It’s no surprise, but the Oklahoma City Thunder is making a firm stand in establishing an independent identity.
Christopher Arena — the NBA’s vice president of outfitting, identity and equipment — told The Oklahoman in a phone interview Monday the Thunder will not honor the Seattle SuperSonics’ 1979 NBA title with the league’s new championship tags.
Beginning in 2014-15, the NBA and Adidas will add small gold mark on the back jersey collar of teams that have won an NBA championship. The mark features a depiction of the Larry O’Brien Trophy along with a notation indicating how many times the franchise has won the NBA Finals.
Last week, a leaked PDF of an Adidas catalog showed Thunder jerseys appearing without the tag, but the organization has yet to confirm or deny the decision.
“As of right now, they are not wearing it,” Arena said. “They actually would have had to have told us that some time ago, and that was their choice. We have several teams who have a lineage that exists prior to the city that they’re in ...Some teams embrace that past, some teams don’t. Whether it’s because of ownership changes or perhaps the lineage is too great of a distance or the team nickname changed or whatever it may be, that’s their decision.”
Arena said the jersey addition was less about boosting retail sales and more about honoring the NBA’s tradition. NBA replica and “Swingman” jerseys sold in stores will not feature the championship tag. It will only be on authentic jerseys, which sell for $299.95 on NBA.com.
The inspiration for the mark comes from the NBA reflecting players’ various achievements on All-Star Game warmups.
“We’ve been trying to figure out a way to take those accomplishments and apply them to a team setting and apply them to the game uniforms,” Arena said. “As we were going through the updates this season we just targeted this year to add the trophy, number of years.”
The NBA discussed several possible locations for the championship notation, including the jock tag on the bottom of jerseys. Arena said designers decided for the back collar so it would be visible on-court, but also intentionally made it a subtle addition.