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Every NBA “City Edition” Jersey Should Draw Inspiration From a Pop-Culture Icon

This is our big takeaway from Nike’s most recent rollout of uniform designs

NBA/Ringer illustration

Nike’s NBA “City Edition” jerseys are back for another year, giving each franchise the opportunity to reflect civic culture by way of shiny new uniforms. And there are a whole lot of, um, interesting inspiration stories, new color schemes, and confusing choices. Aesthetics matter in basketball, and that extends to the work attire. Jerseys matter, too! And so it is with great seriousness that I have decided to rank them all.

1. Toronto Raptors

Drake, as always, wins. The OVO-branded jerseys are the caviar of city jerseys. They just look luxurious. I’m a sucker for unconventional shapes, so the champagne-colored arrow with “North” in black lettering gets a high mark. The white is also much better than the black edition from last season.

2. Miami Heat

The Heat knew they struck gold with the white Miami Vice–inspired jerseys they had last season, so they stuck with the design in this year’s black “Vice Nights” variant. The rollout included a promo video with Phil Collins playing in the background while Heat players showered in the full uniform. Really:

While this look is exquisite (and comes with a court design to match), nothing can top the white version from last year. Let’s try going with the pink as the base color next year, just for fun.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

When you see a Prince-inspired jersey, it’s hard not to put the Wolves at the top of this list and call it a day. Especially after last season’s were just … gray. It all works, from the font, to the colors, to the pattern along the right shoulder area inspired by Prince’s outfit from when he performed “Purple Rain.” It’s a near-perfect jersey. I’m gonna regret not putting it at no. 1, aren’t I?

4. Denver Nuggets

Can you see a pattern with the top choices here? They all have color. It’s almost like the normalization of a blue-and-red-and-white color scheme is bad for the NBA. The Nuggets knocked it out of the park by bringing back the Rainbow Skyline look they sported from 1981 to 1993. These are beautiful, and the black trim and lettering combine for a perfect, balancing touch. These should be the permanent uniform.

5. New Orleans Pelicans

I can’t get enough of the Mardi Gras color scheme. Much like the Nuggets, the Pelicans are using the perfect amount of color and matching it with white and black to make it pop. What they erred on is the number formatting. Why are the numbers on the front left-aligned instead of centered?

6. Boston Celtics

Why did the Celtics spend all their recent years trying to make gray a thing? This look is miles better than last season’s because, well, it’s actually an appeal to their team’s history. The yellow outline is an instant nostalgia trip — an homage to Larry Bird’s classic warm-up jacket.

7. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors rarely miss, even when it comes to jerseys, and this one is no different. The “Bay” moniker will never stop being cool, and dark navy with yellow always looks good.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers

I will unabashedly ride for these. We need more color! The orange is soft enough to where it’s not headache-inducing (also, the Cavs did wear orange once upon a time!), and the indigo is a perfect complement. I love the jagged patterns, which are a modern update on the old ’90s Cavs jerseys from the Shawn Kemp days. This is the only top-10 ranking the Cavs will be getting all season. Let them have it. Oh, and please free Kevin Love:

9. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have rarely strayed from their monochrome palette, but they’ve finally added a unique pattern to the trim. A Coogi-inspired design that pays tribute to Biggie? I’m all the way here for it.

10. Portland Trail Blazers

It’s impossible to mess up black and red together, but I like that the Blazers opted for more of a charcoal look (more on this in a bit). “Rip City” also is just an incredibly cool thing to have emblazoned on the front of a jersey.

11. Utah Jazz

The Jazz brought back the sunset, Red Rock–inspired gradient from last season. After a season-long adjustment period, I have come around on these. At first, they felt overwhelming, like I needed to cover myself in spray tan to prevent overexposure. But paired with the matching court, these add actual style to an otherwise drab Jazz color scheme.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder did a cool thing here by honoring the state’s Native American culture through their city jerseys, and the result is mostly good. The pattern along the waistline of the shorts is unique, and the accents of orange tie the uniform together well. Part of me wishes they would have tried to do this with a white base, blending in both the turquoise and the orange as accents. It would have made the patterns stand out more, too.

