The Women’s National Basketball Association unveiled all of their new 2021 team uniforms from Nike on Thursday — all of the new looks include improved jersey cuts, the restoration of player numbers and large team logos on the front (at the expense of advertiser space… thank you!), as well as three new designations of jersey types. White uniforms are also making a return.
“The basketball uniform is an important representation of the brand of WNBA players and teams, and a point of pride for fans,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in the press release. “In partnership with Nike, unveiling new and exciting adaptations of the WNBA uniforms is a dynamic way to build on the foundation of the league’s first 25 years.”
The three uniform designations are the Heroine, Explorer, and Rebel (note the initials spell out “H.E.R.”). These designations seem to work similar to the NBA’s Icon and Association uniforms. Like the NBA’s “Association” uniform, all of the Heroine uniforms are white, like the “Icon” all of the Explorer sets are dark versions of the white, and the Rebel sets are almost always an entirely new design (which reminds me of the “City” series).
“When our team met with our athletes, their feedback was very clear,” Nike VP of Women’s Apparel Design Tania Flynn said in the release. “They wanted a uniform that fits them, not one they have to fit into. They wanted a connection to their team and fans, but also wanted to express their personal style. And they wanted us to tell their story. The new uniforms obsess all of those details for the world’s best players, technically and creatively.”
ATLANTA DREAM 2021 UNIFORMS
The Atlanta Dream’s new Explorer (red) and Heroine (white) Editions draw “inspiration from the signs made during Civil Rights marches” with their bold typefaces for ATLANTA and DREAM across the chest.
“The 16 rays on the jersey top are inspired by Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights’ “Pentagram” mural that connects the various rights movements and brings them together under one common goal – equality for all,” reads the release from the Atlanta Dream.
Meanwhile, the Rebel Edition includes “subtle hints of silver in the uniform” which you can see in the “L” of “ATL”, which is symbolic of the “platinum and gold records produced in the city”.
“The Dream’s Rebel uniform pays homage to ’90s hip-hop and Atlanta’s culture through vibrant colors that flow down the sides”, explains the Dream’s Jersey Story website.
CHICAGO SKY 2021 UNIFORMS
In the middle, in blue, is the new Rebel Edition set, designed as “a reminder to all that nothing can stop a team born from the heart of the Windy City” with its “shattered lines and a cool hue”. I wasn’t entirely sure of how that connected with the actual design of the uniform at all until I saw on the Chicago Sky release that it was designed to resemble a shattered glass ceiling. Much better.
On either side we see the black Explorer Edition and white Heroine Editions, which include a 10×10 pinstripe grid that represents “Chicago’s city blocks and the 5-on-5 for the number of players on the court”. This design is replicated on the Heorine Edition on the far right.
I’ll be honest, I again had no idea what they were talking about with that description, that is until I zoomed right in on the pinstripes and found this:
Each pinstripe is a series of alternating stacks of stripes, one horizontal stripe made up of five vertical lines followed by followed by two columns of five horizontal stripes each.
CONNECTICUT SUN 2021 UNIFORMS
The Connecticut Sun are wearing orange as their Explorer uniform with the Heorine uniform in the same design but in white. The Revel uniform is blue with Keesusk in white across the chest, “Sun” in the Mohegan language.
“Nike collaborated with the Connecticut Sun front office as well as members of the Mohegan Tribe”, read the Sun press release, “to refine the details of each uniform which embrace the rich history and symbolism of the Mohegan Tribe.”
The Explorer and Heroine uniforms feature trim based on the old Mohegan symbol first painted on bark and traditional baskets, the symbol itself contains a centre dot (representing spiratual life force) surrounded by 13 smaller dots which represent the Mohegan creation story, the 13 sections on Grandfather Turtle’s back where earth was created.
DALLAS WINGS 2021 UNIFORMS
The Dallas Wings Heroine and Explorer uniforms feature “flight-ready side details” as well as a “sky-high palette of light blues, neon greens and white that inspires daring speed”. The team name is featured across the chest, the white Heroine uniform includes “Dallas” in small neon green lettering below “Wings” in blue.
Things fly off (get it?) in a much different direction when it comes to the team’s “Rebel Edition” uniform which moves away from the Wings’ usual colour scheme in favour of a military-style look:
In a series of Tweets, the Wings explained the design of their Rebel Edition uniform as being “inspired by the P-40 Warhawk, a World War II plane manufactured in Texas and flown by Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The aesthetic of the P-40 Warhawk, coupled with the story of the WASP, are used to amplify the ethos of the Rebel mantra – showcasing women as fierce and relentless in the pursuit of victory!”
INDIANA FEVER 2021 UNIFORMS
For their Heroine and Explorer Editions, the Indiana Fever are going white and navy blue. The sides of the jersey feature wide striping “inspired by Lady Victory” and includes nineteen stars which represents the stars on the Indiana State Flag. All but one of these stars are gold, the one other star is red and that is in recognition of the team’s 2012 WNBA Championship.
It’s the Indiana Fever “Rebel Edition” that’s got everyone talking, of course, and you’ll know why as soon as you see it… well, assuming you have a Netflix account.
