Before you fill out the comment card, know this: The Jazz have already heard the complaints that the new uniform isn’t blue.
That was never the point of Utah’s fourth and most enigmatic jersey unveiling: The Jazz wanted something beyond the norm. Initially, when Nike approached the organization a year ago with a handful of pitches for “City” uniforms to represent Salt Lake City, the Jazz asked the company to look a little deeper.
“They came with some initial concepts that we liked — I think they would’ve been enjoyed by the fans,” Jazz president Steve Starks said. “But we challenged Nike to come back with something really creative. We wanted to be aggressive with this jersey and do something out of the box.”
What Nike came up with, and what has been tweaked and refined over the last few months, is a color spectrum that pays homage to the redrocks of southern Utah, an iconic natural element of the state. In an unusually daring turn for a state known for its square take on fashion — the LDS missionary look is about as inside-the-box as one can get — the Jazz will don a uniform that contains no fewer than 13 gradients of color from sunset golds to deep burnt browns, with brilliant shades of orange and red in between.
While the jersey has seen multiple leaks throughout the past few months, there’s still a little bit of a wait for the real thing: It debuts Jan. 30 at Vivint Smart Home Arena against the Golden State Warriors. The Jazz will also play on a specially designed court that features the same color palate around the edge of the playing area, as well as an outline of the Delicate Arch near midcourt.
It’s a bold look that doesn’t resemble anything the team has worn before. And that’s just what the Jazz wanted.
“A little bit of the feedback we’ve gotten from leaks and stuff like that is it’s not to brand,” said Bart Sharp, who oversees the Jazz’s marketing. “That’s the case with this fourth uniform, the City edition. For a lot of NBA teams, it’s not necessarily intended to be to brand because it’s to celebrate the city.”
Fans won’t be able to buy these until March, according to team officials. If that seems like a long wait, consider that this jersey, because of the color gradient, is among the most complicated uniforms Nike has ever manufactured.
Starks said the outfitter’s design team drew inspiration from Utah’s five national parks when designing the concept. They also reached outside planetary bounds, drawing inspiration from the 2015 film “The Martian” when looking for colors that would really pop from their threads.
There are other thoughtful touches: The uniform has a unique “Jazz State” logo on the waistband, which features the outline of the state inlaid with the rib markings of a basketball. The sides of the jerseys sport road maps: Under the left arm is the highway route to St. George, while under the right arm is the route to Moab. At the base of the shorts underneath the flap is a small stitched-in Delicate Arch — “a hidden treasure” as Sharp called it that only the players themselves may ever really notice.
“The production on these is so more intricate than the typical jersey,” Starks said.
If you don’t like them — guess what? This jersey will have a limited run. The Jazz will play in them nine times this season, including six games at home on the specially designed court. Next year, Utah will have a different “City” jersey.
The Jazz view the jersey run as a long-term plan with Nike. Over the coming years, they hope to pay homage to different parts of the state: snow-capped mountains, rich evergreen forests and even the Salt Flats are future possibilities. They hope to keep Utah fans guessing.
Here’s a hint: It’s going to be more ambitious than “blue.”