By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– It has become a tradition in the NBA. Every year since the league showcases its Nike City Edition uniforms with all 32 teams releasing photos and videos on the same day.
This year the City Edition uniforms, which are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NBA, were publicly announced Oct. 25.
However, the unveiling of the Thunder City Edition uniforms actually took place Oct. 28 at a spot in downtown Oklahoma City which they dubbed the City House. With a swimming pool and a view that provided a solid view of the city, it gave off a reality TV show feel.
But what made the night even more interesting was who the Thunder invited to the event. Instead of the customary local media, the franchise went a different route. The City House was filled with influencers from around the metro.
Those with sizable followings on social media were invited to get the first look at the uniforms. They were also told they couldn’t release any of the content until they were given the signal by the Thunder.
According to Erin Lewis, director of Brand Influence and Brand Identity for the Thunder, they chose this method because they are looking to connect with a new, young and energetic audience who may have never been to a game before or even considered themselves sports fans.
“This is an opportunity for us first and foremost to connect with a really important part of our fan base, a part of our local community in a really unique way, in a way that we think is really meaningful,” said Lewis. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to unveil a really important asset for us which is our city edition uniform and again to do it in a way that is unique and engaging and meaningful and in a new way. A way that we’ve never done so before.”
Malcolm Tubbs, the Thunder MC, was the host of the evening. In leading up to the unveiling of the new uniforms, he first took the ensemble on a journey into the past.
Each room in the house was set up to showcase past uniforms the Thunder have worn. From the original white, blue and orange combo from the team’s first season in Oklahoma City to the first years of alternate jerseys, which included the navy and white combination.
As Tubbs announced the opening of each room, Chef Eric Smith simultaneously would put one of the four-course selections. They included Jerk Pork Tenderloin, Smoked Chilean Sea Bass Salad and a Chocolate Cake.
Smith is the executive chef and managing partner at Pachinko Parlor, Disco Taco and the Crown Room.
“I’m just trying to make sure we represent the Crown Room,” Smith said. “I want to make sure that they got a clear picture of what we do there, which is pairing offbeat cocktails with food and smells.”
The final stop on the night was the unveiling of Oklahoma City’s new City Edition uniform. The white on white with gray trim is a complete departure from what the franchise and Nike had put forth before.
Each of the elements on the uniforms are taken from previous years in the franchise’s short history. Those elements include the vertical OKC bar (2012 Alternate Uniforms), the short sash (2018 City Edition) and sound waves (2017 State uniforms).
However, my favorite piece may be the belt buckle, which was worn by the very first Thunder summer league squad in 2008 and would go on to become the foundation of the team’s logo.
“This is a unique uniform. It’s an opportunity to tell the story of our city and we’ve had a great history with our city edition uniforms,” Lewis said. “We always want to do something special and we’ve certainly had the opportunity whether it be telling the story of our Native American roots and heritage, whether it be telling the story of the bombing and connecting with the Oklahoma City National Museum Memorial. So we’ve had really rich stories to tell. This year is no different in that we have a special story to tell particularly because it’s connected to the NBA 75th anniversary.”
Story & Photos: Michael Kinney Media