Columns, Opinion

The Backdoor Cut: Ranking every City Edition jersey based on how comfortable I would be to wear them in public

The 2023-24 NBA season is underway. Arenas will soon be packed with fans eagerly watching every movement made on the court. That sound we’ll soon hear of fans cheering on their favorite team in perfect synchrony can only be beaten by the ever-so-satisfying swish of the basketball net.

It’s a beautiful game, really. Definitely more beautiful than most of this year’s City Edition jerseys.

Chloe Patel | Senior Graphic Artist

During certain games, players will wear special City Edition uniforms. These uniforms are designed by Nike as a way to draw attention to the city’s roots, the team’s history or facts that most people outside of that team’s fan base wouldn’t know, and they usually change every year. 

I’m typically not the type to wear a basketball jersey out in public, but if I like the design or team enough, I try to make it work. A few of these jerseys fit that category, but I can also think of some that I believe should be burned.

Tier F: The Denver Nuggets Tier

30.) Denver Nuggets

We’ve had some bad jerseys throughout NBA history. Some were hideous and bland, such as the “Trash Bag” Mavericks jerseys, while others, like the obnoxiously bright yellow Wizards jerseys, were among the most painful of eyesores. But what all of those jerseys have in common is that they’re bad in a fun way. 

Not this Nuggets one.

At first, this is just a black jersey with a blue mountain that almost blends in and a number in a place where numbers shouldn’t be. Bad, but not unbearable. But then, they replaced “Nuggets” on the front with “5,280,” to represent the “Mile High City.”

Not only does this number make the jersey look butt-ugly (coming up next on the catwalk: your favorite inmates with their prisoner numbers on their stomachs!), but it’s offensive, too. I said I wouldn’t rank these based on what they’re trying to convey, but they could have chosen to represent one of their other sports teams, the Rocky Mountains, Pepsi colors for the formerly-named Pepsi Stadium, literally anything. Instead, they chose to represent the most basic fact about the city — its mile-high altitude — and do so by basically writing out “mile.”

Nike thought they’d be clever by being lazy. They instead submitted an awful design you had to have been a “mile high” to approve.

Tier D (I’d never even wear this once):

29.) Los Angeles Lakers

28.) Golden State Warriors

27.) Memphis Grizzlies

26.) Philadelphia 76ers

25.) Chicago Bulls

24.) Washington Wizards

23.) Brooklyn Nets

My friends shouldn’t have to tilt their heads while looking at me for any reason, which is what both the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers would unnecessarily require them to do just to read their names on these jerseys. If I wanted to read “San Francisco” or “Los Angeles Lakers” in unnatural shapes, I’d go to a bar and drink my heart out after both of these teams disappoint me this season.

I’m also not someone who endorses having to scan a QR code to find out what team I’m repping, which is why I can’t comfortably wear the Grizzlies’ jersey. Names on jerseys should be easy to read, a memo that Philadelphia, the city of BROTHERLY love, didn’t seem to get either.

The Chicago Bulls’ jersey has served as the community punching bag of this city edition crop, but I don’t know about this year. It’s only sin is being incredibly boring and not having enough going on. The same cannot be said about the Wizards or the Nets, both of whom have…a little too much going on. I’m not a fan of whatever this rusted — I mean rustic — aesthetic Washington’s got going on, and Brooklyn’s just looks like a fifth-place finisher in a design contest held at a middle school. They both need a re-do.

Tier C (If Today was Laundry Day…Fine):

22.) New Orleans Pelicans

21.) Atlanta Hawks

20.) Dallas Mavericks

19.) Miami Heat

18.) Cleveland Cavaliers

17.) Indiana Pacers

16.) Sacramento Kings

15.) Detroit Pistons

14.) Portland Trailblazers

13.) Houston Rockets

12.) Los Angeles Clippers

11.) New York Knicks

I can’t believe that this was the final design of the Pelicans’ jersey. The “NOLA” blends in with the black of the jersey too much, making it difficult to read, and that color does not go well at all with the very bright green number. But at its core, it’s fine. I could wear it if I had to. Same with the Hawks’ jersey, although the “atl” in a comically large Times New Roman (or is it Georgia?) font tempt me to say otherwise.

