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Illini Extreme Makeover: Basketball Uniforms

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It’s May, so let’s brainstorm how Nike can fix the basketball uniforms for next season.

The Illini football program unveiled new uniforms for the upcoming football season a few weeks ago and soon the basketball team will be getting new threads as well. Brad Underwood has come out and said that the team will be sporting new uniforms for the 2018-19 season in various radio hits since the new football uniforms were made public.

If the football uniforms were any indication, the uniforms will be much simpler and much more stripped down. That’s been Nike’s — as well as the rest of the fashion world’s — style in the latter part of the decade. Most new uniforms try to eliminate the noise and accents within the uniform and keep it clean, crisp and focused.

Uniforms, court design, logos and overall team aesthetic are relatively meaningless things that for some reason I care way too much about. I’m the guy when you and your friends are all watching the game who goes “ugh, their uniforms are horrendous, can’t stand them”. Then your pals shoot you a look as though you just made the most useless statement in the history of the english language.

So this post is going to be dedicated to a list of things we can expect from the Illini uniforms, and mostly, things we’d like to see added, removed or changed with the new set of threads.

In case you forgot what the current uniforms look like, we’ll use these photos for reference as we go:

Fit/Shape

Illinois’ latest batch of uniforms didn’t get Nike’s latest design. The current uniforms still have the really wide shoulders and overall baggier look throughout the uniform. You’ve probably noticed that most Nike teams have the updated, tighter, minimalist uniform cut seen below.

When Nike first unveiled this design a few years back I didn’t love it, but as time has passed and trends have changed I definitely prefer it to the fit and style of Illinois’ current outdated outfit. The shoulders are slimmer, the jerseys are cut tighter and it gives an overall cleaner more modern look.

I would expect that Illinois’ new jerseys will be in this style, just in time for Nike to redirect course and launch a brand new base uniform design for the 2020 season.

Paneling

Get rid of the zig zags.

Simple as that. That’s really my only request. I think these uniforms will have a much more minimalist design so I really hope that means the zig zags are gone. They were bold but they just didn’t work. I would be okay with no design on the sides of the jersey and leaving it completely blank.

If they are going to use side paneling I hope the they build off the design that was used in the ‘89 throwbacks and use the same colors from the zig zags of the current uniforms. I’ve always liked the black accent on the blue uniforms going back to the early 2000s.

Font

I’ve never been a huge fan of the new Illinois font, but if they are going to use it they need to get rid of the two toned lettering used on the current iteration of the home white uniform. The font looks better on the orange and blue uniforms with an accent border. The new, tighter uniform cut may also make the flatline font look better.

Personally, I would like to see the uniforms ditch the brand standard of the Illinois-specific font and go to a modern iteration of the more classic arched Illini font seen on the basketball jerseys throughout program history.

Ideally, the home white uniforms would have “Fighting” above the numbers and “Illini” below the similar to the ‘89 throwbacks Illinois has worn the past few seasons — In a perfect world the home whites would simply be the ‘89 throwbacks. The orange and blue uniforms would simply read “Illinois” above the numbers.

I’m not as much of a stickler for what the numbers should look like. If the brand standard numbers used on the current iteration of uniforms mesh well with a different arched font then I have no problem using them. If they don’t, I don’t have a problem ditching the brand standard and going with a different style of number.

My only request for the numbers is that they are the same color as the lettering on the front of the jersey. I don’t know why but it always bothered me how the numbers and lettering were different colors on the current iteration.

Alternates

The past few seasons, the Illini have had two alternate uniforms, the ‘89 Flyin’ Illini throwbacks and the silver set. One is a fan favorite the other is loved by some and hated by others. Underwood had the team wear the throwbacks quite often in his first season which is why I think the home whites will mirror them in design, so there may not be an ‘89 throwback set in the rotation this year.

There is so much money in these deals between Nike and the universities that they have money to burn so they usually get cute and come up with strange alternates for the schools to wear.

My greatest fear for the alternate jersey is that we get something with a big victory shield on the front of the jersey with the numbers. I’ll use Michigan State as an example again:

Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

I think that would be a disaster. I’d much rather have another silver or gray jersey than something with a huge shield on the front of the jersey. I don’t mind the shield as a secondary logo, but I’d prefer if it stayed in the merchandise shop or as an accent pieces in the uniform sets as opposed to being the focal point of the uniform.

An idea for an alternate jersey that sounds good in my head but terrible in practice is basically to flip the silver and orange on the current silver alternate uniform. It would basically be a bright neon orange with silver lettering and accent. It would be about as nauseating as those highlighter yellow Baylor and Oregon uniforms, but they might be cool to break out for Maui or the Gavitt Games or other high profile non-rivalry games. That may be too crazy, but at least they would be closer to one of the school’s colors.

We’ll be back to dissect what we love and hate about the new uniforms once they arrive. Let us know if you agree, disagree or what you want to see in the new uniforms in the comments.