General Manager Sean Marks has remade the Brooklyn Nets from the floorboards up. Now, he’s changing those, too. And like practically everything Marks has done in his GM tenure, it’s a reward well worth the risk.
Two weeks ago, the Nets unveiled their new primary court for the upcoming season. It’s jarring, but not for the same reason as the horrific Memphis court unveiled last week full of disorienting colors and phallic imagery, It’s almost entirely gray, and the first like it in NBA history.
I’ll admit, when I first saw the new design, my heart sank a little bit. Not because I initially disliked it, but because the previous design looked so utterly fantastic both on TV and in person. The hardwood was slightly darker than most courts, emphasized by the unique herringbone pattern, which added a signature flare. The simple center logo, the black painted area, the bold “Brooklyn” endline text—it was objectively one of the most appealing courts in the league.
The colors of our new floor, weathered wood and concrete gray, represent playground courts throughout the borough; the brownstone-lined streets and Brooklyn’s industrial foundation. The palette engrains the grit and determination of Brooklyn into our playing surface. pic.twitter.com/S5tRw5TOzP— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) September 23, 2019
But the more I stared at the redesign, the more I loved it. For one, we are clearly entering a new, unprecedented era in the Nets franchise. With the arrival of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and the sad departure of D’Angelo Russell, it feels like a new beginning in Brooklyn. What better time to completely revamp the court design than now?
In addition, like all Nets branding in recent years, including the spectacular Biggie-inspired alternates, there’s purpose and history behind every decision. Since arriving in Brooklyn, the team’s marketing has centered around and celebrated the “grit and determination” of the borough. Now the court matches that messaging.
The court is primarily designed to replicate the concrete playground courts seen throughout Brooklyn. The herringbone design is back, albeit a little less noticeable, alluding to Brooklyn’s brownstone streets. The lettering, my favorite touch, uses the same font as New York’s subway system, and the sidelines are lined with faux subway tiles. It’s a court that perfectly encapsulates the borough surrounding it, something no other team can imitate.
I highly recommend reading Zach Lowe’s excellent piece about the court’s journey, including the suggested designs left on the cutting room floor. Once you learn about the hundreds of hours of thought and labor that go into even the smallest of details, you gain an even greater appreciation for the new design.
Since moving to Brooklyn, the Nets have always used black and white as their signature palette. Meeting halfway at gray, and going all in with it, is a risk that certainly pays off. I’m also a big fan of the redesigned center logo, removing the “Brooklyn, New York” in favor of the simplified, black-and-white “B.” That one letter has become recognizable, and Marks suggested that the simplified logo will be used considerably more this year.
The rebranding doesn’t end at the court, either. Last week, the Nets unveiled this year’s Statement Edition uniforms, which are gray. The “BKLYN” lettering is graffiti-inspired with white stars down the sides. The Nets will wear them 22 times this season.
The jerseys, however, were met with substantially more lukewarm reviews from fans, partly due to the clamor for jerseys with “Nets” written across the chest. While I don’t mind the insistence on Brooklyn—after all, that pride is exactly what has made the team’s branding so great—I do agree that the jerseys come off as bland and uninspired compared to most of the Nets’ bold designs.
The good news is that the Boogie-inspired City Editions will also be back this year, now in white, despite a lawsuit from Coogi. The so-called “Brooklyn Camo” will also be featured on the floor on those nights, which should look fantastic.
The question with the gray court was whether it would translate to TV. So far in the preseason, the court has looked great on the screen . The minimalist court and grayscale palette allow the players and the ball to stand out, and it doesn’t look like a lifeless black-and-white telecast as some had feared. Whether on TV or on the couch, the court allows the action to be the focal point: action which figures to be entertaining for years to come.
That’s not to say the court fades to the background either. It’s another successful bold statement from Sean Marks and the Nets: a hardwood that weaves together pleasing aesthetics and Brooklyn-specific symbolism.
For years, a fundamental piece of Brooklyn Nets branding has been the short but sweet hashtag, “#WeGoHard.” The new court certainly does.
Thumbnail photo from AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @asmor24.