(A version of this story first appeared in Jenni Carlson’s newsletter. Subscribe here)
The Thunder debuted its new alternate court on New Year’s Eve.
Dark navy blue around the entire perimeter of the court and inside the lanes. That same dark navy on a stripped-down Thunder logo at midcourt. Sunset orange for the 3-point line as well as other accents.
It was simple. Clean. Sharp.
It is the best alternate court the Thunder has had.
But what about the alternate uniforms OKC was wearing?
I’ve been ranking the Thunder’s alternate uniforms for years, but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done so. And since Nike took over the design of all NBA jerseys in 2017, the alternates have gone up in quantity and quality. Teams have gotten new City Edition jerseys every year — this year’s new kit and court will be used for Sunday home games the rest of the season — and the looks have largely been good.
So, as I watched the Thunder thrash the Nets in its alternate jerseys on its alternate court New Year’s Eve, I figured it was time to update the alternate jersey rankings.
Without further ado:
(Rich Storry/USA Today Sports)
1. Sunset orange “Statement Edition,” 2019-present
The orange alternates have been my favorite for years, and that hasn’t changed with Nike’s reiteration of the Adidas original. The bright orange and Thunder blue pops. When OKC wears the sunset orange, you immediately know who’s playing. Plus, the design of the jersey is strong with the jagged, staggered OKC lettering on the front. It is a bold, strong look from top to bottom.
2. OKC Memorial slate gray “City Edition,” 2019-20
The look was as good as the reasoning. These slate gray uniforms were a tribute to the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The gold letter and white accents were striking and had splendid detailing. Running down the sides of the jerseys, for example, were golden representations of The Gates of Time that now stand at either end of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The gates on the jerseys ended in white blocks that represented the Reflecting Pool. Such cool imagery.
3. Native American turquoise “City Edition,” 2018-19
These bright turquoise uniforms were a tribute to the state’s Native American heritage. The color was so magnificent, it’s one I wish Nike would bring back in a future alternate jersey. On this one, there was diamond banding on the shorts and diamond influence in the block OKC letter on the front. The look was regal and bold.
4. Slate gray “City Edition,” 2022-23
I’m on the record as not being a fan of gray alternate uniforms, but here I am with two slate grays in my top five. Why? The slate gray is one reason; it’s a strong, bold option that is far superior to something light and washed out. But the biggest reason is that these grays had blue letters and numbers rimmed in white. The white rimming made everything pop against the gray. That should be a standard for anyone who does gray alternates, which often have names and numbers that are impossible to read. Additionally, the orange and blue piping on these jerseys as well as the thick heathered orange stripe down the sides and around the leg banding looked spectacular.
(Alonzo Adams/USA Today Sports)
5. Dark navy “City Edition,” 2023-24
These current alternates, which were worn during the In-Season Tournament and will return for all remaining Sunday home games, have ghosted, overlapping images of OKC logos on a dark navy background. It’s so dark that the jerseys almost look black. But from afar, the ghosting disappears, and the jerseys just look dark navy. A very strong color. The slanted OKC across the front in orange and the numbers in gold are bold, too.
(John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports)
6. Navy “Statement Edition,” 2017-2021
These were among Nike’s first offerings for the Thunder after taking over the design of NBA jerseys, and they were a hit. Navy blue body. Orange jagged lettering. Thunder blue piping. The best detail, though, was the back and sides with a gradation of blue that looked like sound waves. A great look that would portend the other great Nike looks to come.
7. All white “City Edition,” 2021-2022
All-white uniforms have become something of a trend in sports. No doubt it’s sharp. Crisp. Clean. Players have taken to calling it icy, though Shai Gilgeous-Alexander described these uniforms as hard when he first saw them. Whatever descriptor you use, these all-whites with gray detailing were sleek.
(Chris Humphreys/USA Today Sports)
8. Sunset orange, 2015-17
The original orange uniforms. Once upon a time, these sat at the top of my rankings, and frankly, I never thought it would fall out of the top five. Even though Nike’s rendition of the sunset orange jerseys still holds the top spot, I still love the original from Adidas. Navy block letters, numbers and piping was a strong contrast to the orange.
9. Christmas, 2016
Yes, there used to be alternate uniforms for Christmas Day games, and some of them were really good. The most recent Thunder Christmas jersey stands as the best. Blue jersey and shorts with no piping or flourishes. White letters and numbers including an old-timey script Thunder running uphill across the front of the jersey. Just a clean, crisp look.
10. Christmas, 2012
The NBA referred to these as “single-color jerseys,” but that wasn’t totally accurate. The jerseys and shorts were solid blue, a little more electric than Thunder blue, but the blue block Thunder lettering across the front was outlined in orange. So, two-color jerseys? Still, these were different in a good way.
(Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)
11. Christmas, 2015
This uniform had a script Thunder that was similar to the Christmas jersey in 2016, but the jersey was navy while the lettering, trim and piping was off white. It was clean and classic, which is often the opposite of what alternate jerseys are like.
12. Oklahoma “City Edition,” 2020-21
This uniform was a tribute to Thunder fans across the state with OKLAHOMA, not OKLAHOMA CITY on the front. An outline of the state was on the waistband buckle, too. The concept was good, but the look was too busy. The uniforms started with blue diagonally across the top of the jersey, then had an orange band, then black the rest of the way until the left pant leg which transitioned again with an orange band and back to the blue. It was something of a retro feel, and while it grew on me, it was still a little too scattered.
13. Christmas, 2014
These uniforms are best known for the names on the back being the players’ first names instead of their last. It was something fun and different, and on Christmas Day, seeing Kevin and Russell on the back of a jersey didn’t exactly feel out of place. The rest of the jersey, though, was just meh. Thunder blue with the shield logo and number on the front. Nothing special.
14. Navy and white, 2012-16
These were the Thunder’s original alternates. Navy with white THUNDER running down the front vertically. They looked better suited for an intramural team, not an NBA one. Thank goodness the alternates have improved since these.
15. Christmas, 2013
Remember when short sleeves were a thing? Blech. If you could get past the sleeves, the all-blue uniform with the monochrome Thunder shield was fairly sharp. But you couldn’t get past the sleeves. Still can’t.
(Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)
16. White short sleeves, 2015-17
Did I mention short sleeves are blech? Worse, the Thunder wore these all-white jerseys with the Thunder shield often. Double blech.
17. Gray “City Edition,” 2017-18
It’s hard to rank below short-sleeve uniforms, but these gray uniforms manage to do so. The gray faded to a drab, washed-out hue. The OKC on the front was small, like an afterthought, and the slashes of orange and blue were haphazard. It was like Nike was trying hard in its first year to do something flashy. Instead, it was just a mess.