One of the most undeniably essential aspects of being a fan of NBA basketball is the fashion, and for the 2020-2021 season, each team introduced a brand new jersey that is supposed to represent their respective cities. These NBA city jerseys run the gamut conceptually and aesthetically from artful and inspirational to boring and downright baffling. I thought it would be fun to rank every single design from best to worst because the real fun here is marveling over some increasingly terrible designs. If any of these jerseys catch your eye you can shop for them here, and remember, this is all in good fun!
I will admit that I am completely biased here, as I am a Bulls fan and Chicago guy, but I think these jerseys are undeniably great. They’re a tribute to the architecture of the city as well as to the roaring 20’s. The color scheme and font choice on display here just look so wonderfully elegant. Call me a homer all you want, but these are the absolute pinnacle of NBA city jerseys. Fight me.
These jerseys should absolutely not work at all, yet they work incredibly well. They’re a throwback to the team’s 90’s jerseys, and the contrast between the black and the vibrant stripes is just beautiful. It somehow makes me nostalgic for a time that I’m too young to remember.
Ranking a jersey dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is really difficult. A tribute to such an incredible force for good in the world gives this jerseys a weight that the others simply don’t have. It’s simple design allows King’s initials to take center stage, just as they should.
Now we’ve already exhausted the jerseys that I think are genuinely great and we’re moving into the jerseys that are just pretty good. A few of the NBA city jerseys adopt this gradient style design, but this one is the best application. It’s simple and eye-catching yet. It doesn’t need anything else.
The description of this jersey reads “Music has long been tied to the soul of Memphis. A new energy emerges from the team on the court, inspired by Isaac Hayes.” I can’t think of a cooler inspiration for a jersey, and this design looks fantastic. It would be even higher on the list if the letters and symbols on the sides and collar didn’t look like a conspiracy waiting to happen.
There’s something intimidating about that font. Of all the NBA city jerseys, I think this is really the only one that says “Let’s take this outside.” Sure, they’ve already used a nearly identical design before, but when it comes to this jersey, I just don’t care. Hey, at least the Clippers finally beat the Lakers at something.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t put the Lakers directly behind the Clippers out of spite. These jerseys are so plain, yet I love them aesthetically. Paying tribute to the legendary Elgin Baylor, this design honors the legacy of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises and is just cute.
I adore the 2000’s era Warriors jerseys, and this throwback really works for me. It would be higher on the list, but I can’t help but feel like its pretty disingenuous to roll out a jersey that just says “Oakland” on it when the Warriors just moved into a new stadium in San Francisco. That’s a little bit like getting a lover’s named tattooed on your body after dumping them.
Even though I love the regality of this design, I can’t help but feel like there is something off about it. It’s apparently inspired by the mythical Pegasus, but I don’t really see how. It doesn’t really make sense, nor does it represent Dallas, but it sure is pretty. There’s something unintentionally hilarious about the unmitigated whiteness of Porzingis in this jersey.
There’s something about this Crayola-ass design that speaks to me. It doesn’t seem to connect to Oregon in any meaningful way, but I still like it. It makes me feel like I’m in elementary school and I just brought the 128-pack of crayons in for the first time. I truly am the master of my own destiny.
A lot of these NBA city jerseys miss the mark conceptually, and this is a great example to me. It is inspired exclusively by the valley of the sun, and yet it just screams DJ in the 90’s to me. I can’t hate it though, the colors are just too good.
We’re crossing into the next tier. Now things are starting to get mediocre. This design allegedly takes inspiration from the Oklahoma state flag and even the shape of the state itself, but to me the aesthetic just screams NASCAR. In the immortal words of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Sorry, OKC.
I can’t help but laugh at the grandiosity of this jersey’s description. It “…takes design inspiration from the three local rivers that feed into the Great Lake Michigan. Forever a central meeting place, each river unites to shape the city much like the team with championship aspirations.” With such an eloquent description it is so hilarious that the end result is really just blue. It’s still better than those “Cream City” jerseys though.
NBA city jerseys are an opportunity to step outside of the team’s typical branding, but powder blue just doesn’t looks right for the Rockets. It is a tribute to “the city’s many blue and white-collared workers,” which is so lacking in specificity that it doesn’t even make sense. This one goes out to everyone in Houston who is currently employed! What?
