Monday, 23 June 2014

A look at the average Hornets uniforms

The new Charlotte Hornets uniforms are a bit like the Phoenix Suns’ unis in that they are close to being great, but are ultimately mediocre due to a few problems.

The Hornets' new home uniform

The numbers are too big. It wouldn’t be such an issue if the font wasn’t so unattractively funky and the colours weren’t so flashy, which combine for a sci-fi look. The jersey front in particular is overwhelmed by the numbers. White numbers on the road and alternate unis would’ve quietened them down.

The clean right side is a good look and the striping on the left is ok. To say the asymmetry “makes the uniform unique” is a stretch though.

The waistband logo is acceptable but unnecessary. There are three different non-primary logos on the three uniforms combined, which is excessive. The word mark on the shorts is unsightly and takes away from the simplicity of the right side.

The collars are the strength of the uniforms, with the stripe making them particularly sharp. They’re bold, but not excessively so. The overlap style is similar to that on the original Hornets uniforms, which is a link to the past that doesn’t seem forced.

Designating the teal uniform as the alternate is a concern. The Hornets noted they can wear it “a total of 16-20 times per season, whether at home or on the road”, which suggests excessive use of the alternate is imminent. Being able to wear the popular teal at home more often is a logical argument in support of this move, but ultimately seems like a stretch. It’s not as though a teal uniform is any less legitimate if only worn on the road, or that there won’t be plenty of teal on display at home games without teal uniforms.

These new uniforms came out the way the new logos and word marks, which were released late last year, suggested they would – too charmless, but adequate overall. They are, it’s worth noting, superior to what the Bobcats wore in 2013-14.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Pitfalls of new dawn uniforms

The Philadelphia 76ers plan to change their uniforms prior to the 2015-16 season, according to Interstate 76ers. If that’s true, the changes could be beneficial. But they also could be detrimental, regardless of how the unis look.

The Sixers’ current set is upgradeable. The biggest issue is the trim, which is clunky and doesn’t suit the rest of the uniforms’ simplicity. Even though Philadelphia underwent a major uni change in 2009, a few more tweaks next year could work.

But the real concern is that the Sixers mightn’t be looking to simply make their uniforms a bit better, but instead could be trying to shift their identity. As in, highlight the beginning of a new, successful era by introducing new uniforms. This idea is mentioned in the Interstate 76ers article. Philadelphia might simply want to change their uniforms regardless of on-court success. But the Sixers wanting to distance themselves from losing seasons and promote a new beginning with the aid of new uniforms seems at least possible.

Using unis in that way is approaching them as something easily disposable, which is wrong, and relegates them to the status of slogan-adorned fridge magnets. It also seems silly to think a new uniform would significantly change many people’s perception of a team. Fans would still be excited if the team didn’t have new uniforms but looked poised for success. And there’d still be pessimism if a team with a new wardrobe was inadequately composed – although jersey sales would probably increase. The Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls don’t need new uniforms to distance themselves from the respective injuries of Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose – they need those players to be healthy. It’s the on-court product that changes negative identities, not uniforms.

A uniform change packaged as part of the beginning of success would also seem gimmicky. A team with faith in its acquisitions and fans and a respect for uniforms wouldn’t use unis in such a way. The harder the new uniforms are pushed as part of a new beginning, the less convincing it is that more winning is imminent. Philadelphia fans’ confidence in their team could be weakened by its decision-makers resorting to such tactics.

That’s a lot of consternation about something that mightn’t happen. The Sixers could avoid any fresh start hoopla if they do introduce new gear, or they mightn’t make any changes at all. Given the potential for missteps, there’d be nothing wrong with the latter.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Going with gold in the playoffs

The Indiana Pacers wore their gold alternate uniform at home in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, which continued a trend in these playoffs. The Pacers have gone with gold for game 1 home games in all three series they’ve played. 
The Pacers and Heat in their alternates

Further driving home the effect, the Heat wore their red alternates in game 1 in Indiana. Wearing an alternate uniform often in the postseason isn't something to be condemned, but it doesn't seem right.

An alternate should generally be worn infrequently. Excessive alternate wearing makes both the primaries and the alternate less special. If teams didn’t overwear their alternates, it’d be more noteworthy when they did play in them, meaning there might be less desire for nickname games, Christmas uniforms and other such folly. So wearing them often, whether in the regular season or playoffs, is unwise.

