Big Fish, Part 2

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Marion, Steve Nash, Amare’ Stoudemire, Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic were just a few of the fan favorites who wore the distinct orange look during some memorable seasons that were marked by a running team making deep runs into the NBA Playoffs.

But as a transition to the team’s roster and style of play began to take place, the Suns' front office began to explore a new look for its uniforms. That process was put on pause a couple of times over the last few years, though, as the Suns’ org chart changed with the hiring of new team presidents, and adidas added a new wrinkle to NBA uniforms. When the league office presented their merchandising partner’s proposal for jerseys with sleeves during ownership meetings, the Suns decided to return to the drawing boards and rethink their plans.

“We have a three-ring binder full of silhouettes, looks, styles,” says Fisher of all the many concepts that were considered, “everything from different trim components to different numbering components, all different materials. Some of the things we looked at were, ‘Could we do a different short color than jersey color? Could we cut off the jersey so everybody didn’t have to tuck it in?’ So we really tried to weigh all of the possibilities, including the different collars, different materials, different linings. There are just so many variables.”

The Suns considered going to all-sleeved uniforms at one point and even had several players try out adidas prototypes during a private workout on the Annexus Club Practice Court in early 2012. Some loved the unique style and lightweight feel – including the team's elder statesman at the time, Grant Hill – while others weren't quite as enthusiastic about the change. After much discussion, the Suns decided to stick with a traditional tank top look for the team's primary home and road jerseys, and save the sleeves for their new orange alternate uniform, which will be worn for a select number of games this spring.

The Golden State Warriors were the first team to debut jerseys with sleeves earlier this year, followed by the Suns, who are expected to be joined by several more teams in the near future.

“We believe it’s more appealing from a merchandising standpoint, and more flattering on most people,” explains Fisher, noting that not all fans feel comfortable wearing sleeveless jerseys. “And you know, a lot of players wear t-shirts under their game jerseys in high school and college, so we think they are going to like the new jerseys with sleeves, too.”

Technically, per NBA policy, teams have to wait a year after launching new home and road uniforms before bringing in an alternate look. But the Suns got special permission to start wearing their orange alternates in early 2014, a new calendar year.

Fisher is proud of the new looks, in large part because of the old elements that were incorporated into the design. As a longtime fan himself (Walter Davis, Charles Barkley and Steve Nash are his three favorite Suns), he wanted to make sure to weave hints of history throughout the 16 different types of material that make up the new uniforms.

“We really want to hold on to and maintain the legacy of the fourth winningest-franchise in NBA history,” says Fisher. “We want to hold on to the legacy of family after family, generations of fans attending Suns games. We want people to see the new uniforms and remember elements from when they were kids, growing up with the Suns. We want to bring back those memories of watching Dick Van Arsdale or Charles Barkley by carrying some of the elements of the old uniforms into the future.”

Among the pieces of artwork within the Suns’ fourth set of uniforms is a familiar sun patch on the sides of the shorts, reminiscent of the sunburst that adorned the team’s much-shorter shorts from 1968-92. Then, of course, there are the sunrays that shoot across the front of the jerseys, invoking memories of the ‘90s sunburst.

“Adidas kept coming to us with different looks and feels,” recalls Fisher. “I think originally, they had 14 lines and it was a completely different configuration. But as we started thinking about it, we started to talk about giving those speed lines a reason for being there and make them part of our brand story.”

Through several rounds of revisions – which also saw the assimilation of the Suns’ new ambigram word mark, revised bird logo and new “S” icon – several of those sun streaks were removed. The nine remaining rays represent the nine legends (Van Arsdale, Davis, Barkley, Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Paul Westphal, Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle) that are in the club’s Ring of Honor.

“Those nine lines represent who the Suns are as a team,” says Fisher, whose agency also designed the Ring itself on display inside US Airways Center, as well as historical murals both inside and outside the team’s clubhouse on the ground floor of the venue. “We’ve also been known as a team that plays at the ‘Speed of Light,’ which was the thematic approach to the new look, and we’re going to continue that with Coach Hornacek. The team is going to play defense, but we’re still going to run. That’s just part of our history, so we wanted to include visual cues to that legacy.”

While few fans outside of his own family, friends and co-workers ever realized it, Fisher’s own legacy as a designer and creative visionary is intertwined with the legacy of the franchise he loves.

“It has been a great relationship for us and hopefully a great relationship for them, as well,” he says. “We’re glad to be a part of that.”