While this design is pretty uninteresting, it is at least completely about the city, and isn’t that the whole point of the NBA city jerseys? It earns a spot right in the middle for it’s dedication to the metropolis it represents, yet much like the Pistons current roster, it is completely forgettable.
This new look for the Nuggs tries to do what Phoenix and Utah did, but fails to hit the mark. This one just has too little contrast. There’s too much going on, and it turns into a bit of an eye-sore. It’s a good visual representation of the Mile High City, but it just isn’t quite right.
This design came out far too plain for its inspiration. It’s informed by the North Star and the Aurora Borealis, yet it just doesn’t stand out. I can’t even begin to express how immensely unsatisfying it is that the green North Star above the letters is so close to dotting the “I,” yet it doesn’t. I’m getting mad just thinking about it.
Speaking of NBA city jerseys that make me angry, the Pacers jersey attempts to be a throwback to the team’s past while modernizing the entire look, but it just looks so boring to me. These are the Reggie Miller era jerseys but worse, as the color scheme clashes a bit.
This design does the best it could given it represents our nations’ capitol (except for the weird “d” that’s also an arm), but I can’t help but feel like any piece of clothing with the American flag featured so prominently is just doomed to be patriotically corny.
This is the first of two NBA city jerseys whose designs I actually like quite a bit, but I just can’t get over the text they decided to put on these. “Buzz City” is so unrelentingly cheesy and doesn’t represent the city at all, I assume. Do people in Charlotte actually refer to their home as “Buzz City?” That just sounds so silly.
Yet another jersey that aims to pay homage to previous imagery while giving it a modern twist, this design is basically the 90’s jerseys but orange because it’s Florida and they grow oranges down there. I don’t hate it, but I can’t shake the feeling that this jersey is going to approach me on the street to show me a magic trick and steal my wallet while I’m distracted.
Where did we go wrong? The previous Miami Vice jerseys are a triumph of design, but these are something else entirely. This look just says “cocaine sherbet” to me.
This one’s called “Liberty At The Shores” and I just don’t get it. It’s based on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, but that’s not what I see. It looks like either a suburban neighborhood or a train, neither of which really demonstrate freedom, the coastline or the city of Philadelphia. I just look at this design and have more questions than answers.
Speaking of NBA city jerseys that just don’t make a whole lot of sense, I have no idea how the colors and font choice pertain to the franchise or the city of Toronto in any way, and given how plain it is, that’s literally all there is to go off of. I like them aesthetically, but they just don’t make any sense. It seems fitting that they’re not able to play in their home city right now due to the pandemic, as this jersey just lacks an identity.
This design takes the New Orleans flag and utilizes it in a great way; it’s simple, eye-catching and elegant. Despite this, there is something noticeably different about this jersey – it doesn’t say anything! I can’t even begin to express how unsettling it is to look at an NBA jersey with no text or logo on the front. It feels like they were only halfway done with the design and just pushed it through anyway. Yes, it does technically say the team name in tiny letters in the bottom right corner, but who reads the fine print?
This one hurts me. It’s such a cool idea, paying tribute to Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by stringing together some of rock music’s most legendary typography, but in practice this idea just doesn’t work. If you don’t know the context, which most people probably won’t, it just looks like it was scribbled by a toddler and turned into a font. Of all the NBA city jerseys, this is easily the most disappointing.
Well this one’s boring and stupid. Not only is it just not interesting to look at, it’s confusing too. People don’t read in a circle, and they could have used the colors to separate the two independent thoughts of “City Never Sleeps” and “New York Knicks” but they didn’t. I see “City Never,” “Sleeps New” and “York Knicks.”
While I’m sure their intentions were good, this one just looks like pure nonsense. Inspired by the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, this design tries so hard to be artsy, but the end result just looks like it was scribbled down in a coloring book.
Arrogance is an ugly trait, and this is an ugly jersey. This design mimics the numerous championship banners hanging in Boston. This is a nice idea, but in practice it just looks plain and over-cluttered. This jersey is the equivalent of when Shaq is losing a debate against Charles Barkley and just says “How many rings do you have?”
Maybe I’m just being immature, but “Sactown” sounds so utterly ridiculous that it was the inspiration for making this entire list. I apologize to any Sacramento native who may actually like that phrase, but I just can’t stop laughing. I don’t even have anything to say about the design itself. “Sactown” speaks for itself.
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