SALT LAKE CITY — If you had asked Bart Sharp, senior vice president of marketing for the Utah Jazz, three years ago if the Jazz's gradient-themed City Edition jerseys would still be around in some form for the 2020-21 season, he may have just laughed you out of the room.
He remembers when a rough mock-up of the uniform was leaked weeks before the initial unveil in late 2017, showing a jersey that was an oddly colored rainbow down the entire thing, the initial reaction was not promising. That mock-up was met with a lukewarm attitude, at best, and disdain, at worst, from fans.
"If you would have asked me a couple of weeks before we revealed our original City Edition, I would have said we will end (the design) quickly," Sharp said, laughing.
On Monday, the Jazz revealed the next chapter in what they call City Edition story — an alter ego to the record-breaking original. Turns out, attitudes, just like the colors on the jersey, can change quickly.
"It's important to remember with all of our uniforms, we plan these out years in advance," Sharp said. "We had originally planned a different evolution to our City Edition story. But when we rolled out original uniforms, we obviously found something that our fans really, really loved."
That has made it difficult to go away from the jersey.
With fans snatching up the original City Edition jersey at an unprecedented rate (early on, the Jazz really struggled to keep up with the high demand for the uniform), Utah changed its uniform plans. It was a design that was only going to be used for the 2017-18 season, but after the fans connected with it so strongly — helped by the Jazz's blowout win over the Warriors in the jersey's debut — the team altered course.
The thought was simple: If the fans like it so much, why not keep it around? The Jazz ended up using the design for three seasons. And now, it's back again, just in a different form (pushing about a dozen uniform designs to the back burner — at least for now).
"We felt like transforming it into this dark mode would be something that would be really cool for our fans and our players are really going to enjoy it," Sharp said.
And it checks off something the Jazz have heard fans have wanted back: a black uniform. It's the first predominantly black uniform since an alternate jersey worn from 1997-2003.
So how long can fans expect this new version of the beloved City Edition to stick around? Sharp is adamant that the sun will set on this specific design after this season — and yes, he knows he has said that before, but this time he means it.
"There are other things that we have planned at the league level and at the team level going into next season with it being the 75th anniversary of the NBA. And so that's what's happening next year," Sharp said.
That commemorative season has forced a number of teams to modify their original uniform plans for the 2021-22 season, Sharp said. But he also said he is optimistic what the Jazz can do with the upcoming design and that "it's really exciting."
"This one, fortunately, or unfortunately, we will only have for this upcoming season," he said.
But who knows how long the remnants of the design will be in Utah — or even around the league. Sharp and his team say they feel like trendsetters in some ways. The Jazz were one of only two teams that originally had a City Edition court to go along with the specialized jerseys — something that has become more of a normal thing.
"We know that there are other teams that are asking Nike and NBA to help them do something like that," Sharp said. "We're OK with that, but it just makes us a little bit more excited for what the future holds, and encourages us to continue to elevate our game."