Check out our NBA City Edition Uniform Grades for Part 2 and Part 3!

Ever since Nike took over the jersey rights for the NBA, they have guaranteed to be innovative with their designs. They power out multiple new designs each season, sometime totaling up to five per team. Considering the sheer volume of designs, some of these ideas come out fantastic, and others fall flat on their face. The most notable of these annual releases are the NBA City Edition uniforms; special edition jerseys designed to encompass the history and story of both the franchise and their host region. My favorite City Edition Uniform since Nike began the series has been the Knicks in 2017. The jersey paid tribute to the New York Fire Department, particularly the ladder group from 9/11.

Did the Knicks screw up their uniforms again? - Posting and Toasting
The Knicks 2017 City Edition Uniform.

In general, the jerseys have been less interesting as the years have gone on. In addition, some cities obviously have more history to emulate than others, and thus more to work with in terms of design. The NBA has begun releasing their 2020-2021 city jerseys, and it’s time to review.

Atlanta Hawks

Grade: A

Atlanta made a significant upgrade from their peachtree uniforms of the 2019-2020 season. They have partnered with the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to honor his legacy in their most recent jerseys. This is a fantastic move, as it not only emphasizes the alternative color tone from their red and yellow setup, but it completely encompasses the purpose of the city jersey. Atlanta played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, and the city is permanently shaped from the history. Not only are these absolutely sleek, but they completely encapsulate the history and significance of the region. Memphis did something similar with a Civil Rights-themed jersey; the jersey paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination and emulated the “I Am A Man” signs protestors held at the protest King as speaking at. These have always been one of my favorites and the deeper symbolism really comes off well, particularly for the professional league leading the charge for social justice in 2020.

Paul Lukas on Twitter: "Grizzlies' new alternate uniform design references  1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike and upcoming 50th anniversary of  Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. More info:…"
Memphis Grizzlies’ 2017 NBA City Edition Uniform.

Brooklyn Nets

Grade: D+

Brooklyn Boys Throw It Back To '90s Nets Classic Jersey - BasketballBuzz
Kyrie Irving modeling the Brooklyn Nets Classic Edition uniforms for the 2020-2021 season.

Let’s start by saying, I hate the Nets. However, I typically love their modern alternate jerseys; whether it be their city uniforms or just their third jerseys. Brooklyn has done an amazing job taking the New York vibe and building a brand around it. All that being said, these are awful; we aren’t at Coachella here. I get that the tie-dye is historical for them, but it should have stayed in history. The bright spot here is that these are labeled their “Classic Edition” jerseys, and there have been leaks of their “City Edition.” Twitter is rumbling about the below jersey, paying tribute to artist Jean-Michael Basquiat. To be honest, not sure I would like these much more.

Golden State Warriors

Grade: C

Steph Curry modeling the Golden State Warriors’ 2020-2021 NBA City Edition uniforms.

These are exciting to me because they are different than their last three City Edition’s, all paying tribute to Chinatown. I love the homage to Oakland and the We Believe era, but the design itself doesn’t wow me. Golden State’s primary jerseys need a modernization, so these will be a great representation of the hole they hope to dig themselves out of from last season. However, in terms of the definition of City Edition jerseys, this doesn’t do much for me. Not ugly, but I’m not racing to buy it.

Portland Trail Blazers

Grade: C-

Portland Trail Blazers unveil City Edition uniforms for upcoming season -
Press release photograph of the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2020-2021 NBA City Edition uniform.

This makes me sad. Portland has had some AMAZING City Editions in the last three years, most notably their plaid rip city setup from 2018.

Although I appreciate the tribute to their larger fanbase outside of the city, this jersey is supposed to emulate the beauty of the state. How can they pay tribute to the state’s beauty when they’re ugly? Without being deeply aware of the Trail Blazers’ branding and marketing, the stripes on the side of this jersey make literally no sense. Although, It should be noted that they are donating a portion of the proceeds from these jersey sales to support Native youth in Oregon. I’m interested to see how these actually look on the court. Portland has always gone for bold colors, these are more subtle.

Sacramento Kings

Grade: Uniform – D; Release Promo – F

Sacramento Kings’ official NBA City Edition Uniform release graphic.

I apologize in advance for the lack of information you can get from this photo. Sacramento released their City Edition Uniform with a video, as many teams do, but the video is so dark you can barely see the jersey, or it’s subtle features.

Much of the point in City jerseys is to litter the uniform with subtle homages to the region or the historical theme; such as down the sides, corner of the shorts and labels, pattern of the base color, or on the waistband. From this video, all we can see is that they took pieces of the old jersey to make this one. It’s not ugly, but I’m not wowed.

Philadelphia 76ers

Grade: A-

Ben Simmons modeling the Sixers’ 2020-2021 NBA City Edition uniforms.

Although I am not nor will I ever be a fan of the Sixers, I have always respected their uniform game. From classic to primary to alternate, they typically have cool threads. Most notably, their city editions typically never fail and ALWAYS have a good historical meaning.

There is immense detail in each of the Sixers’ designs; the Liberty Bell crack down the side, the 13 colonies’ stars, the parchment shade of the Declaration of Independence, the handwriting from John Hancock’s signature, and the entire uniform to Rocky Balboa. Ben Simmons knew the detail that goes into designing these jerseys, and took a lead roll in the 2020 design. I didn’t love the design at first, but after reading more about it, it’s sort of grown on me. The tribute to Boathouse Row is significant for the city, and he thought the team needed a color change to represent a new future, the first time it’s been leveraged since the Iverson era.

Orlando Magic

Grade: A

Whoever Designed the NBA's City Jerseys for 2021 Forgot the Cardinal Rule
Orlando Magic official 2020-2021 NBA City Edition jersey.

These, are lovely. Orlando always has cool branding; their name is cool, they’re right next to Disney World, they’re really set up for success. However, Orlando was able to one up and design a jersey that paid homage to the citrus industry in Florida without losing the overall brand of the team. They tried to do this last year, and it came up short.

Orlando Magic roll out City Edition uniforms for first time as they face  Toronto Raptors on Friday - Orlando Sentinel
Unveiling of the 2019 Orlando Magic NBA City Edition Uniform.

I love these orange uniforms, and I think that the orange pinstripes do an amazing job holding onto the core of their current uniform and branding without straying too far off the path. Many teams try to look cool, but completely miss the core goal of the uniform and the culture of their team and fans in the process. My only concern is that they could clash with their home court colors; orange and teal on sky blue and grey might have some problems. However, if you invert the colors or these city jerseys, you’re in perfect shape; so it may look fine.

About Author

Shannon Walsh

Growing up five minutes away from Gillette Stadium, I will bring my Boston sports passion to the grave with me. Now living in Washington, DC, I have a soft-spot for their messy sports act too.

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