Yes, that’s a “Stranger Things” inspired uniform. Why Stranger Things? Because the television series is set in Hawkins, Indiana.
“The particles from the ‘Upside Down’ has settled in red specks”, says the Fever. “The ‘Rebel’ takes the Upside Down and puts it onto a jersey. The darker tone and jersey details emody the power of a mage ready for combat.”
Fun fact, the Stranger Things logo this jersey is based upon is itself based upon the wordmark logo used on the cover of Stephen King’s 1980s novel Needful Things. That original Needful Things wordmark logo was designed by our good friend Todd Radom, who, about fifteen years later, went on to design the original logo for the (you guessed it) Indiana Fever.
LAS VEGAS ACES 2021 UNIFORMS
On the left and in the middle are the Las Vegas Aces white “Heroine” and red “Explorer” uniforms, a no nonsense and clean design with the team’s name arched across the front.
The black Rebel Edition on the far right is inspired by the ace card and those who have “mastered their craft”. It features a subtle diamond pattern across the front and back, setting “a standard for excellence and quality”.
LOS ANGELES SPARKS 2021 UNIFORMS
The Sparks, who unveiled a new logo a couple of weeks ago (which we somehow missed, whoops!), incorporated their new design into the palm-inspired wordmark of their new Heroine and Explorer Edition uniforms.
The Sparks’ Rebel Edition uniform moves away from the Sparks logos or colours (starting to get the sense the “Rebel Edition” is the WNBA’s version of the “City Edition”)
The black uniform has yellow stripes around the collar and sleeves as well as up either side of the jersey, in between the side stripes are a field of yellow stars, to embody “the boundless brightness of the City of Angels”.
MINNESOTA LYNX 2021 UNIFORMS
The Lynx Heroine and Explorer Editions, there are no explanation for the design of these uniforms beyond a bunch of buzz phrases that have nothing to do with the actual design (i.e. The Explorer Edition “channels the ambitious spirit of our team as we carve a legacy on the game and create new paths for change”).
Heroine is white with LYNX across the front in blue, Explorer is blue with MINNESOTA across teh front, both trimmed with neon green around the sleeves (but not the collar).
The Rebel Edition uniform is black with silver and white trim, across the front is “MINN” in silver on a musical staff (or is it the neck of a guitar?), player number below. A series of very subtle stars are sublimated into the background of the jersey. The Lynx say this design is inspired by the legendary soul of First Avenue in the Twin Cities.
NEW YORK LIBERTY 2021 UNIFORMS
The New York Liberty are one of the few teams to carry the same overall look across all three uniforms (This is good! All teams should be creating a unified look across their entire set, in every sport). The Heroine and Explorer are white and black, the team name arched across with the Liberty torch representing the “I” in Liberty and acting as a spacer between “NEW” and “YORK” on the black. The Rebel uniform is Liberty green (teal?) with EQUALITY across the front.
PHOENIX MERCURY 2021 UNIFORMS
The Phoenix Mercury channeled their past with their Heroine design, basing it off of the original 1997 team uniforms. Their Explorer uniform (above, center) features a gradient design (the first in league history) which pays tribute to the sunsets of “The Valley”. Finally, the black Rebel edition uniform, which they’re nicknaming the “X-Factor” (note the orange “X” on the PHX wordmark) is designed to represent the fans, a series of flames are sublimated into the side stripes.
SEATTLE STORM 2021 UNIFORMS
The Seattle Storm, another team with a new logo in 2021, is wearing green and white as their Explorer and Heroine designs — these designs are meant to symbolize an evergreen crown jewel, the Seattle Space Needle is also represented up the sides of the uniform.
For the Rebel Edition, the Storm are wearing black. The design is a “celebration of the city’s lineage of political engagement”, with a sash across the chest, back and shorts the design symbolizes “female empowerment coupled with bold, graphic type in well-worn relief”. The “SEATTLE” wordmark also has a bit of a grunge look to it.
WASHINGTON MYSTICS 2021 UNIFORMS
For Heroine and Explorer, the Mystics are wearing white and red. Both jerseys include a single silver star under the collar (symbolizing D.C.’s pursuit of becoming the 51st state, and thus, getting a star on the U.S. Flag). There is a marbelling texture running up the sides of the white Heroine jersey, a nod to the architecture of D.C.
The Rebel Edition is navy blue with pink and gold striping running along from the top left of the jersey, across the chest, then down to the bottom right. “RISE” is written in blue along the pink stripe.
There is some serious symbolism in this design, the pink stripe is in the shape of the path often taken by marches through the streets of Washington leading to the National Mall.
Within the gold stripe is the inscription of the 19th amendement which granted women the right to vote in 1920. The colour scheme of the uniform is inspired by the 2017 Women’s March in Washington.
And there it is, the entirety of the WNBA’s new uniforms for the upcoming 2021 season. Gotta say, it’s nice to see the WNBA returning to team names and logos as the focus of their jerseys again instead of advertiser names — not to mention, just about every single one of these uniforms are pretty damn good (though I could do without the giant ads below the numbers that some teams are rolling with, but it is what is is, I guess).
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