On top of that, alternates don’t fit the occasion of the playoffs. Playoff games are distinctive – maybe not as much as in the NFL or other postseasons with fewer games, but they’re uniquely important nonetheless. It seems right to wear primaries – the uniforms that are essential for every team and are worn the most during the regular season – at such times.

In the case of the Pacers, who have worn all three of their uniforms this postseason, their movement towards their alternate could be connected to their gold-clad fans. Hopefully the decision to wear gold wasn’t dictated by a desire to have the players match the colour of the crowd, whose giveaway shirts were understandably gold, which is more distinctive than blue or white. But the Pacers have also worn gold on the road these playoffs, so maybe they’re just fond of it.

There are factors that support the alternate prominence. If a third uniform deserves to exist in the first place, as is the case with Indiana, then it’s unreasonable to consider it unacceptable for the playoffs. Although alternates carry a waft of needlessness, they aren’t really less legitimate than primaries. Some team individuality is good, too: having everyone stick to a rigid no-alternates policy in the playoffs would be unwelcome.

The Pacers’ gold uniform is also the best in their current set. It has issues – the side stripes are unsightly, the collar is iffy and the two logos on the shorts are excessive – but compared to what the Pacers wore in their previous seasons of reaching the East finals in the NBA (1993-94, 1994-95, 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-00, 2003-04, 2012-13), it’s great. Indiana wearing their alternate multiple times in the playoffs might seem a bit off, but at least that third uniform is an improvement on the one worn in their pinstriped days.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Who could follow Atlanta by reviving old logo

The Atlanta Hawks’ new secondary logo doesn’t belong. The revised version of their 1972-95 logo isn’t a natural fit with their current primary, which is staying put, and doesn’t gel with the Hawks’ generally busy look.

But it is a good logo, albeit mildly inferior to the original version. It’s now easier to recognise the hawk, thanks to the neck detail, the curvier beak and the meaner eye. Those changes slightly subtract from the strongpoints of the original: its simplicity and vagueness. The Hawks emphasised how the
The new Hawks secondary logo
old logo could be confused for something else by referring to it as the “Pac” logo. This potential for misinterpretation was part of the logo’s appeal.

It’s still attractive though, and maybe more simplicity will do Atlanta good. Being a secondary logo that was just introduced, it’s tough to tell how prominently it’ll be used: it might end up largely unseen apart from fan merchandise.

There aren’t many other NBA teams that are good candidates for a similar logo restoration. Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee and Minnesota all have primary logos from their past that could be returned with minimal or no tweaking. But those four teams would benefit much more from an overhaul to accompany the logo resurrection, as opposed to just adding an old logo to the fray, like Atlanta did.

The two teams best suited to following Atlanta are Philadelphia and Phoenix. The 76ers could return their 1963-77 primary as a secondary logo. It’s an obvious fit with their current logos. Importantly, it’s simple, which would be a nice alternative to the annoyingly clunky primary they use now.

The Suns could bring back a slightly altered version of their 1968-92 secondary. It’s a slightly random but charmingly simple logo that could fit their current look with some tweaking of the font and colours. As a bonus, it could replace Phoenix’s current, unsightly secondaries. Like the Hawks’ new secondary – but unlike the 76ers suggestion above – this Suns logo wouldn’t really fit with the team’s uniforms. But with so many potential locations for secondaries, that’s no problem.  

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A look at teal uniforms

Here are four teal uniforms worthy of discussion despite not reaching great heights of attractiveness.

Charlotte Hornets, 1996-2002 road

This is messy. The colour, waistband striping and jersey-only pinstripes make the uniform loud, but the side striping does the real damage by overwhelming everything else.  The absence of the white trim their previous roads had is a drawback – it softened the uniform.

Detroit Pistons, 1995-2001 road

This is remarkable for being the teal showpiece of the flaming horse era, an unattractive but interesting period in Pistons’ history. The colour combo makes it hard for this to succeed – one trim colour would have been plenty. The side panels wrapping around the shorts hem is an uninspired design, too. But the worst part is the jersey logo. Both the lettering, which is tough to read, and the horse design look cheap. Those flames are pretty bad. The number font is goofy, which hurts because a more traditional approach would’ve offset some of the wackiness. 

New Orleans Hornets, 2002-05 road

This is an example of how a teal uniform can be tame, but it’s also still significantly better than what the Hornets/Pelicans have worn since 2008. It’s simple, but it doesn’t have the commitment to simplicity that could’ve elevated it from standard to great. The outline on the numbers and letters is a tinge messy, the shorts logos look like they were thrown on, and there’s one too many ‘H’ logos. 

