We’re about one week into the start of the 2023-24 NBA season, and there’s been no shortage of spicy new developments. Rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama continues to transfix basketball fans around the world. The league’s landscape has been reshaped by the handful of super-trades that moved star players Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and James Harden. Meanwhile, the first-ever In-Season Tournament is on the horizon. Like many fans, I was also excited to see the unveiling of this season’s new NBA City Edition jersey designs…I was.
2023-24 NBA City Edition Jerseys
Images of the 2023-24 NBA City Edition jerseys for each team were recently leaked and circulated online. Fans have taken to social media to voice their displeasure with these jerseys, many of which are unmitigated disasters.
My biggest gripe with this year’s City Edition jerseys, though, goes beyond any of the individual strikeouts. According to NBA’s LockerVision, “City Edition tells hyperlocal stories that connect the court, community, and culture. This Edition allows the team to tell a story that’s unique to their city through boundary-pushing designs. City Edition uniforms can be any color to allow for authentic connections to be drawn between fans, their local culture, and their NBA Team.” Take a look at the words that I’ve highlighted in bold. Then, take a look at the leaked 2023-24 NBA City Edition jerseys.
Now, somebody please tell me why 18 of the 30 jerseys are gray! Why? Gray is literally the color of boundary-merging, not boundary-pushing. The whole point of uniforms in sports is to differentiate the two teams from one another, is it not?
The Broader NBA Uniform Issue
On top of that, 13 of this year’s 30 Statement Edition jerseys are gray or black. There are a total of 124 different uniforms that will be worn across the league this season. What’s the point of having so many if half of them look the same anyway?
Now, I get it, it’s not like the NBA is going to allow any gray vs. gray matchups, right? Well, don’t be so sure. In 2021, The Oklahoma City Thunder literally had to change uniforms during halftime of a game in which their red-ish orange uniforms proved to be too close in color to the Hawks’ orange-ish red.
The players and coaches involved in that game claimed that the color overlap didn’t bother them at all. But this is about the fans. We’re the ones watching the games from afar. It’s tough enough to keep my head from spinning when the Sixers play the Clippers or the Nets play the Spurs. We’re the ones toward whom the jersey marketing is directed. Who wants to support their team by wearing a jersey that looks nearly identical to that of over a dozen other teams?
I’ve Got An Idea…
With all of that out of the way, I do want to end this on a positive note. Like I said, I was excited about the unveiling of the new jerseys—it’s something I look forward to each season. The reason I look forward to it is because, on occasion, there are some real winners among the City Edition and Statement Edition jerseys. The 2020-21 Basquiat Nets jerseys? Creative, beautiful, and meaningful. The 2018-19 Miami Heat Vice jerseys? Instant classic. Miami incarnate. Universally beloved.
I like that the NBA experiments each year with new designs. I’m not advocating for the NBA to do away with any of its special edition uniforms. Here’s what I am proposing: when a team does get it right, let’s let them keep those uniforms going for a few years. It should be easy enough to evaluate that kind of success based on jersey sales, fan reviews, and player satisfaction. The rest of the teams can keep trying new designs each year until they hit on something nice as well. But if every team has to come up with 4 new uniforms every season, they’re bound to run out of fresh ideas at some point . That’s clearly what happened this year. Let’s just hope the 2023-24 NBA City Edition uniforms look better on the court than I expect.