Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Look of a Champion

I hate to break it to you, but the Denver Nuggets will not win the NBA championship this year.

Believe me, there is no one more excited about their chances in the NBA playoffs than I am right now, but it’s just not going to happen.

I know I’m new to the area, but part of the reason I moved to Denver was to have the chance to experience professional sports at its highest level and the Nuggets have been right there for most of this season.

Chauncey Billups has brought some much needed leadership, Carmelo Anthony has developed a deadly outside shot, J.R. Smith has been on fire as of late, Chris Andersen has been a pleasant surprise off of the bench, and the entire team has been playing solid, fundamental basketball on both ends of the court all year.

And while this has been one of the Nuggets’ best seasons in recent memory, I unfortunately have to be the bearer of bad news.

They’re not going to win the championship this year for one basic reason.

It’s the same reason why Cleveland lost to San Antonio in the 2007 finals. It’s the same reason why Utah lost back to back titles to Chicago in the late 1990’s (and not because of Michael Jordan). And it’s the same reason why Houston won two titles in the mid 90’s (again, not because of Michael Jordan’s absence) and haven’t sniffed the NBA finals since.

It even goes beyond basketball.

It’s the same reason why the New York Yankees have won 26 World Series championships and it’s the same reason why the Montreal Canadiens have sipped from Lord Stanley’s Cup 24 times.

In all of sports – and especially in the NBA – championship success comes down to the uniforms.

Think about it. The teams that traditionally win the NBA title year after year usually sport a classic looking uniform and the squads that have trendy or gaudy threads spend the summer trying to reload or rebuild in vain.

In pro basketball history, you can only find maybe two champions from the modern era that have won a title with non-classic unis: the 1978 Washington Bullets and the 1979 Seattle Supersonics (and neither team currently exists as it did back then).

Ever since, we’ve had a steady diet of Lakers-Bulls-Celtics-Spurs-Rockets-Pistons championship parades at the end of every of NBA season and the one common denominator between those franchises is that they all have a very classic uniform.

So what makes a uniform classic? In my mind, there are four simple characteristics:

(1.) How long has the team had the uni? Teams like the Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, and Blazers more than qualify for this category.

(2.) The uniform can only have two or three basic colors. When you think of the Bulls, you think of red and white. When you think of the Knicks, you think of blue and orange. When you think of the Sixers, you think of black, silver, gold, red, white, and blue.

The defense rests.

(3.) The lettering on the jersey has to be simple, yet iconic – so basically the complete opposite of the Wizards, Warriors, and T’Wolves.

(4.) And finally, will the team still have the same uniform that they have now in five to 10 years? You have to believe that a lot of teams that have a trendy look now (i.e. Hawks, Mavs, and Jazz to name a few) will be updating again in a couple of years. Conversely, even though franchises like the Magic, Raptors, and Pacers have just recently gone to new uniforms, they would all be crazy to switch again any time soon because they finally have what’s shaping up to be the required classic look.

To further prove my point, look what happened to the Pistons when they went away from their traditional unis in the mid 90’s and experimented with that awful teal and burgundy travesty. They finally realized their mistake and where ultimately rewarded with another title trophy in 2004 after returning to their original look. On the flip side, the Sixers won it all with a classic uniform in 1983 as did the Rockets when they went back to back in ’94 and ’95. Both traded in the secret to their success and both have toiled aimlessly ever since.

Scientifically, I know there is nothing strong enough to back all of this up, but you have to admit that while once might be a fluke and twice might constitute a trend, 29 times in a row starts cementing a hypothesis as fact.

Back to the Nuggets. Their current uniforms are definitely more traditional looking than they have been in the past and I’ve been on the fence about them for a while now. I was beginning to lean towards anointing them as “classic” until my FiancĂ© recently delivered the death nail on the argument.

“They’re so cute!” she exclaimed.

I will support the Nuggets for as long as they last in this year’s postseason, but I can promise you that no NBA franchise will ever cut down the nets in “cute” uniforms.

All signs are pointing towards a potentially epic series between Los Angeles and Cleveland and even though it would be sweet to see King James get his first ring, the smart money would be on Kobe and the Lakers – if only because of the uniforms alone.


EZ said...

Good work.

A counter-argument can be made based on Denver and Tampa Bay's Super Bowl XXXII, XXXIII, and XXXVII wins. The two franchises' classic looks featured the signature Orange, but the teams struggled with a 0-4 Super Bowl record and 0 Super Bowl appearances, respectively. Their championships came only after switching to their more modern looks.

The same can be said of the Patriots titles*, although cheating likely played a bigger role than the jersey change (spoken like a true disgrunted Bills fan).

The NFL is celebrating the 8 AFL teams this year by featuring games with their retro unis which should be a treat.

Just Being Josh said...

Completely agree on those NFL examples. I knew the Seahawks didn't have a prayer against the Steelers a couple of years ago!

And I'm way excited about the AFL retros this season. Especially that Bills-Pats game to start the season.

Kevin said...

So this means that no team of mine will EVER win a championship..

..except in Madden 2006 when I owned and operated the Vegas Bandits (formerly known as the Raiders)!!!