Detroit Pistons in Teal: In defense of ‘ugly’ jerseys

After a 20-year hiatus, there is once again a teal jersey and a horse with its mane on fire in Motown. The Detroit Pistons made it official Monday night be officially releasing the first photos of rookie Jaden Ivey giving the “classic” teal road uni Detroit wore from 1996-2001 along with a hype video and a big social push.

Needless to say, not everybody was a fan. To many folks who, we shall say, do not fall into the prime demo of potential jersey sales were not particularly pleased to see these crawl out of the 90s. What’s next? Gak?

I won’t pretend they don’t have a point. The fact that the Pistons spent nearly 50 years donning red, white and blues, established themselves as one of the premier franchises in the NBA, won two championships, and then completely pivoted to teal was an extremely 90s decision.

And it’s not like most of the people most hyped to see the teal return are particularly nostalgic for the era. Most of them weren’t even born yet. But that is kind of the point.

These bizarre, tacky, gloriously teal jerseys aren’t for the olds. They are for the young and the young at heart. They pop. They’re bold. They might be ugly, but they certainly aren’t boring. There should be space for that in the never-ending revolving door of NBA alts.

Jaden Ivey in the Classic Edition Detroit Pistons uniform of teal with flaming horse head.

It’s not like the Pistons are making the same mistake they did in the 90s. They are wearing these things for 10 out of 82 games. They harken back to the last time the Pistons had a transcendent offensive superstar in Grant Hill. And the Pistons didn’t dust them off until they had a young team that wouldn’t be weighed down by the tackiness, and, perhaps, the desperation.

They waited until they had players who could transcend a giant flaming horse head on their chest. One thing I think we can all agree on is that Cade Cunningham’s career won’t be defined by wearing a teal jersey part time. But can you imagine if we saw Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson trying to pull these off four years ago?

It’s not like they are going to replace those classic blue and whites we’ll see most of the season. They will be taking up space previously reserved for some of the truly most uninspiring and ugly jerseys in the NBA.

Remember the black Motor City uniforms? Remember the Statement Editions that combined a depressing gray, errr, excuse me, “chrome” with blue and red trim? Remember when the Pistons wore an alt that was basically a straight up theft from a previous Denver Nuggets jersey?

I don’t care what you say, the teal jersey is far, far, FAR superior to whatever the hell the above is trying to pull off. They say nothing, are based on nothing, evoke no feelings and you probably already forgot a couple of them existed. Detroit Pistons fans deserve better. They deserve a jersey that harkens back to fun players like Hill, Jerry Stackhouse and the arrival of Ben Wallace (I miss the old maroon reds myself).

I lived through these jerseys the first time as a young basketball fan, and I was happy to see them retired in favor of the more traditional style of the Going to Work era (and third championship). But the biggest truism I’ve learned in my nearly 40 years on this planet is that jerseys are either bad or boring when your teams are bad and boring.

The Pistons fan base has been desperate for the team to inject a little life, and a little style, into the team for more than a decade. It’s not that the Pistons traditional jerseys are bad, it’s that the teams were so uninspiring. They were mired in mediocrity or the middle of the lottery. They haven’t won a playoff game since 2008. Of course fans 25 and younger are desperate for something new.

But the Pistons finally have a team worthy of taking a big swing, and soon enough the fan base will also look more kindly on the clean, classic Pistons’ red, white and blue. It’s an exciting time to be a Pistons fan again. Not only does Detroit have Cade, but also Saddiq Bey and Jaden Ivey and Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren. It’s time to make room for an exciting jersey again. It’s time to embrace the teal. It’s time for some fun.

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