The Cleveland Cavaliers' "City Edition" uniforms for the 2020-2021 season leaked this weekend. There they are. Plain black jerseys with vibrant red and yellow highlights. The overall effect is somewhat uneven, if not crazed, however, due to the only distinctive design features on them: the ransom note "Cleveland" wordmark and the red "LONG LIVE ROCK" tucked down near the pelvic hem.
Turns out the "Cleveland" letters, which together approximate a '90s graffiti vibe from a distance, are harvested from famous rock-band wordmarks on seminal albums. The bands have all been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an institution Cleveland elites never tire of touting. (This is what's supposed to make the jersey design locally relevant.)
As Twitter User @PrimeWindler helpfully decoded above, the letters are nods to the Sex Pistols, David Bowie, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Pink Floyd.
Unfortunately, the design is ugly. As noted, the wordmark's closest stylistic forebears are ransom notes assembled from magazine cutouts. Maybe these jerseys will look sort of funky in person, but the first impression is that it's a decent concept with a half-baked delivery. (When the jersey is officially unveiled, additional design elements will surely be highlighted.)
The City Edition uniforms were launched after Nike wrested control of the NBA apparel machine from Adidas in 2015. The Cavs wear theirs a few times each season in rotation with the "Association" (White), "Icon" (Red), and "Statement" (Black) jerseys and an occasional throwback. This is the fourth Cavs city edition. It follows the gray "The Land
" unis, designed in part by LeBron James; the garish blue and orange Destination Cleveland garbage
from 2018-2019; and the Navy, 50th anniversary tribute to prior jerseys
In theory, the city editions are meant to celebrate an aspect of a given area's local culture and history. And while rock music has indeed been a Cleveland cultural touchstone, the Rock Hall itself is perhaps the least interesting element of that history. Efforts to celebrate Cleveland as a rock n' roll capital via guitar logos and so forth always come off as embarrassing corporate branding exercises, not as celebrations of a legitimate civic identity. Announcers can be expected to talk about the Rock Hall during games when the Cavs wear these jerseys, presumably intercut with museum b-roll.
And that's fine. But it's a missed opportunity to celebrate local bands, venues, institutions and media that contributed much more meaningfully to Cleveland's rock identity through the decades. (Maybe "WMMS" will be threaded into the shorts or something?)
On first blush, compared to the lately unveiled splashy pixelated "Valley" city edition
of the Phoenix Suns and the Isaac Hayes-inspired city edition
of the Memphis Grizzlies, in which the black background is embossed with vertical stripes to recall vinyl records, the Cavs' city edition just seems uninspired.
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