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Inside Nike’s 2021-22 NBA City Edition Jerseys

Executives from Nike and the NBA give Boardroom the behind-the-scenes story on eight teams’ all-new City Edition looks.

The NBA’s City Edition jerseys are here. Officially revealed Monday morning, all 30 teams dropped new Nike designs that combine iconic elements from their histories to celebrate the league’s 75th anniversary.

Boardroom was able to catch a sneak peek of all the jerseys on Thursday at Nike’s New York City headquarters, and got a chance to speak with the two executives who spearheaded the effort: Christopher Arena, the NBA’s head of on-court and brand partnerships, and Jesse Alvarez, Nike’s men’s product director.

The two detailed the City Edition unis for several major market teams, along with a couple of other franchises with threads that are going to make some major noise over the course of the 2021-22 campaign.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have always tried to honor their Minneapolis history on some of their alternate jerseys, but this sky blue and purple combo has never been attempted before, Arena told Boardroom.

“We think they did it in a nice way,” he said. “I think a couple of things that Nike did was yes, they were the light blue in Minneapolis, but they had a touch of light blue when they came over in the ’60s to Los Angeles.”

The graphic on the side of the shorts is inspired by the practice gear the Lake Show donned when they first made the move out west.

“The signature numbers and the signature wordmark all come together in a clean, classic way,” Arena said, which will look even stronger when LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook bring it to the court.

Boston Celtics

The classic green and white on the front is all about the rich Celtics history and winning tradition, Alvarez said. You can’t celebrate the Celts without paying homage to legendary coach and general manager Red Auerbach, who gets a shout-out on the shorts.

“Not only do you have the Red callout; you have that gray insert,” Alvarez said. “For us, our team was actually lucky enough to go to their practice facility. And they actually have a tint of gray on their glass there as a nod to Red his cigar. So to be able to pull in some of those aspects that if you’re a Celtics fan, you know what that means.”

Chicago Bulls

It all starts with the script Chicago wordmark across the front, evocative of the start of the Michael Jordan era and its iconic looks throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

But Alvarez’s favorite part of the Bulls’ jerseys? The shorts.

“When you get up there and you see the diamond, it’s such an iconic, unique aspect of their uniform,” he said. “But when you get up close, you can see that it’s got the actual black and red pinstripes that’s only associated with the Bulls. It’s hard not to talk about basketball without talking about the Bulls, their history, and MJ coming to town and getting drafted was the start of it all.”

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets started out as the New Jersey Americans in the late ’60s playing in the ABA. They’ve had a number of different color schemes and logos over the years, Arena said, so Nike and the NBA were able to draw inspiration from each of those time periods.

“Whether it’s the side trim, which looks a lot like the [uniforms] from the Jason Kidd era,” Arena said, “that Finals team that made a run. The wordmark across the front, I believe, is from the ’80s era. So different eras are acknowledged each step of the way with each detail. And then the jock tag is a summary of all of their logos.”

We’ll see if Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Co. can make history of their own in this navy mashup.

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All 30 NBA teams’ Nike City Edition jerseys for 2021-22, the 75th anniversary of the NBA
New York Knicks

During the Knicks’ run in the ’90s, they had inserts flaring from the base of the shorts on out, Arena said, which you see in these black jerseys, which was often part of the team’s color scheme but never fully embraced. His favorite part of their unis is all the franchise’s retired names and numbers along the waistband.

“Once a Knick, always a Knick,” Arena said. “That’s their famous phrase, so I think they wanted to acknowledge all those pioneers that came before them who are up in the rafters.”

Perhaps players like Julius Randle may join those New York icons in the Madison Square Garden lights, with MSG being paid homage to in the shorts as well.

Philadelphia 76ers

Across the waistband and along the jersey’s sides is paying homage to the Sixers’ former home at the Spectrum.

“If you’re from Philly and you know back in the day where they used to play, it just gives you some rich colors to play with, some iconic moments unique to them,” Alvarez told Boardroom. “It’s just a special way to bring the next generation who might not be familiar with what that means to them into the forefront.”

Toronto Raptors

“Toronto was one of our favorites,” Alvarez said.

The Raptors have really embraced the black and gold colorway over the last few years in part thanks to their relationship with local native Drake, and their fans really seem to love the combo.

“So to be able to start there and have that be part of their regular uniform rotation is great,” Alvarez said. “But it’s the details, right? So the Raptor is actually wearing the uniform they won their championship in. And our design team flipped the orientation of the Raptor so he’s looking and honoring the past, but he’s also moving to the future and what’s to come.”

There’s even a 19 on the “NORTH”-wordmarked, chevron-style jersey, noting the year Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and the Raps won it all.

Charlotte Hornets

The personal favorite City Edition jersey of this reporter, the uniform manages to combine the Hornets’ iconic pinstripes, the hornet’s nest pattern, the Hugo the Hornet logo, and an amazing blue-teal gradient from the top to the shorts.

“The script across the front is the first time that’s been put onto a uniform,” Alvarez said. “So it’s being familiar with where they’ve been, but taking it somewhere new.”

With LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges lading high flying Charlotte, this jersey is gonna be a big seller.

About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.