For the first time since the Civil Rights movement, the NBA has focused on social justice through both its players and teams. Amidst the madness of 2020 came a message of social justice, tolerance, and honoring those who came before them. Two teams, the Atlanta Hawks and the Memphis Grizzlies took this to the next level by honoring black icons with their upcoming City Edition jerseys for the 2020-21 season.
What are the NBA’s City Edition jerseys?
City Edition Jerseys, made by Nike for the last four years, are meant to invoke civic pride among its wearers. While each one is unique, the jerseys express the team’s local roots, be it a rural city or entertainment hub. The jerseys invoke pop culture, historical achievements, and designs the team wore years ago.
Every city jersey is unique in its way. It might speak to people in a thousand different ways. Some are glorified throwbacks; others speak to something far more significant. In the case of the Hawks and Grizzlies, the jerseys are honoring black Americans from their regions.
The Grizzlies jerseys honor one bad…
The Grizzlies have always been at the forefront to honor its rich black history, from its Martin Luther King salutes to its embrace of the city’s complicated racial history. The throwback Memphis Grizzlies that they’ll unleash during the 2020 season look straight out of the ’70s. Black background with vertical stripes down the side make it look less like a jersey and more like a vinyl record.
With gold and turquoise highlights, they not only feature prominent colors from the Grizzlies’ facade but the Cadillac Eldorado that the late Hayes proudly drove around the city during his heyday. They also feature Hayes’ signature and an emblem of the sunglasses that he was rarely seen without. To double-down on the racial themes, the neckpiece is designed after a kente cloth that Hayes iconically wore.
“It means a lot that a relevant team like the Grizzlies in his hometown of Memphis decided to honor him in this way,” Hayes’ son, Isaac Hayes III, told The Undefeated, “and we can’t wait to see [the uniforms] in person.”
The Grizzlies aren’t the only team to pay homage, however. Not far from Memphis, the Atlanta Hawks are also tapping into their teams’ rich racial history.
The Hawks honor MLK Jr.’s dream
While Memphis links to Martin Luther King Jr. due to his tragic assassination there, Atlanta was where he called home. With the social justice initiatives, the Hawks decided to honor its fallen icon with MLK jerseys, reports NBA.com. Rather than putting the city’s name on jersey fronts, the Hawks put MLK in big white letters with black and gold borders.
This three-color aesthetic runs throughout the jerseys, which feature King Jr.’s signature beneath the bottom-left side’s patch. The black is meant to embody the team’s approach to competition, while the gold is intended to honor King Jr. with such a precious metal’s aura. The white symbolizes equality and compassion. Overall, they are a bold, different take on the City Edition jerseys, and the Hawks and Nike made sure to approach it with compassion and honor in their hearts.
“It is an incredible privilege to be able to represent the legacy of Dr. King, one of Atlanta’s native sons and one of the nation’s most transformative leaders. His message of equality, non-violence, and justice is as relevant today as it was in the 60s and we are proud to not only help educate legions of young fans about Dr. King’s work, but empower them to pick up his mantle and embody the change they wish to see in their communities,” said Hawks Chief Marketing Officer, Melissa Proctor (per NBA.com). “We are honored that the King Estate would entrust us with these powerful initials.”
The Hawks and Grizzlies both know that acknowledging their cities’ racial history is essential, and they each did so in their own unique way. Fans can see these and the other 28 City Edition jerseys when the season kicks off in December.