The NBA season is now about halfway over, which makes this a good time to take stock of how the league's bold experiment with uniform formats is playing out on the hardcourt.
In case you've forgotten, here's a quick recap: As of this season, there are no more designated home or road uniforms in the NBA. Instead, each team now has a primary white uniform (cringe-inducingly known as the "association edition"), a primary colored uniform (the "icon edition"), and two alternate uniforms (the "statement" and "city editions," the vast majority of which are colored), plus eight teams have throwback uniforms. For each game, the home team can wear whichever uniform it wants and the road team has to wear something of sufficient contrast.
The widespread expectation was that this would lead to a drastic reduction in the use of white uniforms and an explosion of color-vs.-color games. But now that we're halfway through the season, has it actually turned out that way?
Collin Wright, an avid NBA uniform fan and assistant men's basketball coach at Corning Community College in upstate New York, has been following that question all season long. He's tracked the frequency of the three possible types of uniform matchups (home team in white, road team in color; home team in color, road team in white; and color vs. color) on a week-by-week basis throughout the season and listed them on the following graph. The numbers are complete through Sunday's games:
As you can see, the traditional protocol of the home team wearing white has been the most common format for most of the season, but its frequency has been declining. And color vs. color, despite being the least common format, has been on a slow but steady rise. Both of those trends are likely to continue as the two alternate uniforms -- the statement and city editions, most of which are colored -- are more fully integrated into teams' on-court programs.
Want to do a deeper dive? Wright has also prepared pie charts showing how frequently each uniform color has been worn at home and on the road. Take a look:
While white is still by far the most common choice for home teams, it's worn only about half of the time. Interestingly, white has also been the most common road color -- a development that few would have predicted at the season's outset.
Wright has tracked a bunch of additional facts and figures regarding the NBA's brave new uni world. For example (all numbers complete through Sunday's games):
• Teams wearing colored uniforms at home have gone a combined 161-140 in those games, a .535 win percentage. That's lower than home teams' overall percentage of .578. So if you believe haberdashery is destiny, it's better off not to wear colored uniforms at home.
• Similarly, teams wearing white on the road have gone a combined 92-108 (.460), which is better than the league's overall road mark of .422.
• Best record for a team wearing colored uniforms at home: 8-1 for the Raptors (4-1 in red, 4-0 in black).
• Interestingly, the Raptors also have the best record, 6-0, for a team wearing white on the road.
• Only one team has worn white for all its home games: the Knicks.
• Only one team has worn colored uniforms for all its road games: the Celtics.
• Three teams have not yet worn white at home: the Bulls, Nets and Rockets.
• There have been 103 color-vs.-color games. The two most active teams in this category have been the Bulls and Rockets (with 14 color-vs.-color games apiece), followed by the Celtics (13) and Lakers (12).
• The most common color-vs.-color matchup has been with one team wearing blue and the other in red. This has occurred 26 times, with the home team wearing red in 18 of those games.
• Most wins in a single uniform: 18, by the Warriors in their primary whites.
• Most losses in a single uniform: 15, by the Hawks in their primary blacks.
• Most games played in a single uniform: 27, by the Timberwolves in navy.
• Most consecutive games in the same uniform: 10, by the Pistons, who wore white from Oct. 23 through Nov. 12.
• Winless uniforms (minimum four games): Jazz, navy on road (0-10); Magic, white on road (0-6); Grizzlies, light blue on road (0-5); and Hornets, purple at home (0-4). In addition, the Lakers in purple (0-5) and Grizzlies in light blue (0-6) are winless regardless of location.
• Undefeated uniforms (minimum four games): Raptors, white on road (6-0), white at home (5-0) and black at home (4-0); Celtics, black at home (5-0); Cavaliers, black at home (4-0); Spurs, gray at home (4-0).
Meanwhile, here's a question near and dear to your friendly uniform columnist's heart: With 19 of the league's 30 team's wearing corporate ad patches on their jerseys this season, how have the ad-clad teams fared compared to their ad-free counterparts? According to ESPN Stats & Information, ad-clad teams had a cumulative record of 382-372 through Tuesday's games (a winning percentage of .507), while the ad-free teams had gone 251-268 (.484).
Ah, but what about head-to-head matchups of ad-clad teams against ad-free teams? There had been 281 such games through Tuesday, and the ad-clad teams had won 148 of them while losing 133 -- a .527 winning percentage. Unsurprisingly, the best-performing ad-clad team in these matchups has been the Warriors (13-3), while the worst has been the Hawks (4-12). Among ad-free teams, the top team when facing an ad-clad opponent has been the Rockets (18-6), while the worst has been the Mavericks (5-19).
We'll revisit these numbers at the end of the season to see whether anything significant has changed. Stay tuned.
Paul Lukas is all in favor of color-versus-color games (and strongly opposed to jersey ads). If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.