City Edition Jerseys

Behind the scenes: 2021-22 Nike NBA City Edition uniforms unveiled

Take a closer look at what went into the designs that marked the Nike NBA City Edition uniforms for the NBA's 75th Anniversary Season.

Nike NBA City Edition Uniform Unveiling

The 2021-22 Nike NBA City Edition uniforms were unveiled on Nov. 1.

NEW YORK Enter the Nike HQ in New York City and a dimly lit stage is lined with rows and rows of mannequins sporting never before revealed Nike NBA City Edition uniforms.

A screen with the Nike swoosh and the NBA’s 75th Anniversary logo appears at the stage’s apex. Suddenly, Quantrelle’s lyrics — “feel the momentum” — blast as a screen next to the stage shows an NBA highlight reel to arouse the crowd.

The lights flash on and the 2021-22 Nike NBA City Edition uniforms come to life.

On Oct. 28, Nike organized a sneak peak of the 2021-22 Nike NBA City Edition uniforms at their headquarters before the jerseys made their official debut on Nov. 1. Nike Men’s Global Vice President & General Manager, Aaron Cain, mediated the reveal along with Christopher Arena, the NBA’s head of on-court and brand partnerships, and Jesse Alvarez, the product director of men’s basketball at Nike. 

The uniforms were in the works from August of 2019. Arena recounted his initial experience visiting Nike with his NBA colleagues, and how they decided they were going to celebrate their 75th Anniversary season.

2021-22 Nike NBA City Edition Uniforms

“We said, hey, we got to the 75th season. It’s unbelievable. We’ve got to figure out  how we’re going to celebrate it. Let’s have every team wear a Classic Edition uniform like we did back in ‘96. And they’re like ‘no, no, no,'” Arena said. “We got the idea. Remember the mixtape you would make? Let’s do that. Take all these different eras and put them together.”

After the meeting with Arena and his NBA colleagues, Alvarez’s team at Nike began developing concepts by working with NBA teams. This process included listening to what moments in history were important to the team’s fan bases, going through design reviews and working on the uniform from top to bottom. 

“Next thing you know, you have the finished product behind us. It doesn’t get much better than this,” Alvarez said. 

The City Edition uniforms act as this basketball moments mixtape, highlighting each team’s greatest hits. Alvarez said his most important insight into the jerseys development were celebrating the NBA’s rich history, while taking the league somewhere it hasn’t been before. Working with each team was key in accomplishing that. 

“When you talk about teams and fan bases, nobody knows their fans better than teams, right? They want to make sure they’re telling the stories that are most iconic to their history and their fan bases, but they’re also trusting us to take them somewhere new,” Alvarez said. “That’s where that chemistry starts to come into play. We’re trusting them to highlight the right moments, and they’re trusting us to bring together beautiful designs.”

However, Alvarez said the greatest challenge of designing the City Edition uniforms was deciding what stories to leave out.

raptors city edition jersey

2021-22 Nike NBA Toronto Raptors City Edition Uniform

“The best thing about basketball is that teams are constantly writing the next chapter of their book. Maybe it’s a playoff run … maybe it’s a championship,” Alvarez said. “As seasons go on, we just have more and more inspiration that we can draw from. Sometimes the challenge is really what stories get left off or what stories can’t you tell.”

So what are their favorite uniforms? Alvarez said answering this is like being asked to pick his favorite child. However, the Raptors jersey stands out most to him.

“Toronto is just one of these uniforms where they have a great blend of things that are important to their fans, but also it tells a story of their organization,” he said. “You start with the gold and the black, which over the last several seasons has become a staple in their uniform rotation. But then you look at the uniform that the Raptor is wearing, and it’s the uniform that they won the championship in. Then our design team flipped the orientation of the Raptor. He’s looking back to honor the past, but he’s going forward for what’s on the horizon for them. That’s the level of detail we were making sure come through on the uniform.”

Cain said his favorite is the Portland Trail Blazers.

“The Rip City on the front. That’s a shout out to Bill Schonely who was the play-by-play announcer back then for most of my childhood,” Cain said. “He came up with this idea of ‘Rip City’ for the Blazers. So starting there, but then also the way you guys did the font with the drop shadow. That goes back to the team of the 1990s — the last Blazers team that made The Finals. A team I loved. Just really spot on in terms of how you pulled that together.” 

NBA Nike Portland Trailblazers City Edition

These are the Nike City Edition uniforms Portland will sport in 2021-22.

Alvarez said the City Edition uniforms have the opportunity to take the league to new heights by bridging generations of fans and looks forward to finally seeing the uniforms on the court in 2021-22. 

“We’ve been working on them for so long, but to think about the best players in the world wearing these stories means so much to fans and the organizations … it doesn’t get much better than that,” Alvarez said. “And the reality of it is it’s just blending the game, the court, the city, the community, and all of a sudden you’re going to have these conversations that are just going to welcome more people into the game.”

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