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Opinion: The Jazz’s new uniforms are great. It’s the purple mountain ones that are bad

SHARE Opinion: The Jazz’s new uniforms are great. It’s the purple mountain ones that are bad
The four jerseys that the Jazz will wear this year.

The four jerseys that the Jazz will wear during the 2022-23 season.

Utah Jazz

They’re an easy target.

“What’s worse, the possibility of the Jazz entering a long rebuild or those new jerseys?” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst asked in June on the “Hoop Collective” podcast.

Reporter Tim MacMahon then jumped in with a quip about the uniforms worn by his stepsons’ fourth grade summer league team. He described them as cheap, bright-yellow, mesh jerseys with black numbers.

“I call them the junior Jazz,” MacMahon said.

The Jazz unveiled their jerseys for 2022-23 on June 17. The regular season is a little more than a month away, and with the team now in full rebuild mode and more losses on the horizon, we should have ample air time and social media space to debate these uniforms.

From my observation, most people agree with Windhorst and MacMahon. I don’t. I really like the simplicity of the Jazz’s new look.

What puzzles me, though, is the full embrace of the worst uniform in Jazz franchise history.

Somehow, in the midst of all this angst about the black-and-yellow rebrand, the purple mountain jersey became “classic.”

It’s anything but.

Yes, John Stockton “sen(t) the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals” in those uniforms. And the recommitment to purple — from a historical and brand perspective — makes sense.

But the mountain logo/uniform combo introduced in 1996 is the product of a particularly bad era of NBA rebrands — and a cookie-cutter one at that.

The bad NBA rebrands of the 1990s

A lot of things got worse in the ’90s. That includes pro wrestling, MTV and a whole lot of NBA jerseys and logos. Too many teams launched unfortunate rebrands, casting aside truly classic looks for overbearing logos and loud — or strange — color schemes.


Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon in 1998.

Gary M. McKellar, Deseret News

In 1993, the Milwaukee Bucks opted for a realistic, muscular deer and added purple. The Atlanta Hawks also went for realism with their 1995 logo that stretched across some particularly bad uniforms.

The Houston Rockets went the other direction, going completely Toon Town in probably the worst rebrand of the decade. (It hurts to see Hakeem Olajuwon in these.)

But there are four logos in particular that always looked to me like they came out of the same shop.

Nuggets, Sonics, Jazz and Pistons rebrands

In 1994, the Denver Nuggets went away from the rainbow skyline and adopted a more muted blue, red and gold logo. The next year, the Seattle Supersonics also went for duller colors, inexplicably adding red and introducing a logo with a similar feel to Denver’s.

In 1996, the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons rolled out two strikingly similar logos with a crazy number of colors.

The Jazz abandoned the music note and went for purple ... and white ... and light blue ... and teal ... and copper. The Pistons scrapped the classic red-and-blue color scheme and simple logo for a teal, chrome and flame logo set atop a basketball.

I don’t design logos for a living, and I can’t identify any artistic principles that back up this criticism, but those four teams all basically rolled out the same logo in the mid-1990s.


The Detroit Pistons logo, unveiled in 1996.

Associated Press

Like the Jazz, the Pistons have made their mid-1990s “classic” uniform part of the rotation in 2022. ESPN’s Mike Wilbon said it best.

“With apologies to my friend Grant Hill, those uniforms stunk,” Wilbon said on “Pardon the Interruption.” “The Pistons are red and blue. ... Get that teal horsey stuff out of here.”

Future Jazz jerseys

It’s worth noting that most of the teams that rebranded in the 1990s have either gone back to a version of their previous looks or at least simplified things quite a bit.

Those looks didn’t endure.

If the 1970s and 1980s were the decades of bad sports arenas, then the 1990s should be known as the decade of bad NBA uniforms. Fortunately, franchises and cities started building beautiful baseball and football stadiums, and NBA logos and uniforms have gotten much better — with the exception of the Mavericks and Cavaliers.

As for the Jazz, the purple mountain uniforms are a good memory — even if they’re not good. They’re fine for the occasional throwback game. But they’re not “classic.”

The Jazz have recommitted to purple going forward. Who knows what will become of the simple yellow-and-black look? I hope it remains in some fashion, but regardless, the purple jerseys that the Jazz will wear in 2023-24 are really, really good — especially the old-school music note jersey.

That one looks “classic.” No copper. No teal. It would have fit Pete Maravich nicely.