In the summer of 2017, Nike officially became the jersey and apparel sponsor for the NBA. In their first big move, Nike decided to completely scrap the previous “home, away, alternate” branding of jerseys. Nike decided to relabel the jerseys completely. The white jersey, traditionally the home jersey, was the “Association” Edition jersey. The team color, traditionally worn on the road? That was labeled as the “Icon” Edition. Each team’s “regular alternate,” in traditional lingo, was relabeled as the “Statement” jersey.
But the biggest move? Nike officially gave each NBA team an annually changing alternate called the “City” Edition jersey. The City jersey is supposed to have some sort of a tie to the franchise’s location. Milwaukee has tied theirs to the blue of the Great Lakes. Boston tied theirs to the championship banners in the rafters of the Boston Garden. Los Angeles’s City jersey is a Black Mamba uniform in remembrance of Kobe Bryant. But the Houston Rockets?
Houston Rockets City Edition Jerseys
The Houston Rockets City Edition jerseys have been fairly hit or miss. That first season with Nike? It was the exact same uniform as before, except it said: “Rockets” in Chinese characters for the Chinese New Year. Year two? Houston got a full Chinese New Year makeover, including maroon uniforms with gold trim. Year three Houston got a white NASA-themed jersey, that oddly had “H-Town” across the chest. This crisscross of cultural relevancies was odd- is the jersey for Houston’s ties to NASA, and the space race? Houston was the first word said on the Moon. But that was Houston, not H-Town. H-Town is a nod to the culture here on Earth, where The H is a key figure in sports, hip hop, and the crossover of cultures in the Venn diagram.
Last season Nike put Houston in powder blue uniforms with red and white trim. This City Edition uniform reminded all Rockets’ fans of the Houston Oilers, Earl Campbell, and Warren Moon. Further, it added a new color to the lexicon of Rockets’ swag. For a year (at least), powder blue was a Rockets color. “Red Nation” now had a blue crew. It broke from tradition, but it was fun and different during a season that severely was lacking in the “fun” department.
There are some asking for a spin on the late ‘90s pinstripe uniforms. After winning back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, Houston switched to a navy and red uniform with red accent colors and a big logo on the front. Houston, for the 25th anniversary of the second title, did also get a one-year “Classic” edition uniform from the “ketchup and mustard” days. While that would be fun, using the City Edition uniform
What Should the Next One Be?
There’s really just one answer here, and the “H-Town” moniker has been eerily close: the next Nike City Edition jersey needs to be an ode to Houston Hip Hop. Specifically, the uniforms need to pay homage to the late great Rap legend DJ Screw.
DJ Screw created the Houston sound in rap music. The city of Houston changed hip hop forever with the “chopped and screwed” sound in the 1990s and 2000s. Artists from all over the country still see their music cut up and slowed down by DJs in an effort to creatively recreate the same sound DJ Screw created in his own home. As his hometown, and the city he put on the map
The uniform colorway is obvious: purple, black, and pink. The logos? Aside from the same “H-Town,” a screw through the Rockets’ logo on the shorts, or above the nameplate on the back would be simple ways to nod to the legacy without overdoing the uniform.
Not Just Screw
It’s not just DJ Screw from the 1990s, and it’s not just the recent Drake release Certified Lover Boy. Houston Hip Hop and Rap music have made their mark on the industry forever. Since Screw started slowing down Rap in 1991, Houston has seen a number of artists from Geto Boys to Beyonce to Travis Scott shape the landscape of American music. Much like the Cleveland Cavaliers City Edition uniform a year ago, perhaps the answer is some mixed-match homage to any number of Houston artists.
A purple and black screw for DJ Screw is simple. But for Beyonce? Perhaps it’s sparkles like the Dangerously In Love album cover, or yellow accents for Lemonade. For the Geto Boys? Script the font like Bushwick Bill’s “5th Ward Posse” hat on the cover of Can’t Be Stopped. Mike Jones? Feels like “2813308004” needs to be somewhere of note on the shorts, perhaps near where the pockets would be.
One Houston area Rap artist also deserves to shine on the uniform, even if his career in Hip Hop was short-lived. Big Floyd, better known as George Floyd, grew up in Houston’s Third Ward and was a star athlete at Houston Yates High School before he was a dual-sport athlete at South Florida Community College and Texas A&M Kingsville. After his sports dreams faded, Floyd attempted to start a career in Rap with the legendary DJ Screw. Floyd appears most prominently on Tired of Ballin’ but was featured on a number of Screw Tapes throughout the early ‘90s. Decades before he became a name synonymous with police violence and brutality, Floyd was as Houston as any of these artists. While his story is dramatically different, it’s important to also pay homage to his Houstonian experience.
A Houston Rap or Hip Hop centered uniform is an expression of the city’s culture. It’s important to iconize the historical highlights of one of America’s most unique cities, including its connections to Floyd, Third Ward, and DJ Screw.
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