Suns Seeing Orange

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital

By Josh Greene and Steven Koek,
Updated: Oct. 20, 2003, 9:30 p.m.

If the Suns need to add some closet space at America West Arena to house their new alternate road uniforms, they’ve got a definite “in.”

Teaming up with The Home Depot, the Suns held a press conference at the do-it-yourself store at 43rd Ave. and Camelback Rd. this afternoon to unveil their new bright orange unis, which feature wide gray panels down the sides and the letters “PHX” across the chest. Five players and a Gorilla donned the unique threads in advance of The Home Depot Home Opener on October 30, when the Cleveland Cavaliers and rookie phenom LeBron James come to town.

The Suns Dancers and the Zoo Crew were on hand to toss out orange T-shirts to the crowd that filled the front of the store, but judging from the reaction to the new look, the Suns have hit nothing but the bottom of the net on this one.

The excited shoppers that gathered weren’t the only ones seeing orange, though. The Suns’ popular mascot popped out of a nearby refrigerator box to reveal his newly dyed orange fur and the players themselves were proud to rip away their warm-ups to finally reveal the uniforms that have been in hiding for months.

“I love them,” said veteran center Scott Williams. “I think they’re hot. I think the orange is going to be fantastic. When we have the orange thunder sticks, the orange balloons in the America West Arena, everyone with their orange T-shirts on and their orange hats, and us with our orange uniforms, it’s going to be a great atmosphere to play in.”

Teaming up with The Home Depot is nothing new for the Suns. Last spring they joined forces to build a Reading and Learning Center at the Carl Hayden Community Center, giving neighborhood children a positive environment to grow and learn.

“We highly approve of the color,” Home Depot district manager Tony Hurst told the gathering of employees, fans and media. “As you know, the color orange signifies a winning team.”

While the color orange will hopefully inspire victories, the Suns aren’t ditching their home whites just yet. The orange uniform, which was designed locally by Campbell Fisher Design, is actually a road alternate. The team will wear them in place of their purple uniforms for at least 12 away games this season. At the same time, though, the NBA recognizes that unless a die-hard fan literally joins a team on the road, it’d be somewhat expensive and inconvenient to see the new look in person. So, any team with a new road alternate is allowed to don their duds for hometown fans a limited number of times over the course of the season.

“To have that uniform embraced by the home fans,” NBA Senior Director of Apparel Christopher Arena said, “we’re going to allow the team to wear it four times at home.”

Future dates to see the “Men in Orange” at AWA include: Jan.9 vs. Sacramento, Feb. 22 vs. the Lakers and April 13 against the Clippers.

“It’s a little old school. It’s reaching back to our roots, the original colors of the franchise,” Suns President and COO Rick Welts said. “The timing (of the new uniform) coincided with the evolution of the fashion industry. Orange has become the hot color at exactly the same time this project is coming to fruition.”

Choosing when to wear orange would seem to be a simple task. Just pull the jersey off the hanger, slip it on and head out to the court, right? Not exactly. A surprising amount of work goes into deciding which games will feature the new look.

“We need to know those dates ahead of time,” Arena said, “because we need to communicate with that opposing team, so they make sure they wear their white uniforms in your building so there is a contrast.”

A case could be made for saying the fresh look is feeding off the surprising 2002-03 season. Last year’s Suns had a Rookie of the Year, two All-Stars and a squad that proved a lot of people wrong all season long. But actually, the league office needs to give the “thumbs up” a year in advance. So really, the Suns’ uniform proposal was simply good timing rather than a bit of clairvoyance.

“Even though this is not an identity change,” Welts said, “this is just one fun element that coincides with some great things going on with our team. We feel we’ve got a team that’s on the rise and going to be a greater part of the national focus of the NBA.”

Williams, an NBA veteran of 14 years and four teams, makes no claims at being a fashion expert, but likes the look and feel of his latest play clothes.

“I think it’s right up there,” he said. “I like the v-neck collar. It’s baggy but not over excessive like some of these uniforms are these days. It’s very roomy. I feel like I could go out there and play well in these.

“I didn’t get Style magazine yet this month, but I definitely think it’s a good look for me. I wear orange well.”

“We all wear it well,” added forward Shawn Marion. “It’s hot. Jerseys are in right now and orange is one of our main colors, so it just fits the Phoenix Suns.”

This season, the Suns aren’t the only team to go through the lengthy process for a new look. The Nuggets and Cavaliers have new primary road jerseys, and the Raptors and Mavericks join Phoenix in getting new alternate road uniforms.

The only disappointment expressed by the players over the new uniform was that they couldn’t be worn during the preseason. One look at “their new look” and the players were all set to take them into action.

“I do like orange more than I like purple,” Casey Jacobsen said. “It gives us another look. We’ll see how we win in it. That’s the most important thing.”

“If we win, everybody’ll love it,” Tom Gugliotta added.

Unfortunately the players and everybody else will have to wait until the Cavs come to town next week before the new threads make their way onto the court. But for Suns fans looking to “go orange,” a new line of similarly colored apparel and caps will soon join the new jerseys on sale now at the Team Shop. The jerseys are available in three versions: a Reebok micromesh replica ($45), a Nike mesh Swingman ($70), and Reebok authentic jerseys ($140).

“I think it’ll be the hottest selling jersey in the NBA,” Marbury said.

It will certainly be the brightest… a perfect match to the team’s hopes for this season.