Every team is looking for a sharp jersey to rally their fans. But no one topped the Phoenix Suns, who won Best Costume Design at the FanSided Sports Oscars.
The late French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” If YSL were still with us today he’d doubtlessly have much to say about the present state of visual affairs in the National Basketball Association, whose 30 teams are currently garbed in a dizzying array of 123 different uniforms.
Visual chaos reigns. In 2017-18, the league eliminated traditional home and road uniform designations in favor of “editions”— Association, Icon, City and Statement, which are supplemented by select “Classic” uniforms for this, the NBA’s 75th anniversary season.
Cut through the marketspeak and we have the classics — the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls, and the Los Angeles Lakers immediately spring to mind. We have those fun diversions that are true to their respective team’s visual DNA — the Wizards, for instance, channeling their inner Bullets, circa 1978. And then we have some that are, to put it kindly, less than good (cough, cough, Oklahoma City Thunder washed-out, gray and white City Edition uniforms.)
Nestled among the good, the bad, and the ugly, are a select few that ascend to the highest of heights, and one of them is the Phoenix Suns’ black City Edition set, which identifies the team’s home as “The Valley.” (While we’re on the subject, it’s interesting to note that the Suns’ regional big-league brethren, the Coyotes, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks, all identify themselves as being from “Arizona,” whereas the Suns hail from Phoenix.)
2021-22 marks the second season for these uniforms, which represents real staying power when compared to some of the Association’s more ephemeral looks of late. Social media loves to hate, as always, but the Suns’ Valley uniforms get a lot of online love, for good reason.
The Phoenix Suns design works on so many levels
First things first — they look like the Suns. Laugh if you want, but this is no small thing. Aesthetics aside, uniforms are functional identifiers for their teams, and the Suns’ Valley look is true to the brand. When the team made its NBA debut in 1968, they took to the court wearing distinctive uniforms of purple and orange, reminiscent of the vibrant and beautiful sunsets that the Valley of the Sun is so famous for. (The Suns’ first real logo was created by Stan Fabe, who owned a commercial printing plant in Tucson. He was paid $200 for his efforts.) Black was added to the mix in 1994, a very 1990s thing to be sure, but a neutral and contrasting one that embraced the vivid, energetic colors that are core to the Suns’ color palette in grounding fashion.
The Valley uniforms contain a pixelated representation of Camelback Mountain, one of the region’s most visible landmarks, nicely rendered in silhouetted form. When the uniforms were unveiled in November 2020, the Suns said, “The design is inspired by The Valley’s breathtaking scenery, using stark colors and abstract lines to provide a modern twist.” Some press releases contain multitudes of hot air, this one simply laid out facts. The shorts include the pixelated purple, orange, and yellow-gold colors as well, accompanied by the team’s ambigram wordmark (it reads the same when flipped upside-down) and “fireball” logo.
Finally, some uniforms are elevated by a team’s performance, and these are associated with the Suns’ first NBA Finals appearance in nearly three decades. They wore them for every home game of the 2021 Playoffs, and, even though they came up short in their quest for the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, this Suns team — and their classy City Edition uniforms — will be fondly remembered for years to come. Style is indeed eternal.
Check out who else was nominated for Best Costume Design and who else won in all the major categories in the 2022 FanSided Sports Oscars.