Bulls

Which Bulls City Edition Uniform is Best?

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In the NBA nowadays, basketball is just part of a grander entertainment experience. It starts when the players enter the arena.

Whether sporting a simple sportswear outfit or donning an elegant formalwear ensemble, players start their gameday journey as participants in an informal fashion show. With the multitude of uniforms teams rotate throughout the season, the display continues on the court with an outfit change to the designated jersey and shorts pairing of the night.

When Nike took over as the NBA’s uniform sponsor, it veered away from the standard home and away garb. Instead, the NBA adopted four sets of uniforms for each team: Icon, Association, Statement and City. The Icon and Association editions are essentially fancy terms for home and away uniforms. The Statement edition serves a similar purpose to a standard alternate uniform.

The City Edition is where most teams veer away from their traditional branding and get more creative with their on-court expression.

Unlike other designs, City Edition uniforms are responsible for representing more than just the team but a city, or general area. It should offer something different but with a flair of familiarity.

But more artistic freedom also comes with more room for criticism.

The Chicago Bulls are one organization whose logo and branding have essentially stayed the same since its inaugural season in 1966-67. So the Bulls’ City Edition uniforms have been the first opportunities for the team to offer something different. While this season’s design is an admirable attempt, Chicago has generally had compelling City Edition concepts.

Here’s how the Bulls’ City Edition uniforms rank:

1. 2021-22: “Moments Mixtape” – Red with Chicago Script

The Bulls’ City Edition uniform for the NBA’s 75th season, the “Moments Mixtape” design, smartly drew inspiration from the franchise’s past to create a bold and striking look fit for a championship organization in a major market. It did a near-perfect job of capturing the organization’s history in a uniform design.

Sticking with the tried and true hues, the uniform had a Bulls red base with black and white graphic elements. The classic Chicago script last used during the 1984-85 season was front and center, and the numbers had the drop-shadow effect used on the Bulls’ jerseys in the 1970s. The side taping on the jerseys was also a tribute to the 1970s design. Meanwhile, the iconic pinstripes from the mid-1990s came into play on the shorts in the diamond-shaped side graphic element.

The lower left of the jersey isn’t usually visible during games, as players are supposed to have their jerseys tucked in. But each year the Bulls won a title is listed in a championship-worthy shade of gold.

While the design doesn’t quite have elements that pay homage specific to the city, Chicago is a basketball city, and the Bulls play a massive role in that feature. This design was also for the 75th NBA season, making it seem especially appropriate to have a uniform encompassing the team’s history.

2. 2020-21: “No Little Plans” – Light Black with Red and Gold

The “No Little Plans” design for the 2020-21 season was easily the most that the Bulls have strayed from the traditional uniform aesthetic they’ve been using for decades. And it was a successful aberration.

Chicago is known for many things, from Michael Jordan and the Bulls to great food in hot dogs and pizza. Its architecture and stunning skyline are two of them. This season’s design was an homage to those two architectural strengths, but more specifically, to Daniel Burnham, the city planner who designed the city after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Burnham’s quote, “make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood,” inspired the tagline for the 2020-21 season’s take on the Bulls’ City Edition uniform.

The lighter black and gold combination offered a luxe flair befitting such a storied championship franchise. It helped elevate the art deco elements, such as the font and geometric pattern on the side, inspired by the style used for many Chicago buildings. 

Touches of red and the classic diamond shape on the shorts provided hints of familiarity to tie back to the Bulls’ everyday look. But one of the most incredible details was how the Chicago flag stars were implemented. A star was placed in each corner of the diamond shape on the shorts — which, as worded on Bulls.com, “mimic(s) the look of rivets in the ironwork of skyscrapers.”

3. 2017-18: “Sweet Home” – White with Chicago Script and Flag Colorway

The Bulls’ City Edition uniform for the 2017-18 season combined a beloved design element of an old jersey, the Chicago script, and the color scheme for the Chicago flag. There wasn’t much meaning behind the approach, which is fine. Not everything needs to be that deep, though doing so can elevate a design. But the Bulls played it safe with City Edition uniforms early on, starting with this one.

Nevertheless, the aesthetic was crisp, clean and cool.

4. 2018-19: “Sweet Home” – Black with Flag Elements

Sometimes, simple is all you need. Sweet Home was one of those times.

Another example of a safer earlier approach, this design was easily grasped, essentially placing the Chicago flag’s elements on the front of the black jersey. There isn’t much going on, but that’s okay. The flag is iconic enough that the design is easy to love, is a departure from the regular uniforms, and lives up to what a City Edition design should be.

5. 2022-23: “Municipal Y” – White with Rust Red

My first impression of the latest Bulls’ City Edition uniforms was that they were fine but looked like nothing special. Understandably so, as the details are really what make the design. However, that’s also the problem.

From afar, the 2022-23 set looks pretty standard with its white, dark red and black color scheme and the font style seen on the Bulls’ traditional jerseys. The shorts are easily distinguished as something different and are the more interesting piece of clothing, which seems strange. The same, however, cannot be said for the jersey. But upon closer inspection, the meaningful design can be appreciated to its full extent.

The rusty shade of red pays homage to the Chicago River bridges. It’s different and toned down from the bright, vibrant, fresh blood-like color the Bulls employ for their standard branding. On the side of the jerseys, the five lines represent each player in the on-court lineup. The white base of the uniforms has a repeating light gray Y-shape pattern. It’s a tribute to the city’s Municipal Device symbol, representing the Chicago River and its two branches. This feature, in particular, is pretty much impossible to see unless you’re up close.

Most people will not see these uniforms at a short distance. As a sentimentalist, the design is stellar and does well at living up to the basis of what City Edition designs are meant to be. But looking at it altogether, the latest City Edition design fails to be something that can be properly appreciated through a television screen. That’s how most people will see the uniforms. This should be considered during the creative process for the design to be more effective.

6. 2019-20: “Sweet Home” – Water Blue with Classic Bull Head Logo

Sometimes, simple is all you need. And, sometimes, simple comes off as lazy. Unfortunately, this was one of those times when simplicity was the latter.

The inspiration for this design was straightforward. The color scheme pulled from the Chicago flag, which the Bulls’ City Edition designs have often had. The blue base color honored the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. But, as marvelous and timeless as the bull head logo is, that being the centerpiece and only fundamental graphic element of the jersey does not live up to the creative standards that fans expect from NBA uniforms.

The shorts did feature the Chicago stars from the flag, but it didn’t do much to elevate the uniforms.

So while these were easily differentiable from the standard uniforms, the design felt like the bare minimum. Even so, at least they still looked good.

 

About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Filipina American writer and Illinois journalism graduate based in the Chicago suburbs. She has a decade's worth of sports writing experience, having been published in several online publications. She writes about the Bulls, the Sky, and general NBA content for The Lead.

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