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The Sixers’ Alternate Uniforms are Beautiful (Despite Exhausted Inspiration)

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Courtesy of Philadelphia 76ers

Over the last two days, glimpses of the Sixers’ 2018-2019 alternate uniforms have permeated the internet, climaxing today with the organization itself tweeting out snippets from a photoshoot of the new kits and ESPN’s Zach Lowe writing up an in-depth article on the matter.

Courtesy of Philadelphia 76ers

From Lowe’s piece:

Nike, the league’s new jersey supplier, had an idea: three different jerseys, one per year starting in 2018-19, paying homage to various “Rocky” movies. Sylvester Stallone’s fictional boxer is a Philadelphia icon; the famous statue of Rocky, arms raised in triumph, still stands at the bottom of the steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Sixers did not like the idea, says Chris Heck, the team’s president. “[Nike] almost lost me when they presented the idea of doing three,” he says. “Rocky running the streets of Philadelphia -- that’s authentic. Once you get into Clubber Lang and some of other stuff, you lose the luster.”

Nike had been toying with the idea of a new uniform in the shade of heather gray, says Wil Green, design director for Nike basketball. They considered heather uniforms for a few teams. When the Sixers objected to multiple “Rocky” looks, both sides wondered if they might find common ground on a singular “Rocky”-inspired jersey that would reference the gray sweatsuit Stallone wore in the training montage from the original film -- perhaps the most famous of all “Rocky” scenes. (Seriously: If you can watch that scene, with Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” surging in the background, without getting goosebumps, I’m not sure we can be friends.)

I don’t particularly care for Rocky-inspired themes. The original movie is now 42 years old. The whole Philly = Rocky/tough/blue-collar/underdog shtick needs to be laid to rest. I haven’t even gotten to the number: three uniforms. Nike proposed THREE Rocky-themed uniforms? Why not just rename the team the Philadelphia Balboa’s, roster only undrafted players, and practice with large quantities of meat instead of a basketball? Credit to the Sixers for at least pushing back on three year’s worth of Sylvester Stallone commitments.

Now, if you think playing up the Rocky angle is a cringe-worthy, just wait ‘til you read what Scott O’Neil has to say:

* Takes off glasses *

* Rubs eyes *

* Puts glasses back on *

* Reads O’Neil’s tweet again *

Inspiring? What an egregious misuse of the word. We’re talking about a tank top and gym shorts, right? The only time a uniform could be described as “inspiring” is if it’s on the back of someone risking their life, and even then, I’m pretty content with my spot on the couch. A basketball uniform certainly isn’t motivating me (or anyone).

Okay, I’ve done a lot of bitching. So I must counter and say, these uniforms are beautifully designed. The heather grey, the simplicity, the lack of words. Crisp, clean, simple. All you need. Despite my disdain for the “inspiration”, I find the final product to be perfectly executed. I look forward to seeing the Sixers rock these kits for the first time.

We can expect more jersey sets to come out, as I understand it. Still to come is the “Earned” series, which are uniform sets for teams that made last season’s playoffs. And then, if a team sells 100 boxes of cookies, they get their Thin Mints-inspired kits.