NBA, I’m ready to bargain. I complain regularly about the uniforms because back when the NBA was a proper league, the home team wore white except for the Los Angeles Lakers gold. I can accept that those days are long gone, but Adam Silver please meet me 25 percent of the way. If a classic matchup is taking place — like say the Lakers and New York Knicks — let’s show some reverence for history and wear the traditional jerseys.
It happened again
This is the second time in less than a week that the NBA has besmirched a nationally televised matchup between two of the NBA’s most historic franchises. On Tuesday, the Knicks broke out those black City Edition jerseys and that ugly black court. The Lakers wore white, and not the snazzy Sunday whites either. They went with a hybrid of their old white and blue jerseys with gold trim.
So the decision for the night was to go with colors that don’t exist in either team’s logo, one uniform was somewhat of a throwback and the other looked like it belonged to Batman’s rec-league team. And to top it all off, the design of the league’s most legendary court was changed to the point where it didn’t even look like Madison Square Garden on television. The retro style of the Lakers’ jerseys wasn’t awful but if we’re going to do throwbacks, how about the colors both franchises wore when they played against each other three out of four NBA Finals in the 1970s?
Not just at MSG, but also in Boston
And let’s not forget about the atrocity that took place at TD Garden on Saturday night. ABC’s NBA Saturday night special between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The disrespect that was shown to the rivalry that saved the league was appalling.
For one, the Lakers wore gold. The Lakers used to never wear their gold on the road, and that most certainly was the case during those heated 1980s NBA Finals clashes. As disrespectful as that choice was to this rivalry, at least it’s a style the Lakers did use at that time. The Celtics broke out their new forest-green City Edition uniform. That clash of colors looked like a bunch of boogers jumping around on the court.
I know those jerseys were designed to honor Bill Russell. However, if the NBA really wanted to honor him, how about having the two teams wear the jerseys that they wore when his squad upset Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West in 1969? The league makes the decision on which jerseys the players wear for every game, so it should keep this in mind when its most storied teams are playing against each other.
One of the charms about the NBA is that it’s a newer league than the NFL, NHL, and MLB, and also very different. With less equipment and no barrier between the fans and the players, the feel is more intimate, and it carries over outside of the arena. You can’t walk around school in Air Rickey baseball spikes, but a fresh pair of Air Jordans could make someone the coolest kid in the building.
Dare to be different
The NBA has always been willing to dare to be different to better market the product, but there is a point when it can deviate too far from its roots. I can deal with the coaches in quarter zips. Some think it looks amateurish, but if Bill Belichick can dress the way he does on the sidelines then Doc Rivers shouldn’t be forced to sweat for two hours in a suit.
An alternate jersey — perhaps even two — is fine. I loved the cerulean (shout out to you Miranda) Orlando Magic jersey of the early 1990s, and even some of the Christmas Day uniforms. That being said, there is some tradition in the NBA.
I wasn’t alive for Magic vs. Larry, but I know the significance of it. Sure the Knicks don’t make the playoffs much anymore, but Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball. Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and white Ford Broncos — those are memories attached to that building and the Knicks that I’ll never forget.
So feel free NBA to play around with the uniforms in other matchups. When the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks, or the Memphis Grizzlies on national TV put the teams’ City vs. Statement edition uniforms or whatever, but show some reverence to the history of the league.
It may be shorter than the other leagues, but the history that exists means a great deal to those of us who were hypnotized by the NBA a long time ago, and the spell was never broken. When classic matchups — especially the out-of-conference ones — take place, go with a classic atmosphere. Leave Batman and boogers for another day.