Vancouver Grizzlies, 1995-2000 road

This theoretically could be considered similar to the Raptors’ inaugural road uniform, in that it’s loud and belongs to a 1995 Canadian expansion team. But they’re really very different, as this is far inferior to Toronto’s first roads. The teal is unattractive because it clashes with the earthy colours on the rest of the uniform. The trim pattern is interesting but too busy to be prominently displayed on this uni, particularly given the teal. The word mark is okay, but being 2D would’ve made it better. The size of the bear on the shorts is excessive, which fits the theme of the uniform but doesn’t look good.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Trail Blazers following unfortunate court trend

The Portland Trail Blazers announced last month they’ll have a new court design next season determined by a fan vote. The winning design won’t be revealed until October but, judging by the three finalists, it will be flawed.

The finalists for the Blazers' court design contest
There is great control over the look of the playing surface in the NBA, with colour, pattern, and graphics possibilities that don’t exist in other sports. With these possibilities comes great variance in the look of the playing surface. NBA arenas don’t offer glimpses of a city skyline or mountain range in the background and they generally have the same basic look, so the court is largely relied upon to provide differentiation.

Getting the floor right is both possible and worthwhile.

But there are significant issues with current designs around the NBA. The two-toned wood look is popular – and featured in the Blazers’ finalist designs – but it creates a clash. Even if one of the tones is a good choice, it’s undone by the inferior tone. It also looks like it exists just for the sake of difference. Even relegating the second tone to the out-of-bounds area doesn’t work.

Solid keys are another issue represented in Portland’s finalist designs. Keys with strips of contrasting colour on the edges have been forsaken by some teams for the solid option. The coloured sides soften the key and add interest. Although the solid colour keys are generally superior to the solid plain keys, both are too stark.

Having no solid chunks of colour, not even out of bounds, doesn’t look right, as the Houston Rockets’ floor shows. Even if the two-tone situation and Houston’s logo and word mark were improved upon, going without any colour chunks is pushing it on the plainness front.

There’s also problems at centre court, with teams either choosing a secondary logo when the primary would be superior, or opting for a word mark when a logo would be better.

The baseline word marks can have a significant influence on the success or failure of a floor. The font can be random, entirely separate from the team’s other word marks, and still enhance the court. The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks provide two examples where the font doesn’t match what’s on their jerseys but does spruce up their home court.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A look at orange uniforms

Here are four noteworthy orange uniforms from the past.

Charlotte Bobcats, 2004-08 road

These are pretty good uniforms overall, but very good in comparison to other modern-style unis. That reddish shade of orange is attractive and helps the white numbers and lettering stand out. The word mark is interesting, albeit not highly legible, and the number and name fonts are ok. The uniform doesn’t even fall off with the side panels, although they’d be superior without the black and white. Based on the logos and colour scheme for the 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets, plus the franchise’s uniform trajectory, there’s a fair chance that these unis will be better than the ones the Hornets wear next season.

Cleveland Cavaliers, 1983-87 road
The Cavaliers in orange

The Cavaliers have a varied uniform history. These roads mark a time when they let the colour of their uniforms and the Cavs word mark do most of the work, an approach more successful than others from their past. These are particularly plain, though. Perhaps some thicker blue trim would’ve helped. This is one of the issues with an orange uniform. The colour itself can be so bold that there’s not much room for error with other design elements. The current Cleveland roads are plain, too, but they’re helped significantly by striped trim. Something similar could be too much on an orange uni like this.

Golden State Warriors, 2004-10 alternate

This is an orange uni that manages to look bland. The shade of orange is a big offender on that front. The side panels and yellow trim are a hindrance. The word mark is acceptable, but doesn’t elevate the uniform. The current gear worn by the Warriors seems a little off, but in comparison to this orange uni, it looks great. From a colour scheme perspective, the Warriors have significantly improved since the end of last decade.

Phoenix Suns, 2003-13 alternate

There’s a lesson from this uniform, but the Suns’ new uniform set suggests they disregarded it. Messing with the orange and purple colour scheme by adding a significant amount of grey is a bad move. The current Suns gear isn’t sullied by grey, but instead by the equally-draining black. Remove black from the Suns’ purple roads, and ditch the design on the sides of the shorts, and they’ve got a fantastic uniform. Beyond the grey issues, this orange uniform suffers from uninspired side panels and the oval behind the number on the jersey front. There’s some excessive logo and word mark use, too.