While the NBA playoffs ramp up to a promising finale, the Utah Jazz are stuck on the sidelines once again, watching from afar. So what do you do when you’re feeling left out? Unveil a new “brand identity.” Duh. It always makes me laugh how often teams tinker with their look, and each time talk about changing the culture and identity of the team. First of all, a logo doesn’t change your roster or front office. No big free agent is going to sign with a team because they like the uniforms better. New “brand identity” is just a fancy way of saying that the team wants to sell more gear. And it’s smart business, because nobody wants to be the guy showing up to the game in the old style… unless it’s 20-30 years down the road and you can call it a throwback.
Before we get to some constructive criticism on the Jazz’ new look, let’s start with the positives. First of all, the change is already miles ahead of some other NBA teams in recent years. Most obvious is the Los Angeles Clippers, who decided to use Microsoft Clip Art to make their new logo, then introduced poor Chuck the Condor as their mascot. It’s been a rough year for their design department, so by comparison, the Jazz are already winning.
The second positive, I think, is more important: we finally got rid of the weird basketball mountain. That thing has been around since the NBA Finals glory years, so I understand if you feel some affection towards it, but let’s be honest. It just wasn’t working. The team tried three different color combinations with it over the last 20 years, and none of them stuck. The basketball music note has always been a much better look and, I would argue, is one of the best designs in all of sports. I’m glad to have it back as the primary logo.
Here’s where the changes start to lose me a little bit. I’m good with the home and away uniforms, but they look basically the same as they were before (more on that in a second). The green alternate uni looked a bit strange to me at first, but now I’m OK overall design. The word “Utah” on the front is a nice touch, and has only been used once before in the team’s history (04-09 road unis, with dark blue and light blue contrast). That will take some getting used to, but overall, I think it could be a keeper. The toughest outfit for me to swallow also seems to be the most polarizing around Jazz Nation — the new Pride kit. I call it a kit for good reason. As many many people have pointed out by now, this thing looks like a soccer kit that you’d find in the English Premier League. That’s not my only issue with it though. Aside from the sleeves (that’s another topic for another day), the thing that bugs me most is where this design came from. Warmup jerseys! The Jazz said on their website that the Pride uniform “Pays tribute to the Jazz heritage under Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan… The thick band of stripes is a historical nod to the warmups.”
Here’s the thing — I love Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan as much as the next guy. I think it’s a good idea to try to pay homage to that era. But a warm-up shirt is meant to be just that, a warm-up. Add in the strange placement of the number and logo, and this design is totally lost on me. That’s not to say it won’t sell — especially in a pro-soccer community like Salt Lake City — but I do not think basketball when I look at this design.
Speaking of sales, I foresee a problem with the new home and away uniforms… simply because they aren’t that new. Seriously, I needed help from the team’s website just to pick out the few small things that were different. That’s not altogether a bad thing because I like the current design, but as I mentioned before, one of the main reasons teams rebrand is to sell more merchandise. As it stands now, I don’t think many people will be inspired to trade in their “old” versions from last year at $100 a pop. The alterations are too small to really stand out and that isn’t really going to drive sales. To be honest, I think the best new addition for home and away is the tri-colored basketball on the shorts… and does anybody really buy the shorts?
I don’t want to be the wet blanket on Utah’s 15 minutes of fame this offseason. Goodness knows it’s not going to come in free agency. But if you’re going to market a rebrand like this as something “fresh,” don’t come at me with soccer gear. If you really wanted a short sleeve jersey, you could have done it without all the fanfare. I realize that’s the whole point of something like this, but overall, it left me wondering “was this really necessary?”
Keep gettin’ them checks, guys.