NBA

2021 NBA ‘Earned Edition’ jerseys: Grades for all 16 new uniforms including the Lakers, Celtics and Nets

On Wednesday, the NBA released 16 new jerseys called ‘Earned Edition’ jerseys. The season after advancing to the playoffs, the teams who made it get one of these special jerseys, hence the ‘earned’ in the title.

In the near future, those teams in this exclusive club will get to debut their jerseys on the court. This tradition began after Nike took over the NBA uniform contract starting in the 2017-18 season.

Now the first reaction to seeing new jerseys were dropped is to criticize them, of course. 

I’ll start by saying I know the hard-working design teams in charge of drawing up these new uniforms spent many hours carefully selecting what they’d look like, but just applauding every jersey is boring, so let’s get out our critical eye and really pick these things apart. There will be some I like, absolutely, but some I am ready to roast.

Many jerseys resemble designs we have seen from the team before, while others give us a brand new look.

Let’s grade some jerseys, shall we?

Western Conference

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Let’s begin with the Los Angeles Lakers, a very good place to start. These jerseys remind me a little of the “Black Mamba” jerseys, with the dark colors and the simple design.

Small details like the “17” to represent the number of championships set this jersey apart. While it is simple, I do like the grey and how it anchors the jersey, allowing the purple and gold to really pop. It’s not the boldest design I’ve ever seen, but I’m far from offended by it. Good job defending champs. — Grade: B+

2. Denver Nuggets

Fans in the replies seemed to love this jersey, but something about it is very off to me. Maybe because the bottom of the logo looks like the end of a baseball bat and seeing it as the focal point is distracting? Or the white is boring me? I just want to like these jerseys so much more than I do.

I do appreciate the small details on the shorts and I am not immediately shielding my eyes for this look, it’s just not going in the jersey Hall of Fame for me. — Grade: B

3. Utah Jazz

Let’s all welcome green back to Utah’s uniform color scheme. At first glance I was thinking, “Yes! The J-note, bold colors, it’ll stand out on the court,” and then I stared at them for a few minutes and questioned my own first impression of them. I started realizing I can’t just grab a quick glance, I need to think of them in the context of past team uniforms and the other possibilities they had that they could work with. 

Purple probably would have been better, they’re not as exciting as the “City Edition” uniforms and how the colors are used isn’t as bold as the colors themselves. The shorts also don’t give me any great details to save the look. — Grade: C

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Dallas Mavericks – I mean Oklahoma City Thunder released a uniform that looks a little similar to something I’ve seen before … This is like when you forgot to do your homework in high school and ask your friend if you can copy theirs and they say, “Yes, but change it a little so the teacher doesn’t realize you copied.”

I had higher hopes for the Thunder and this uniform just hurts my eyes. I see what they were trying to do with the lettering, but it just looks like someone formatted it wrong and decided to go with it. Since that’s really the only creativity this jersey has, and I don’t care for it, don’t be expecting a high grade. — Grade: D+

5. Portland Trail Blazers

I’d like to first begin by giving them some extra credit for their video. This one is tough to grade, however, since the team announced that the uniforms are debuting on Thursday. For now, I am hopeful that these will look sleek and cool. Grade TBD

6. Dallas Mavericks

I feel like I’ve become progressively meaner as the jerseys go on, but hey, the jerseys are not getting better! These Mavs uniforms are actually putting me to sleep. No need for melatonin, just stare at these before you go to bed and you’ll be out in minutes.

Playing it safe is just, well, safe, but for a special edition jersey I’m looking for something you immediately know is special edition. I’m looking for risks and bold imagery, not what I feel I could design. And I don’t have a lot of jersey designing skills. Grade C-

7. Los Angeles Clippers

When I first looked at these I thought it was a reveal image they did without the colors, and the version with color would be below. No such luck, this is just what they went with. I love grey, I loved it on the Lakers jersey, but for that light grey to be effective you need to use it to allow another element of the uniform to pop. Nothing here pops.

I do think these are so close to being really clean, they just needed something to make them a little more interesting. I will applaud them for at least going for something different, even if that was an all grey and white jersey with the smallest hint of color. — Grade C

8. Houston Rockets

Good news Rockets fans, these jerseys aren’t as bad as your team is right now! All I ever think when I see such heavy red and black together is a college football uniform, but I’ll put that aside and judge these fairly.

More good news: they’re not that awful. Yes, they look like they put recent jersey designs in a mixer and took pieces from each one, mashed them together and came up with this one, but I’d say the team successfully pulled off the look they were going for. Enjoy these ones Rockets fans, not sure you’re getting another earned edition uniform next year. — Grade B-

Eastern Conference

  1. Miami Heat

When you think of the Heat, is the first thing you think of the color trophy gold? Probably not. And for anyone wondering why I said “trophy gold” and not yellow, the team has made it clear these are NOT yellow and are a color that has been part of the color scheme for years. If they say it’s gold in person, I’ll believe them, but right now I am looking at a yellow jersey.

I’ll give the Heat credit where credit is due, they are always doing the most when it comes to coming up with very new design ideas for their jerseys. Love it or hate it, they go bold, and we saw this will the ‘Miami Vice’ series as well. Their points here are coming from their willingness to take a risk and I’m going to slightly overlook the fact that I feel like I’m looking at an Indiana Pacers uniform. — Grade C+

2. Boston Celtics

I’m from Boston, but Celtics, why do you keep putting out the same jersey with a slightly different detail? I’m begging for something I didn’t see coming or something I’m dying to buy. I don’t get that with these. They are better than some jerseys of theirs in the past, but that shouldn’t be the bar. Grade C-

3. Milwaukee Bucks

Right off the bat, props to their social team for putting out images that feel really in touch with the team’s brand. The jerseys aren’t too busy, but the details are very pleasing. The bucks antlers along the side provide a nice homage to the logo without recycling it and carrying that detail to the shorts works really well. Grade A-

4. Brooklyn Nets

When I was about 12, I loved everything Chevron and this is giving me major flashback to those preteen years. I see what they were trying to do with the whole subway theme, but the background falls flat for me, leaving the other details off to fend for themselves. If I saw this as a first draft of a jersey design I would be so excited about what the final idea might like, but it just don’t look like a complete and finished concept. Props for the attempt and for going with a theme. Grade: B-

5. Indiana Pacers

I feel like I already reviewed their jersey, but I’m just thinking of the Heat’s new look. The Pacers had a fun video, a well executed retro look, went bold without getting crazy and the details are there. I’m a sucker for any path of a state outline on a jersey so I loved that addition to this look. — Grade B+

6. Philadelphia 76ers

Minimalism is in, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be so simple. The lettering and the logo look like two different looks, the Liberty Bell with no outline or design past the navy color seems like a missed opportunity, the white and the cream clash they way they incorporated the numbers and the whole design feels jumbled. Fans have asked for many elements of old jerseys back and they got nothing they wanted with this look. Grade: C+

7. Toronto Raptors

I love that the colors are inspired by the OGs, I’m all about it, but if you’re going to go with that go all the way. This jersey feels like two different uniforms, one when you look at the front and another from the back. I’m all about the use of purple, but bringing back the dinosaur would have seemed more crowd-pleasing in my opinion. Missed opportunities in so many ways. Grade: D+

8. Orlando Magic

The logo is large, but works and the stars on the side could have gone terribly wrong, but they work too. Any other spot the stars ran the risk of looking childish and juvenile, but the fun element is a fun feature and placed in a good spot. The look is cohesive down to the shorts and gives an overall nice look. –– Grade: B+



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