Since they moved from New Orleans in , the Jazz have always had a peculiar, almost sheepish relationship with the nickname that made the trip with them. They know Salt Lake City has very little connection with jazz music, but they also know the nickname works on other levels that it distills the improvisational fluidity of basketball, and carries historical cachet.
Almost by accident, the hot s of this new jersey make for a nice complement to the icy mountain jerseys of theJohn StocktonKarl Maloneheyday. Internally, weve been calling them fire and ice, Starks says.Editors PicksLowe Theyre not guarding us Inside Houstons shot to stop a dynasty
They decided to leave the paint empty, and shift the gradations to the edges of the court a perfect compromise. The shaded Delicate Arch would then serve as the oncourt standin for the red rocks theme. The team initially wanted a giant arch absolutely massive, Starks says, chuckling that would rise from the sideline all the way to midcourt, and stretch almost from the tip of one point arc to the other. Their original conception was bigger than NBA regulations allow.
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The result is unlike anything the NBA has ever seen rippling gradations of orange and red with a matching court design that includes the mousDelicate Arch
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The whole ensemble could have easily ended up hideous, or even worse boring. Nike experimented with solid orange and red jerseys instead of the final striped versions, but everyone wanted to push the boundaries further. The solid jerseys looked too much like maroon uniforms the Cleveland Cavaliers and Arizona State University wear, Starks says.
The team put in a ton of research maps laid out on le and everything to make sure they got those routes right, down to every twist and turn.
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The Jazz name is never going away, says Ben Barnes, the teams art director. It is our identity here. But it has always been hard to fit Utah and jazz together.
They plopped a new logo onto the court in opposite corners a reddishorange outline of the state of Utah with a basketball drawn inside. A white version gets the coveted belt buckle spot on the jerseys. A glowing golden Delicate Arch an awesome touch ishidden underneath the flap of the shorts.
This was a large undertaking. Utah is one of just three teams that introduced a new court to match its city edition look. New courts run around ,, and sometimes more, industry sources say. The intent is for teams to unveil a new city edition jersey each year, but the Jazz are talking to Nike and the league about using this look again next season.
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The team will wear the new orangered duds for the first time on Jan. , in a game against Golden State, and then in eight additional games. It is unclear how often they might be able to wear them in the playoffs, should the Jazz make it.
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The very best touch of all reinforces that the jagged, swerving linesmarking the trim from the shoulders to the waiston each side of the jersey trace the highway routes from Salt Lake City to Moab on the right side and from Salt Lake to St. George on the left.
The wordmark on both the floor and the jerseys reads only Utah. There is no mention of jazz. That is intentional. The new look is a reminder that the team belongs to the entire state, and not just the Salt Lake City area where it plays, Starks and Barnes say.
Nike came back with motifs based on Utahs spectacular nature. The Jazz perked up, with one reservation, Barnes recalls Stay away from the mountains. Weve been there. Utah made backtoback Finals in the late s wearing blueandwhite jerseys featuring snowcapped mountains.
They are also already at work on the next city edition, regardless of when they debut it. It will celebrate another part of the state and likely another set of natural elements.
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It was a gamble. The s are garish, totally outside the Jazzs normal scheme. Swing from your shoetops, and you might end up with a monstrosity like Minnesotas new blinding neon yellow jerseys. There is a lot going on, Barnes says of the new Utah jersey, laughing. It is bold.
They struck the right balance with this muted brownishorange. Even the state government is happy. About a decade ago, the states Office of Tourism surveyed people from outside Utah and found a lot of them didnt realize Delicate Arch and other mous natural landmarks were in Utah, says David Williams, associate managing director at the Utah Office of Tourism. They just assumed the s we showed them were of something in Arizona and New Mexico, Williams says.
They talked about ing the traditional painted area of the court with the same striping as the uniforms, but found it too noisy. Players wearing the striped uniforms would become camouflaged running through the paint, Starks says. The Rockets ran into this problem during the regretly gaudy s, when they painted large swatches of their court blue and hosted teams with blue road uniforms. Former NBA commissioner David Stern fumed when he saw the blueonblue look on television, league officials have said.
That cluttered the court. They settled on the sideline area. The was a challenge. Make it too dark, and it would be distracting. Make it too light, and it would be hard to see both on television and from certain seats inside the arena an issue for both Denver with those axes and Cleveland, with the city skyline shaded along the near sideline.
The Jazz considered the court essential the piece that ties everything together. They loved the final jerseys, but were worried that ns especially those outside of Utah wouldnt understand what they represented without another visual cue.
They were good ideas, says Steve Starks, Jazz president. People would have liked them. But we challenged Nike. This was an opportunity for us to be really aggressive. Lets push. Lets be unique. Any beethemed art might tread too closely on the territory of theCharlotte Hornets, anyway.
The Jazz are bracing for a big reaction. They are optimistic it will be mostly positive, but they know any big change meets with some resistance. When the Jazz released their new statement uniforms a yellowgold uni with a Jazz note in the middle some traditionalists lobbied against it. There was a lot of, What are you doing? Its awful! Barnes says. And now everyone thinks its the greatest uniform. Some players have asked if they can wear that one for every game, Barnes and Starks say. Under league rules, they cant.
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Thats why the Jazz got more excited than perhaps any other franchise when they learned two years ago that Nike, as part of its new partnership with the NBA, would design four new jerseys for each team. The final one, the socalled city edition, would give every franchise the chance to venture r out of the box.
Zach Lowe ZachLowe_NBA is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.
The alternative was obvious referencing the red, rocky vistas of southern Utah and the states five national parks.
They experimented with shading a larger arch inside each of the point arcs, as the Nuggets have done with pickax patterns over the past few seasons.
They knew right away they wanted to use the fourth jersey to shove the jazz name into the and in the end, out of the art entirely and honor something more true to Utah. Nikes designers initially pitched ideas centering on Utahns reputation for industriousness, and the primacy of the honeybee.
We like to say Mother Nature played vorites with Utah, Starks says.