The winningest franchise in NBA history celebrates its 50th anniversary season in Fiesta-themed throwback fashion — let’s explore the story behind the new Spurs City Edition uniform.
26 years ago, San Antonio Spurs swingman Sean Elliott drove to the team’s practice facility. An average day of work ranged from chasing a young Monty Williams around screens to closing out on Chuck Person corner threes.
Averaging 20 points a night — a career-best and second in SA only to David Robinson — Elliott was back in the city that drafted him No. 3 overall out of Arizona and amongst the top talent in a loaded league.
While fans in Central Texas noticed his agile play, Elliott wondered if the suits in the league offices saw his slashing style the same way.
Suddenly, his phone rang.
“I got a call from an NBA official that told me I made the All-Star team,” Elliott told Boardroom. “It was very gratifying for me. And the fact that it was going to be in San Antonio? It was extra special. I was thrilled.”
Hosting All-Star Weekend for the first and only time in franchise history, the Spurs opened the Alamodome for fans far and wide to experience the flavor of their city and passion of their fans.
For one night, Shaquille O’Neal, Shawn Kemp, Penny Hardaway, and Grant Hill were all playing in San Antonio. Showing up and showing out, 36,000 screaming fans descended on the Alamodome, more than doubling the attendance of 1995’s festivities in Phoenix.
Across from Elliott, Michael Jordan was back for the outing in icy white Air Jordan 11s, playing in his first midseason classic since returning from retirement.
“It’s things you dream of as a kid,” Elliott said. “Across the court’s MJ and Shaq. Michael was the gold standard. Any time you got to take the court with him was something special.”
While all the appeal of A-list rosters and nuanced narratives play toward the lasting memory of All-Star past, one iconic image is cemented in the brains of fans and on the backs of throwback wearers worldwide: the turquoise tanks.
These days, as a TV announcer for the Spurs, Elliott’s new workplace of the AT&T Center remains peppered with the nostalgic threads.
“I see them all the time,” Elliott says. “Almost every game at the arena. They’re unique, they’re different. They capture the soul and the spice of the city.”
On Jan. 13, 2023, Elliott will see the same style from the sideline, but through a new lens.
An All-Star Game of sorts will take place at his old home of the Alamodome as San Antonio is set to host the Golden State Warriors — and on the shoulders of this young squad will be the new 2022-23 Spurs City Edition uniforms designed in collaboration with Nike and inspired by those classic ’96 All-Star threads.
“One of San Antonio’s claims to fame is the best All-Star Game uniform of all time,” Nike Senior Product Line Manager for NBA Uniforms Chad Campion told Boardroom.
“That uniform was turquoise with a giant chili pepper across the chest. It was a lot of fun and it’s revered in jersey culture to this day. The Spurs City Edition uniform is inspired by that game and by that uniform.”
Even Elliott agrees with the cultural consensus, co-signing the ’96 original and homage to home.
“San Antonio’s were unique in the sense they really capture the city,” Elliott says. “To have a pepper on the jersey? That’s how we are: soulful, spicy, people that are full of life. The city is the same.”
Never before in NBA history has a City Edition uniform revived an All-Star style from the past.
So, how did this archival classic come back to life?
Boardroom caught up with Spurs swingmen across eras to hear all about this bold retro revival.
This season, Spurs forward Keldon Johnson has been on an absolute tear.
Leading a rebuilding roster with an Olympic gold medal to his resume, Johnson looks the part of both present and future for the black and silver where scoring and leadership are concerned.
All this despite being only 23.
Born months after the Spurs won their first of five NBA championships back in 1999, Keldon’s connection to the team’s pristine past begins with the 1996 All-Star Game despite the event predating his own existence.
“It’s so crazy because I have the All-Star shorts at my house,” Johnson told Boardroom. “I work out in them over the summer and play pickup in them.”
Through throwback threads from Mitchell & Ness, Johnson has long loved the same All-Star aesthetic announcer Sean Elliott once wore when facing off against MJ and Shaq. With this NBA x Nike re-up, he’ll don a louder, lighter version intended for today’s game.
This proves particularly important given as Johnson was yet to arrive literally, let alone with the Spurs, when when the game took placed that debut those iconic designs.
“It was three years before I was born,” Johnson says. “I feel like I’m an old soul so I gravitate towards the old stuff naturally. I like a lot of vintage clothes, so when I saw the jerseys, it was right up my alley.”
