The NBA has a problem. Over the past few years, every team has received a new City Edition jersey, and each year, they look worse and worse. Some of the great ones, such as the original Valley jerseys that the Phoenix Suns wore a few years back, were amazing but have since been replaced by another lazy design. Every single season, the jerseys that the NBA and Nike produce get leaked online just to be met with disapproval from fans all over the globe. It’s not like they’re the only league introducing them either; MLB has a similar setup with Nike and the City Connect jerseys.
Just like the NBA, there are some real hits in the MLB such as the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins, but they’ve also missed on a few, like the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The difference, however, between the two leagues is that the City Connect jerseys have been permanent. Since the Boston Red Sox were the first team to debut the alternate jersey back in 2021, they have kept their Marathon Yellow jerseys for the past few years, wearing them for occasional series. Nothing from the uniform has changed over that time and many fans wear those jerseys to every game. Even looking at the Rockies and Dodgers, two teams that originally wore colored pants (green and blue, respectively) with the city connects, they now wear white, but the jersey is still the same. I think that the consistency of keeping the jersey has allowed them to receive better feedback as they tend to grow on people over time. Especially when it started, these jerseys weren’t typically loved by the MLB community, but now you can’t go to a game without seeing fans wear and embrace them. While Nike has definitely done a better job with the MLB than the NBA in the jersey department, I think that they’re doing an even better job in the NFL.
The past few weeks, we’ve seen numerous jerseys make a comeback in the NFL, including the “Kelly Green” Eagles jerseys on Sunday Night Football against the Dolphins. Others, like the Buccaneers’ “Creamsicle” jersey, the Patriots’ red “Pat Patriot” jersey and even the Seattle Seahawks throwbacks are really clean. Nike even did something similar to the City Connect and City Edition concept with the NFL, introducing the Color Rush alternates a few years back. While there were bound to be a few duds, some have already cemented themselves as mainstays in teams’ locker rooms. What has elevated those as well was the NFL changing the helmet rules, allowing teams to use multiple colors on their helmet in a season, unlike years prior. This gave rise to an all-white Bengals Color Rush design, an orange color rush for the Broncos with a retro white helmet and even the Bears and Colts introducing different colored helmets as well. Buffalo, who haven’t donned red helmets since 2010, teased it a little bit in training camp this past offseason that they’d be bringing it back, which has Bills fans excited for its comeback. But this is the biggest thing that I think that Nike is doing with the NFL. The NFL and Nike are paying attention to what the fans want. They do this by bringing back retro jerseys and concepts that fans always talk about and listening to what the fans say they want to see next. When Cincinnati introduced the white Color Rush, a bunch of people posted online about what it would look like with a white helmet, and sure enough, as soon as the rule was changed, it was introduced. When the helmet rule changed, everyone was talking about the “Pat Patriot” and “Creamsicle” jerseys. The NBA isn’t really leaning into being consistent or listening to what the fans want, and that’s where they need to change.
To fix the issue of disappointing fans every season with the City Edition jerseys, let them pick the designs. All of these franchises are followed by talented artists and designers who could put together concepts that fans really want to see. Fans are making jersey swaps and alternate jerseys all the time on social media. If the NBA and Nike can turn that into a contest where fans vote on final designs, they’ll receive better feedback on those jerseys. On X, there’s a Celtics fan by the name of Pete Rogers who designs jerseys after every single Celtics win. He got so popular within the Boston fanbase that he was able to start selling jerseys that he designed for profit, and fans literally wore those jerseys to games.
Getting the fans more involved with the process allows them to build a deeper connection with the concepts instead of just having Nike repeat the cycle of releasing boring jerseys every season. Also, if the NBA adopted the same principle as the MLB and NFL of keeping jerseys instead of replacing them every season, that’ll force Nike to focus on better designs. All things considered, the NBA has disappointed fans with these City Edition jerseys almost every year, so change is inevitable. This is the route I think they should go in that can change how these jerseys are created to be a better product for fans.