13. Atlanta Hawks

I like the Hawks toning it down from their bright-red neon look to a more classic, gold-lined look with a jagged pattern on the side paneling. It’s their 50th-anniversary season, and part of me wishes they would have brought back the red-and-yellow look from the Dominique Wilkins days, but this also has a regal, commemorative vibe to it.

14. Los Angeles Clippers

Given that I am against teams trending toward blues and reds (looking at you, Nuggets), I am shocked at how much I like these. The speed-blurred “LA” looks great, and I’m surprised it took this long to get one of the L.A. teams to do this. The blue-and-white palette and five red stars are a celebration of the 1984 Olympics, and the jersey also includes the signature of longtime Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler, who is retiring after the season.

15. Milwaukee Bucks

I wanted to put these in the bottom 10 because I think they look like what a McDonald’s rec league basketball team would wear (the huge Harley-Davidson logo doesn’t help). But the Bucks do get points for creativity. Paired with the very cool-looking Mecca court, these could look better in-game.

16. Chicago Bulls

I think these work? They are inspired by the Chicago flag, and the black works well with the red stars and the soft-blue piping. The biggest compliment I can give them is that they don’t look anything like an NBA jersey.

17. Washington Wizards

The black “District of Columbia” lettering is sharper than the white versions from last season. The Wizards claim the design is meant to “celebrate the one-of-a-kind scene that is Washington, D.C.’s National Mall at night.” Not bad, but not great. Wish we could say the same for the state of the team.

18. Houston Rockets

A lot of gold this year! Here, it’s seen in the trim and lettering. The “auspicious cloud” pattern is distinct, but the jerseys as a whole aren’t exactly show-stoppers.

19. Detroit Pistons

Oh, I get it: the tire tracks, Detroit. Motor City. Car companies. Cool. It works. The best part about this jersey, which isn’t saying a whole lot, is that they went with the darker gray as the main base and made the tracks light gray. Speaking of which …

20. Philadelphia 76ers
21. Memphis Grizzlies
22. Indiana Pacers

It’s time to talk about gray. It’s a versatile color, a fine choice for any kind of outfit, but it really doesn’t work on jerseys. The problem here is the shades of gray these teams all chose. The Sixers’ uniforms look sweatpants-cheap.

The Pacers and the Grizzlies, meanwhile, are just boring.

At least Philly had a reason for going gray. I don’t know what the other two teams were thinking.

23. New York Knicks

I guess the stripes on the side are supposed to represent the city’s skyline, but honestly, they just look like orange and blue stripes. This feels like a missed opportunity for one of the most visually recognizable franchises in the sport.

24. Sacramento Kings

There’s something about these that just doesn’t work, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the half-hearted commitment to the powder blue? Or the insistence on including the red? Maybe it’s the font, which looks like it doesn’t belong on this or any jersey, ever.

25. Phoenix Suns

The Suns should forever honor their city’s Hispanic heritage, but the “Los Suns” just looks off. We don’t put “The Suns” on the regular jerseys, so why not go with just the direct translation of suns: Soles. I guess because the team isn’t sponsored by orthopedists

26. Charlotte Hornets

There’s not a whole lot going on here. Buzz City is almost as good as Rip City in terms of city nicknames, and the teal will always be appealing to my eye, but there’s not a whole lot of creativity with this version. Then again, I don’t really know what else the Hornets have to work with since they already have teal uniforms.

27. Los Angeles Lakers

I absolutely loved that the Lakers went back to an old-school look for their regular purple and gold this season. But with the city jerseys, it looks like they ran out of ideas. Why not bring back the Minneapolis powder blues?

28. Orlando Magic

These are far less inspired than last season’s, when the Magic actually put all of outer space on their jerseys. They could have at least brought in the pinstripes, which have worked so well on their regular uniforms, to make things a little more interesting.

29. San Antonio Spurs

Judging this jersey strictly on looks and not inspiration, this one is about as tough to look at as it is to watch a Spurs roster that is averaging 28.7 midrange attempts a game. Bring back the Fiesta color scheme, please.

30. Dallas Mavericks

I don’t understand. Per the Mavs, this is supposed to be a jersey that is designed around a “True Maverick” theme, which I guess just stands for black jersey and blue piping with the normal logo on the front. What is this supposed to say about Dallas?