This sartorial setup is not just a link to the past, however — it’s a continuation of a story the Spurs have been telling on-court since Keldon’s NBA arrival in 2019. Following years of grey camo-clad looks, San Antonio pivoted to its past where alternate inspiration was considered.
In 2020, they launched their first “Fiesta” City Edition uniforms with Nike. Since then, they’ve never looked back.
“We love that the Spurs are leaning into this Fiesta color palette,” Campion said.
Thankfully, the team loves it, too.
“It’s full-circle,” Johnson says. “It’s dope and it’s next-level because we did the black Fiesta and the white Fiesta, but now the teal? It’s crazy. They knocked it out the park with this one.”
While the creatives teams in San Antonio and Beaverton alike hit a homer with this year’s bold basketball threads, it will be filling a football stadium that fulfills the fully-fledged proof of concept on this collaboration.
See, the Spurs aren’t just looking to recreate history; they’re aiming to make it.
“We’re going to get 65,000”
Weeks after Sean Elliott received that fantastic phone call on the way to practice, he suited up in San Antonio’s Alamodome. Across the court were living legends. In the stands were thousands of his hometown faithful.
That day, the 1996 NBA All-Star Game hosted an unprecedented 36,037 fans. Not only did they see Sean and the Admiral represent their city, but they witnessed Michael Jordan hoist the game’s MVP trophy. It was a major moment for Elliott on-court, and an even bigger one for the city he still lives in.
“It was in our town,” Elliott says, “but as far as the game? The size of the crowd and the amount of people at the game was pretty awe-inspiring. I don’t know if there’d been an All-Star Game played before with that many fans but there were a lot of fans — and a lot of Spurs fans.”
This January, the Spurs are aiming to set the NBA attendance record by returning to the Alamodome for the first time since 2002.
Their current court, the AT&T Center, holds a capacity crowd of 18,580 fans. The Alamodome, an arena used mostly for football and big bowl games, can seat 65,000.
With the Warriors in town and Fiesta threads on their back, Elliott has no hesitation when it comes to San Antonio setting the record. Much of this has to do with the loyal following the Spurs have, many of whom are more than wise to the significance of throwing back the Alamodome aesthetic to that of the 1996 All-Star Game.
“It’s going to give the players a completely different perspective,” Elliott says.
“A lot of the fans that didn’t get to see the game in that environment. Instead of getting 30,000 like we used to, we’re going to get 65,000. That’s going to be incredible to be in that atmosphere because I know that we’re going to do it. I already know that San Antonio is going to turn out for it.”
Around the city, fans have already bought up over half the seats. Thursday’s Spurs City Edition uniform unveiling only adds to the energy.
This proves true for those in the stands and those on the court.
“To have the jerseys is dope, but to throw it all back and play in the Alamodome? That’s even crazier,” Johnson says. “It’s gonna be a movie for sure. That atmosphere is going to be crazy and I can only imagine how San Antonio is going to turn up for that game.”
From fanfare to threads to thematic paint on the court, the energy is mounting towards an all-time high for this All-Star homage aimed at setting an all-time record.
“I know I’m going to be nervous,” Johnson says. “I feel like so many legends have played in the Alamodome. Being able to have the chance to play on the same floor they played on and really have that vintage atmosphere, that’s going to be crazy.”
Averaging 24, 5, and 4, Johnson now looks to join Elliott as an All-Star Spur with his number in the rafters. Until then, he’s putting in the work night in and night out while getting used to becoming a fan favorite in his own right.
“More than ever this year, everywhere I look I see No. 3,” Johnson says of the popularity of his own Spurs jersey, “and that’s so crazy for me because when I was younger I was the kid wearing the Allen Iverson jersey around. Now, to see little kids wearing my jersey or announcing me on the intercom, it’s so surreal to me. It’s like a dream because I remember when I was in the role of those little kids.”
On Jan. 13, 2023, lining up across from established All-Stars like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Johnson will join all active players that night in performing in front of more fans at once than they ever could imagine.
Emotions will be high and energy will be through the roof. The court will be pink and the uniforms will be teal. Even if inspired by the past, it will all be new for Johnson yet fondly familiar for Elliott.
“We’re going to relive all those moments,” Elliott says. “But it gives everybody a chance to step back into the past and relive our history.”
Learn more about Nike’s 2022-23 NBA City Edition jerseys:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Brooklyn Nets
- Chicago Bulls
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Golden State Warriors
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Miami Heat
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
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