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Timberwolves City Edition 2022-23: Cut From a Different Cloth

“We challenged Nike to do something that hadn’t been done before,” Minnesota Timberwolves Chief Marketing Officer Mike Grahl told Boardroom.

On Monday in Minneapolis, the Target Center looked more like First Avenue.

Hosting the Miami Heat, the Minnesota Timberwolves put on an electric show in a climactic comeback win.

Across the hardwood stage, the likes of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Rudy Golbert all wore white, yet none of them had the same jersey on.

(David Berding / Getty Images)

Debuting their 2022-23 City Edition Uniforms, the T’Wolves took artistry to new heights by bringing out a unique set of shorts and tops that correspond across athletes in theme but prove one-of-one in appearance.

While the on-court christening took place earlier this week, the creative process to bring this look to life didn’t happen overnight.

“It started two years ago, which is the typical design process for Nike and the NBA,” Mike Grahl, Minnesota Timberwolves chief marketing officer, told Boardroom.

Coming off a string of City Edition styles likened to Prince and franchise history, the imaginative minds in Minnesota aimed to create a canvas inspired by all artists across their great state, cut and sewed stylistically to outfit the masters of the hoop craft.

To make it all come to life, the team needed not just the OK from the NBA, but also the innovation from their league’s sponsor in Beaverton.

“We challenged Nike to do something that hadn’t been done before,” Grahl says.

Miami has a unique uniform for each player, but we wanted to see if we could do something unique for every individual uniform — not just the authentic that our athletes wear on the court but everything that shows up at retail for fans.”

So, how did the Timberwolves channel the City Edition meaning by incorporating artists, athletes, and attendees into an aesthetic expression that’s both inclusive and individualized all at once? Boardroom found out.

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Gallery Garb

Unbeknownst to out-of-towners, the Land of 10,000 Lakes is all home to thousands of artists.

From Bob Dylan to The Daily Show, The Purple One to the Peanuts, the state of Minnesota exports much of America’s best work in music, television, film, and paint to all 50 states and beyond.

“There’s a ton of really well-known creators in the state of Minnesota,” says Grahl.

“We see this as an opportunity to shine a light on those that could maybe benefit from the stage of an NBA outfitting. We’ve used local creators in every City Edition uniform that we’ve had.”

This embedding of the arts is not only singular to City Edition consulting, but also to the Timberwolves staff itself.

From team chaplain Matt Moberg — an illustrator, artist, and painter commissioned to do a piece for the uniform launch — to a musician that serves as part of the franchise cleaning crew, the idea that artists are everywhere in Minnesota is not just a mantra but a fact.

“We have an incredibly vibrant community of creators that live in the state of Minnesota,” Grahl says.

“As we were going through the conversations with Nike and the NBA, it wasn’t about a singular artist. It was about the collection of all. The community is tight-knit and they draw inspiration from each other. Musicians are inspired by chefs and chefs are inspired by painters and sculptures and so on.”

Across the state, every talent takes to different platforms to showcase their gifts. For some, it’s a plate. For others, it’s a court. But for all, it’s the shared sentiment of a blank base to amplify expression. Such is seen on this City Edition uniform.

“The white base was first and foremost the starting point because it’s symbolic of a canvas in which art comes to life,” Grahl says.

“The ‘Minnesota’ wordmark and jersey numbers utilize a typeface created by a Minneapolis-based type designer, who was inspired by an iconic building in the city’s skyline.”

(David Berding / Getty Images)

To tell the story of all artists creating both communally and individually, the T’Wolves and Nike used a custom pattern inspired by colors corresponding to franchise history and city identity.

“We wanted it to be vibrant but within our team DNA,” says Grahl. “The layering of the colors is purposeful and intentional, with the Kevin Garnett era’s wolf logo [represented by] the red being the tongue and the yellow being the eyes. Our original logo is blue and green, and our 2019-20 City Edition jersey was a lighter blue.”

This creates the pattern which, like great art, draws unsuspecting on-lookers to the bigger story.

“It represents individual creators coming together to form something beautiful,” Chad Campion, Nike‘s senior product line manager for NBA uniforms, told Boardroom.

“It’s part of a much bigger pattern. Every single jersey and short is cut randomly from the larger pattern, essentially creating one-of-a-kind garments. Every player on the court is going to have slightly different versions of this uniform which is super unique.”

Taking two years to create, this out-of-the-box piece of wearable art was lots of work to create and also overwhelming for some to take in. Nevertheless, it’s pushing the envelope on uniforms by making something intentionally not uniform.

Roundball Renaissance

Like any statement piece of art, the Nike x Timberwolves’ “Own Every Canvas” uniforms are causing conversation and mixed reactions.

Internally, the players appear to love them as seen by a 1-0 record when wearing said style and through the form of team photography.

“The visuals that were captured? We want it to be bright and bold, and the player reactions displayed that. There was very little we had to do to encourage it,” says Grahl.

“When they first saw [the jerseys] and realized it? We had the uniforms all hung up and there was a stark reality that hit them that they were all excited about. Because there’s more depth to this than anyone we’ve ever had before, they were struck by the boldness.”

(David Berding / Getty Images)

As illustrated, that boldness came through channeling the spirit of local artists and working with the Swoosh.

Nike, despite being 40 years old and valued at over $164 billion, is no stranger to pushing popular thought and challenging aesthetics through innovation.

Because of this, the tandem task created in Minnesota was a blast.

“It’s fun working with the Timberwolves. They’re a really collaborative organization,” said Campion.

“The biggest challenge was executing and making it happen. I’m really excited about how we were able to unlock that and bring something new that had never been produced for any other team.”

This season, the T’Wolves will wear their “Own Every Canvas” City Edition Uniforms in 23 games, including 10 home outings.

Swingman jerseys and shorts are already being sold both in-store and online at the T’Wolves team shop, with various boutiques around Minneapolis displaying the uniforms in a stylized fashion.

The team will also take the Target City with a customized City Edition court, painted in the lightest possible stain for TV visibility. This basically blank aesthetic is meant to portray the court as a canvas, painting a through-line between the artistry of the gallery and airborne variety.

“The game is poetry in motion,” Grahl says. “Dancing on a beat, the stroke of a paintbrush.

“We want to bring a different level of energy and it’s going to show up in the arena.”

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