red at the bottom — meant to represent Utah’s signature red rock formations that dot the canyon lands.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers — The Cavs’ typical wine and gold is replaced by a sweet icy gray and yellow coloring with this edition. Designed to perfectly capture the diehard Cleveland sports spirit, the Cavaliers City Edition jerseys are emblazoned with messaging that reads “Defend the Land.” Nike took cues from Cleveland’s architectural icons with this uniform, designing the side panels and shield logo to look like the Guardians of Transportation that stand guard atop Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge, the bridge that crosses the Cuyahoga River to Quicken Loans Arena.

    • Memphis Grizzlies — The Grizzlies debuted their City Edition uniforms during the 2018 NBA Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, when they beat the Lakers in a 123-114 game. The Memphis version of the City Edition was designed to honor the Sanitation Workers Strike that brought Dr. King to the city in 1968 and features a crisp black and white color scheme with wording that reads “I Am a Man” to honor the famous signs held by sanitation department strikers.
    • Boston Celtics — Like Cleveland, Boston is known for its dogged sports fandom, and the Celtics’ City jerseys had to live up to the standard. Nicknamed “Parquet Pride,” they’re designed in a gray texture and side pattern to celebrate the unique and iconic parquet floor at TD Garden. The Celtics’ version also has the signature of Red Auerbach, the man who started the parquet dynasty, plus a waist belt that celebrates the team’s 2008 championship win.
    • Washington Wizards — The Wizards’ City Edition jersey was intended to celebrate some of the most significant American monuments that just so happen to be on this team’s home turf. They feature a marble pattern on the side panels that forms a pointed top to mimic the Washington Monument, as well as beveled numbers that appear carved like the text on the famous D.C. landmark.
    • Indiana Pacers — No surprise here, but the Pacers’ City Edition jersey was meant to celebrate the city’s heritage of automotive racing, with a yellow checkerboard stripe on the right side. It also features an encircled player number that was designed to look like the numbers on classic race cars. The Detroit Pistons’ jersey also celebrates the automotive industry, with white stripes and wording that reads “Motor City.”

Make sure to check out all the City Edition jerseys to see how each one weaves in a unique or storied element about a team’s city. The great thing about this new Nike and NBA deal is that, now that the wheels are in motion, we’re likely going to see a ton of brand-new jersey designs emerge in the coming seasons. We can’t wait to see which designs bring luck to which teams!

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