Ranking the 2020-21 NBA City Edition Jerseys
NBA jersey release season is officially here and it is glorious! The soccer world has been raking in the merchandise revenue with new jersey designs every year, so it’s encouraging (or not so encouraging if you ask my wallet) to see the NBA is testing a similar approach. This year, we have been blessed with a wide spectrum of designs ranging from iconic throwbacks to uninspired duds. Here’s my list of 2020-21 City Edition jerseys ranked from worst to best.
30. New York Knicks
These jerseys just about sum up everything you need to know about the New York Knicks over the past 30 years. With all of the resources in one of the most fashionable and recognizable cities in the world, the Knicks have found a way to produce one of the least appealing jerseys I have ever seen. This isn’t the last time I’ll say this, but gradient of any kind in jerseys is a big no-go for me, even if Kith thinks otherwise. It must be tough to be a “Sleeps New York Knicks City Never” fan these days.
29. Sacramento Kings
It’s going to take a lot to convince me that any jersey that says “Sactown” isn’t the worst on the market, which should tell you just how bad those Knicks jerseys really are. Looking at the design of the jersey itself, the light blue piping clashes with the red highlights, neither of which look appropriate on the black base. Throw a checkered pattern on the side and that’s checkmate for me.
28. Los Angeles Clippers
This season, the Clippers have adopted the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, using the same jerseys as last year with an inverted color scheme. The only problem is last year’s jerseys were most definitely “broke.” In theory, the font is intended to represent the ethos of the city of Los Angeles, but in practice, it looks like a doodle from a middle schooler who played too much Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As someone from LA, these don’t do it for me.
27. Boston Celtics
Death, taxes, and the Celtics releasing disappointing City Edition jerseys. This year, the team attempted to honor their long history of success by recreating their iconic championship banners hanging in the rafters of the Boston Garden. I appreciate the intent here, but I, for one, have never looked at a banner and thought “I want to wear that.”
26. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets creative team is truly incredible and has previously produced one of my all-time favorite jerseys, so it pains me to have them so low on this list. Sticking to the theme of honoring local Brooklyn artists, the Nets went with a Basquiat-inspired look that has NBA fans torn. Personally, I don’t like the design, but I’m glad this hits home with Brooklyn natives.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
Like the Nets, Cleveland went for an artistic representation of their city that is a lot better in theory than it is in practice. The Twitter detectives did some nice research to find that the word “Cleveland” is comprised of different letters from famous rock albums over the years, paying homage to the city’s rock-and-roll roots. Admittedly, I’m very impressed by the idea, but the final product looks more like a ransom note than a music album. Is this the Cavs way of telling us that Kevin Love really is being held hostage in Cleveland?
24. Washington Wizards
The Wizards were clearly not paying attention in 2014-15 when the Celtics were getting ripped for releasing grey jerseys. For a basketball city with so much history like DC, this is quite the letdown.
23. Oklahoma City Thunder
I am thoroughly confused by this jersey. The Thunder’s senior vice president of Sales and Marketing said of this design, “It is a tribute to the diverse people of our state who are defined by the values of hard work, perseverance, and kindness. The uniform’s modern look reflects the state’s 21st-century focus on innovation and forward momentum.” Maybe I’m just missing the part of this jersey that screams “perseverance and kindness,” but I’m not sure how this look represents Oklahoma outside of a very loose tie to the state flag.
22. Orlando Magic
The Magic have been making this whole City Edition process way harder on themselves than it needs to be. Instead of misshapen necklines, orange highlights, and grey piping, the team needs to bring back its original pinstripe looks from the Shaq and Penny days. Also, can we all agree that the three-letter city name abbreviations aren’t cool?
21. Detroit Pistons
Snooze. Slapping “Motor City” on the front of an extremely plain jersey that uses the team’s regular color scheme hardly qualifies as a City Edition release.
20. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans took the easy way out this year, going with a replica of the state flag. The only thing that’s “icy” about these jerseys though is their striking resemblance to a firecracker popsicle. Now you won’t be able to unsee it either, you’re welcome.
19. Indiana Pacers
I actually enjoy the pinstripe look on the blue jersey, but the yellow side panel is very “blah.” Close, but not quite up to pace for me.
18. Philadelphia 76ers
When the Sixers brought Allen Iverson back to tease this season’s City Edition release, I, like many NBA fans, was hopeful that we’d see a reincarnation of the iconic AI era black jerseys. While Sixers fans got their wish with the black jersey, the final product was not quite what everyone expected. Philly natives will recognize boathouse row drawn across the front of the jersey, but to most people, this looks like an incomplete doodle of a local neighborhood.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
I appreciate that the Bucks have abandoned the “Cream City” slogan, shifting to a wavy look in honor of the Great Lakes. With that said, these are pretty boring. The slanted block text doesn’t quite go with the flow of the waves, and I would have preferred more of the blue on top. These aren't bad, but I want to see Giannis in something more inspiring.
16. Miami Heat
This is the first year that the Miami Heat haven’t had one of the best jerseys in the league. To be fair, plenty of people absolutely love these, but, as I said before, gradient jerseys just don’t do it for me. The cotton candy look might have been better if the trim was a different color, but there’s just way too much going on for me here. I do have to hand it to the marketing team for naming these the “Visa Versa” jerseys and I appreciate that they took a risk with these, so I bumped these up a handful of spots higher than I originally had them.
15. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have switched up their traditional blue color scheme in favor of a red sunset look for this year’s City Edition jersey. The skyline design has been an iconic constant throughout the Nuggets history, dating back to the Dikembe Mutumbo and Alex English days. They’re making this harder on themselves than it needs to be though – just go back to the originals! These are ok, but I preferred last year’s edition. And honestly, I feel like the Nuggets deserve a detention for the blatant plagiarism of the Utah Jazz.