I am not a fan of the font of this Mavericks’ jersey, nor am I fond of Miami’s decision to only feature the “Heat Culture” that no superstar plays for. Both of these teams have put out some of my favorite city edition jerseys ever in previous years, and it’s really disappointing to see them go back to just, “fine…I guess.”

I like the colors and the design of the arms on the Cavs’ jerseys, but they could just do better than a haphazard placing of “The Land.” The Pacers went with a font that my brain says is ugly, but that ugliness kind of speaks to me in a way. Still would not be my first choice to wear, though.

I get what the Kings were doing here, referencing the Rochester Royals they stole their franchise from, but I’m not a huge fan of the vertical “Kings” on the side with too much space everywhere else even if I do like the colors. I have the opposite problem with Detroit, however, as I really like the font, just not what surrounds it.

The Trail Blazers, Rockets and Clippers’ jerseys are the epitome of average. There’s nothing offensive about these jerseys except for how inoffensive they are. The Knicks’ jerseys are beautiful. I love the pinstripes that guard the perfect mix of dark blue and orange. They’d easily be a top-five jersey if it weren’t for whatever on earth was going on with the “New York” on the chest. It’s so awful on the eyes and looks like I need 3D glasses to read it. It has so much missed potential, which is a shame because it could so easily be a jersey I would actually consider wearing.

Tier B (I Can See Myself Wearing This):

10.) Phoenix Suns

9.) San Antonio Spurs

8.) Charlotte Hornets

7.) Milwaukee Bucks

6.) Oklahoma City Thunder

The Suns and Spurs have worn two of the most iconic city edition jerseys to date. While these are certainly downgrades, they’re both definitely wearable. I like the fonts on both of these, the numbers look really clean and they both mesh with the colors very well. The only negative is that they’re a tad bland but much easier to wear than the bland jerseys in the prior tier.

I love the shades of blue on these Hornets and Bucks jerseys, and they each have very nice, defining aspects to them. Charlotte’s “Buzz City,” adds a cute identity, and the cream-colored background that surrounds the “Milwaukee” blends right into the sides and cuts seamlessly through the subtle blue-dotted pattern on the jersey.

I love what the Thunder did here. Making theirs a standard black jersey while showing faint remnants of jerseys and logos past is a genius idea and it looks beautiful. This jersey is a love-letter to the deep, powerful history of the Oklahoma City Thunder that goes all the way back to 2008.

Tier A (I Can Totally Rock This):

5.) Utah Jazz 

4.) Minnesota Timberwolves

3.) Boston Celtics

Speaking of love letters to the past, look no further than the Jazz, the team that did this trope the best this year. These Jazz eras take fans back to their best years as a franchise, when the two best players in franchise history wore similar jerseys while Michael Jordan kicked the snot out of them. Oh, the glory days. They also look really nice too, and I love how the minimalist mountain blends in so seamlessly with the iconic purple background.

Most people would probably have the Timberwolves lower on a similar list, but I just think these are so beautiful. I know it looks like a 2004 Microsoft Powerpoint template, but it works. I love the base white. I love the vivid, lifelike navy. I love how the city name and number look unique without looking out of place. I adore this jersey so much.

These Celtics jerseys just scream “classic.” I don’t know what else to say. They look like they should be worn by a team that has a long history of winning. I love the cream and midnight green color scheme. The number font looks classic. Unlike the Knicks, the “Celtics” on the chest try a bold, 3D look and actually put it to use well. It’s a fresh new take on the Celtics aesthetic without straying too far from the classic formula. 

S (Might Actually Buy):

2.) Orlando Magic

1.) Toronto Raptors

Full disclosure: I am a Magic fan. I’d be looking to buy this jersey even if it looked like dog water. But this year’s Magic city edition jersey is beautiful in all the right ways. They debuted this sleek, dark medieval “Magic Kingdom” look last season, and it looks even better with the sideways star on the “A” in “Orlando.” This is a team that looks like it doesn’t mess around. I’m very excited to wear this soon.

But nothing — not even hometown bias — can get in the way of this absolutely beautiful Raptors jersey. It has the same basic premise as their regular jerseys, but with subtle pinstripes and a beautiful gold color that reminds me of royalty. This screams “perfect jersey” to me. It doesn’t change too much yet improves it in every single way. It’s the most aesthetically pleasing jersey on this list, and it’s the one that I’d feel best in if I wore it in public.

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