For years, “Oklahoma City” referred to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.
The Thunder have helped move the city forward and broaden its image. But the team doesn’t want to distance itself from that tragedy, which remains a central aspect of Oklahoma City’s identity.
To that end, the Thunder have unveiled new uniforms.
The uniform design features symbols that represent elements of the memorial. Across the chest, “Oklahoma City” appears in gold-lined letters, with the twin Gates of Time spanning down the side of the jerseys that carry into the shorts. The times 9:01 and 9:03 appear within the vents of the shorts. They reflect the innocence of the city at 9:01 before the attack, followed by the time the city began to come together and heal at 9:03. The white on the side of the shorts represents the Reflecting Pool, a shallow depth of water that provides comfort and peace. “Service,” “Honor” and “Kindness” appear above the jersey’s tag – reflecting the ideals of the Oklahoma Standard, and the manner in which Oklahoma citizens treat one another and their community.
The Survivor Tree, a 90-year-old American elm at the site of the memorial, is also depicted in full color on the belt of the uniform’s shorts. The tree serves as a symbol of human resilience and strength as it withstood the force of the 4,000 pound bomb. Inside the jersey, a blue ribbon is layered with the words, “We Remember Those Who Were Changed Forever, April 19, 1995.” Along the back of the neck, Thunder blue, navy, yellow and sunset stripes tie the uniform to the team’s traditional colors and represent the many gifts of remembrance that visitors left on the fence at the original site and continue to leave at the memorial today.
The Thunder are the second NBA team to base a jersey on a significant and tragic world event. The Grizzlies have worn uniforms designed around the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
I have mixed feelings on what could be a burgeoning trend.
In both cases, the iconography appears to be meaningful and solemn. There’s value in elevating these important symbols. The Thunder will also donate to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, which honors those affected by the bombing.
But the purpose of frequently introducing new uniforms like these is to turn a profit. It feels cheap to exploit a tragedy to come up with a new jersey idea. That’s especially unavoidable with the glaring advertisement on these Oklahoma City uniforms.
The Thunder also revealed revised versions of their white, blue and orange uniforms:
The changes to the white and blue uniforms are subtle. The orange uniforms – now with bright blue letters and numbers – really pop. For better or worse.