14. Dallas Mavericks
The bar was extremely low for the Mavs to produce better jerseys than last year’s City Editions, like below sea level low, but I was pleasantly surprised upon first viewing of this season’s release. The white and gold color scheme is a huge upgrade on last year’s blue and neon puke green, so kudos to the Mavs for learning from their mistakes. The wings on the side of the jersey are a nod to the Pegasus statue in downtown Dallas, but this detail took a jersey that was soaring up my rankings back down to earth. While the cheesy design ends up in the middle of the pack from a fashion standpoint, it’s good to see the Mavs are doing their very best to make their star player feel at home in Dallas.
13. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are running back the sunset look yet again, though, like the Nuggets’ design, this season’s iteration takes a small step back in my opinion. I appreciate that the look is clear in its link to the state of Utah, but the black base takes a tiny bit away from the exuberant color pallet from previous years. It’s not as exciting as its predecessors, but it’s still a very nice jersey.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Sometimes, less is more. Yes, I’ve criticized previous jerseys for being too boring, but these aren’t boring to me. The neon green trim is just enough to bring some life to the black base, and the stars lining the right side which are designed to represent “The North Star State” add an element of hometown flash that I appreciate. These would be higher for me if the T-Wolves ditched the “MINN” abbreviation in favor of “Wolves.”
11. Toronto Raptors
Black and gold is always a winning combination for me. The claw marks on the shorts are a bit odd, as they were last year, but it’s the font that is holding these back from being even higher. Cool look, but they're not able to sneak north of the top-10 in my book.
10. Houston Rockets
Let’s keep it simple as the Rockets did – these are cool almost exclusively because of the appealing light blue color. While I could have done without the random stripe down the side, I like this style from the Rockets that ties back to the days of the Houston Oilers.
9. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have continued their “Lore Series” tradition, allowing former Laker legends to help design their City Edition jerseys. Kobe gave us the iconic Mamba jerseys in 2017-18, Magic Johnson opted for a purple pinstripe look in 2018-19, Shaq followed with a star-themed design last year, and now Elgin Baylor continues the series with this clean white jersey with light-blue piping. These aren’t the flashiest jerseys out there, but I love the idea behind this tradition and I’m a big fan of the simplicity of these colors.
The big win for the Lakers, however, was the unveiling of their throwback blue Los Angeles jerseys for which I have been begging for a while now. I may be biased here, but these are some of my favorite jerseys of all-time. These don’t make the list because they’re technically not City Edition jerseys, but I’m a huge fan.
8. Memphis Grizzlies
I wasn’t in love with these when the design first leaked, but this is a classic case of “the jersey looks better when it’s on.” The Grizzlies have done an excellent job paying homage to their team’s roots in recent years, and this season’s jersey is no different, with some fans even going as far as saying this is the best City Edition of all. This jersey was inspired by late Memphis soul icon, Isaac Hayes, with the faint vertical stripes designed to represent vinyl and the print on the side inspired by Kente cloth.
7. Portland Trailblazers
For the first time in team history, the Portland Trailblazers will be donning “Oregon” on their chests. The colorful piping on the side of the jersey “celebrates the unique beauty of Oregon’s landscape as well as acknowledging & honoring the tribal nations throughout what is now considered Oregon who have called this land their home from the beginning.” I’m a fan. I like the colors, I like the symbolism, and I like the message. These are cool.
6. Golden State Warriors
This might be controversial, but I don’t think the original “We Believe” era Warriors jerseys are cool. I appreciate the sentimentality of them, but they weren’t great. The current redesign, on the other hand, is very cool. The colors are brighter, the piping is cleaner, and the design is overall more fun. It took some time for these to grow on me, but I’m officially converted. I can’t wait to see a healthy Steph Curry carry the Warriors back to the playoffs in these.
5. Phoenix Suns
Here’s another case of a jersey that really grew on me. Whether it was the unique promo shoot or the amount of time I’ve spent trying to decide where the Suns will finish in the West this year, something has convinced me to join the masses in liking these. I will never not see “The Volley” across the front or Legos lining the mountains when I look at this jersey, but it’s still cool somehow. It’s just tragic we won’t get to see Tsunami Papi, Kelly Oubre, wear these ever again.
4. Atlanta Hawks
While I am sad to see the peach colorway from last year’s “Peachtree” jerseys go, I am glad the Hawks opted for a nearly equally cool pattern with the black and gold lining. These are simple, but I think they work extremely well. And in a period where social reform and political activism is at the forefront of the sports industry, the Hawks' partnership with the King Estate Foundation is extremely poignant and powerful.
3. Chicago Bulls
This is a gorgeous jersey. The colorway, the font, the piping on the side – the Chicago Bulls did an excellent job this year. From the nod to the city’s skyscrapers to the art deco fonts and designs, this jersey feels sleek like Chicago. Now it’s up to the Bulls to follow through on their “no little plans” motto.
2. Charlotte Hornets
These. Are. Awesome. The Hornets took a page out of soccer’s book by going to the mint green look and it absolutely worked. I cannot wait to see LaMelo Ball rock these this year.
1. San Antonio Spurs
You are wrong if these aren’t at the top of your list. I’ll hear an argument for the Hornets… then tell you you’re wrong… but any other answer is simply incorrect. The Spurs have played it safe with their jerseys in recent years, but this throwback represents a much-needed departure from their traditional look. There are some excellent jerseys on this list this year, but the Spurs fiesta takes the cake.