We've all known for a long time that Nike would be taking over the NBA's uniform program for the 2017-18 season. Until now, however, Nike's hand hasn't been that apparent in the new designs that have been released. Many teams have unveiled new uniforms are that essentially the same thing they'd already been wearing, or with extremely minor tweaks. The one team to have revealed a significant redesign so far, Indiana, has a new look that doesn't feel especially Nike-ish.
That all changes today with the release of the Cavaliers' new uniforms. This feels like a Nike design, primarily because of the typography, which is rendered in a custom font full of angles and points and hard-edged negative space. It feels like something from a college football uniform, or maybe a from a video game. Which is to say, it feels very, very Nike.
None of this was unexpected. The typography had already been showcased in a new set of logos that was unveiled several months ago and also on some new merchandise, and hints about the uniforms themselves had come via video game screenshots. Still, seeing the actual uniforms allows us to make some before-and-after comparisons.
Remember, the NBA's new protocol allows the home team to wear any color it chooses, with the visiting team required to wear a sufficiently contrasting color, so there are no more "home" and "road" uniform designations. Let's start with the white design:
Old/new comparison of Cavs' white uniform. pic.twitter.com/YI3SeZ4RlR— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) August 7, 2017
First, some full disclosure: The feeling here at Uni Watch HQ has always been that the Cavs' uniforms were at their best during LeBron James' first stint with the team, and that their more recent unis are rather bland by comparison. With that in mind, this new redesign feels like a wash. Using the team's nickname instead of the full "Cavaliers" lettering is fine, and so is all the new trim on the collar, armholes, side panels, waistband and shorts (the various bits of gold accenting are particularly nice). But ugh, that typeface -- it's all one big thud, with no grace or elegance.
It doesn't help that the Cavs are one of the teams that have chosen to go with a corporate advertising patch this season -- Goodyear, in their case -- and that the Nike maker's mark is now being featured on the uniforms. Overall, not a terrible uniform, but not a great one either. This lands squarely in the middle of the NBA pack. Grade: B-
Now let's take a look at the wine uniform:
Old/new comparison of Cavs' wine uniform. pic.twitter.com/alA6cBSEUk— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) August 7, 2017
Nike has an odd habit of using dim lighting for many of its promotional photos, so it's possible that this uniform will look brighter on the court than it does on the internet. For now, though, it feels like a significant downgrade. The blue numbers will be hard to make out, and the longer "Cleveland" lettering just means there's more of that typeface to contend with. Grade: C+
It's worth noting that the uniform set includes two Easter eggs: The slogan "All for one, one for all" appears in two spots -- toward the bottom of the jersey and under a flap on the shorts. Again, this is very Nike. If you're a fan of the sportswear giant, the embroidered slogans probably seem cool; if you're not, they probably merit an eye roll. Either way, neither iteration will be visible during a game, so neither one really matters one way or the other when assessing the design.
The Cavs, like all NBA teams, will be unveiling two additional uniforms soon, although the time frame hasn't yet been announced. Meanwhile, at least two more teams will be unveiling their basic white and colored uniforms later this week: the Nuggets on Tuesday and the Timberwolves on Thursday, and probably several more as the week unfolds. Stay tuned.
Paul Lukas writes about uniforms for ESPN.com. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.