The Sixers will officially unveil today their Classic Edition uniform for the 2019-2020 season. They’re one of just 12 teams in the NBA to feature a Classic Edition uniform this season.
The design is based on a short-lived design worn by Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham and 10x All-Star Hal Greer in the first half of the 1970-71 season. You read that right. In what has to be one of the few occurrences in sports history, the Sixers abandoned the design and returned to the PHILA design the team’s current uniforms are based on by mid-season. There are rumors as to why it was retired so early, most related to the team struggling in it, some about Billy Cunningham not being a fan of the look.
That didn’t deter the team from wanting to feature the script “Seventy Sixers” design this season. Behold it’s relative beauty:
We had a chance to talk to Sixers President Chris Heck and Chief Marketing Officer Katie O’Reilly to find out what made this design so special.
The interview and more images after the jump:
The Sixers have one of the hottest brands in the NBA and arguably all of North American sports. Part of that has to do with the market, part with stars like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, part with crazed Process types and the infatuation surrounding the circumstance, and part with the Sixers proactive and thoughtful marketing experts. Heck and his team are obsessed with the detail (the man gets excited when he shows you framed images hanging around the practice complex). Ergo, the team has seen their apparel fly off the shelves.
Heck explained the rationale behind choosing the 1970-71 uniform for this Classic Edition, which is definably not the Iverson-era Black and Gold many younger fans have been clamoring for and won’t see this year:
“When we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 66-67 championship team, those uniforms were super successful,” Heck said. “Everyone loved the classic PHILA uniform– this kind of gave a wink to that evolution.”
“It’s certainly unique the way they’re written. When you put it to guys like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, where these guys are culture-setting individuals, and they absolutely love it, it works. They both asked to be in the campaign. This campaign was a lot of fun for us.”
Wilt Chamberlain, Ben Simmons, and their love of cars
“We got to bring back an ad from the 70s of Wilt Chamberlain in front of a car, like an old school car,” O’Reilly said. “This is where the player engagement was so much fun, because Ben has this incredible passion for cars, so we sort of got to relive that with him– bringing these [uniforms] back just allowed us to tell all these different stories.”
The Liberty Bell
I asked if there were any major differences between the 1970-71 uniform and the Classic Edition the team will wear this season. Heck noted that the league has very strict guidelines on the design of the Classic Edition jerseys, specifically that any team-specific logos come from that time period. To that end, he said, “The only thing that’s different is on the belt buckle, where we have the original liberty bell logo. The liberty bell was on a sheet of logos from that season.”
“There was a whole debate about the size and placement of the Logoman, that’s how detailed we got down to make sure it was accurate and reflective of what they wore,” O’Reilly mentioned.
What to expect this season
While the league allows teams to create new versions of their uniforms every year, teams with Classic Editions are only allowed to design one every five years. That makes brand integration all the more important.
As for a new court with a design resembling the 1970-71 theme, Heck said that due to the NBA’s restrictions and rules on court design, they haven’t locked down a design to completion, but the team expects to be able to do something on court to reflect this look.
If nothing else, it sounds like the Classic Edition uniforms will be worn more often than you might expect.
There will be a new City Edition as well.
“Our annual opportunity is to change the City Edition… which we’ll unveil probably in October,” Heck said.
But the Classic Editions will receive most of the focus this year.
“With our season ticket members and how we’re treating this, not to mention opening video, you’ll see opening night we’ll have some play with this,” Heck said. “We’ll probably wear these more than the norm.”
“I think these are really hot and people are gonna love them.”
Where to get them
The Classic Edition jerseys will be available for purchase starting October 1.
Today, fans can go onto the Sixers’ website at 12 p.m. and enter two sweepstakes sponsored by StubHub. Fans will be entered to win tickets to the first game the team wears the Classic Edition. One lucky fan will win the first in-market Ben Simmons uniform he wore during the photoshoot and the first in-market Joel Embiid uniform he wore at the photoshoot.