The Golden State Warriors recently announced an NBA first. When they wear their "The City" throwback uniforms for select games this season, they'll be playing on a throwback court -- the first such retro-styled court in NBA history:
The Golden State Warriors will have a new court design when wearing their new, "The City" uniforms. pic.twitter.com/taU8uS9I3P— NBA Live Tv (@NBALiveTv1) November 1, 2015
Some observers (including a certain uniform columnist) tend to roll their eyes when teams come up with gimmicky concepts like this one. But nobody (not even a certain uniform columnist) objected to the Warriors' throwback court, because everybody (especially a certain uniform columnist) loves "The City," which is widely regarded as the best uniform in basketball history. It's one of the few things in the uni-verse that garner a near-unanimous thumbs-up.
The Warriors began wearing "The City" in 1966, when the team was still known as the San Francisco Warriors. The jersey had a stylized depiction of the Golden Gate Bridge on the front and a brilliant cable car motif for the uniform number on the back. The chest lettering referenced a common Bay Area shorthand -- San Francisco is "the city," while Oakland is "the town."
Can never decide which I like best - the bridge on the front of "The City" or the cable car on the back. So good! pic.twitter.com/3dLxS7hcW0— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 9, 2015
It's everything a uniform should be: distinctive, attractive, snappy. But many fans are unaware that "The City" was part of a larger, integrated visual system. For example, the cable car theme was continued on the back of the team's gorgeous warm-up tops:
Also little-remembered: "The City" unis were paired with this awesome warm-up top. pic.twitter.com/VX09vT4SAK— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 9, 2015
In addition, the Warriors hosted the 1967 NBA All-Star Game, where the uniforms were patterned after "The City":
Little-remembered fact: The Warriors' "The CIty" design was the basis for the 1967 NBA All-Star Game uniforms. pic.twitter.com/zhHB3rztr6— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 9, 2015
Want to see those all-star uniforms in action? Here's some classic video footage from that game:
The Warriors wore "The City" until the 1971-72 season, when they moved to Oakland and changed their geo-descriptor to Golden State. But "The City" has been revived several times as a throwback (which is a bit ironic, since the team now plays in the town, not the city), usually with the players' names added below the cable car.
Meanwhile, "The City" also has inspired a wide range of homages, the most obvious of which is the Warriors' current jersey, which was introduced in 2010 and features an illustration of the Bay Bridge:
Visual impact of "The City" clearly still being felt today. pic.twitter.com/tWVu1RNPOK— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 9, 2015
The Warriors' D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, is also getting some mileage out of "The City." At some point this season, the team plans to wear a "Surf City" throwback, with the Santa Cruz boardwalk shown on the front and a surfing motif on the back:
Even other NBA teams have gotten in on the act. When the Warriors played in Portland against the Trail Blazers earlier this year, the Blazers engaged in a bit of playful provocation by selling a "Rip City" T-shirt that was obviously patterned on "The City":
Of course, you don't have to be a basketball team to riff on "The City." All sorts of T-shirt designers and other creative types have come up with their own unauthorized riffs on the concept. That's what happens when you create an iconic design -- everyone wants to copy it:
Everyone loves riffing on "The City." pic.twitter.com/AIGyHnCtbj— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 9, 2015
About the only thing that hadn't been "The City"-ized up until now was a basketball floor design. And thanks to the Warrior's new throwback court, that's finally being taken care of, too.
Meanwhile, here's something to keep in mind: The Warriors plan to move back to San Francisco in time for the 2018-19 season. Will the return to the city mean a return of "The City"? We'll have to wait and see. But here's one very enthusiastic vote in favor of that happening.
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Paul Lukas lives in Brooklyn, where people often refer to Manhattan as "the city." If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.