The Glory Denied? The No-Show of NBA Opening Game Champion Jerseys

The Glory Denied? The No-Show of NBA Opening Game Champion Jerseys - Hoop Jersey Store

The Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy, symbolizing the highest honor in the NBA, is the annual target of over 400 of the world's top basketball players. After about eight months of fierce competition, only one team can bring this glory home. In the past, the championship team, in addition to receiving the physical trophy, could wear jerseys with a commemorative championship patch in the next season's opening game to signify this honor.

The concept of adding a championship trophy patch to the jersey originated in the 1996 NBA Finals, where the competing teams – the Chicago Bulls and the Seattle SuperSonics – wore jerseys with the championship trophy patch on the chest. Since then, every year, the two teams entering the Finals have worn jerseys with the championship patch, with each year’s patch design being unique. Before 2009, the most common patch design was in the shape of the trophy, and from 2010 onwards, a round basketball-shaped patch was more frequently used.


In addition to the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, another symbol of glory is the championship ring. Since the rings are custom-made featuring team logos, finals scores, or players' numbers, they cannot be prepared before the season like the trophy and are usually presented at the opening game of the championship team's home arena the following season. Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry once said: "The championship ring ceremony is a strange night because you're celebrating something from four months ago, and then you have to enjoy the moment, with a huge banner falling from the sky and cheers from the fans, then put the ring aside, warm up for two minutes, and start today's game."

But it's this "strange" ring presentation ceremony that adds color to the championship team's opening game of the new season. Apart from the championship rings, the team also gets a unique commemorative kit, including warm-up clothes, jackets, and jerseys. Let’s take a look at the history of champion team jerseys in opening games.

The special opening game jerseys began in the 2004-2005 season, but initially, they were similar to the regular season jerseys, only adding the championship trophy patch on the chest. The opening game jerseys from 2004 to 2007 followed the same format.


In the 2008-2009 season, the 2008 champion Boston Celtics were the first to wear newly designed opening game jerseys. Based on the team's regular home white jerseys, the green lettering and numbers were adorned with gold trims symbolizing glory, and a "2008 NBA Champion" badge was added to the chest. The jerseys, manufactured by Adidas, were released in a Swingman fan version, and later, retro jersey manufacturer Mitchell & Ness released a player-grade replica.


In 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers, as champions, returned to a more simple design, only adding a "2009 NBA Champion" and the number representing their 15th championship badge. Adidas released a Swingman version of this jersey, and Mitchell & Ness later replicated a player-grade version.



The Dallas Mavericks, who won their first NBA Championship in the 2010-2011 season, redesigned their opening game jerseys similar to the Celtics. In addition to the championship gold cup badge on the chest, the team name's lettering was covered in golden yellow, showcasing the sacred and inviolable aura of being champions. Adidas released a Swingman version of this jersey, but due to its lower grade, the colors of the lettering and badge appeared somewhat dull.


Led by LeBron James, the Miami Heat clinched the championship in the 2011-2012 season. The Heat's opening game jersey was similar to the Mavericks, with the championship cup badge and gold-trimmed team name. Adidas’ Swingman version of this jersey was quite impressive, not only adding gold trims to the numbers but also imprinting "2012 NBA Champions" in a steel-stamp-like manner.



The Heat achieved a back-to-back championship in 2013, and their opening game jersey featured the team name and numbers in golden yellow. Adidas’ Swingman jersey once again impressed, with extra gold glitter trims and "2013 NBA Champions" imprinted in a similar steel-stamp style.



Known for their "low-key" image to fans, the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth championship in 2014. Unlike the previous years' designs for the Heat and Mavericks, the Spurs reverted to the most basic version, adding only the championship trophy badge.


After several seasons of rebuilding, the Golden State Warriors transformed into a Western Conference powerhouse and won the 2015 NBA Championship. Their 2015 opening game jersey added gold trims to the team name and numbers. Adidas’ Swingman version perfectly replicated the player-worn version.


LeBron James, who returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, finally won the franchise's first NBA Championship in 2016. Unfortunately, the 2016 opening game jersey for the Cavaliers only added the championship badge, with no changes to the other lettering and numbers. This black jersey "helped" the Cavaliers win Game 5 of the Finals, reversing a 1:3 disadvantage to ultimately claim three consecutive victories and the championship. Therefore, the Cavaliers chose to wear this "lucky jersey" for the opening game, a decision not without reason.

This jersey marks the last of the opening game jerseys. If the Cavaliers knew that Nike would take over the NBA contract the following year and stop producing opening game jerseys, one wonders if they would have made this last jersey more memorable. Post-2017

Since Nike took over the NBA contract, the championship ring presentation ceremony for the opening game only includes a warm-up jacket representing the championship team.

Nike created the highly successful NBA City Edition jersey series, showcasing their powerful design capabilities. However, this also led to the disappearance of some popular jerseys, such as Christmas Day jerseys and the opening game jerseys mentioned in this article. Every year, fans eagerly anticipate new releases, but can't help but fantasize about what Christmas/opening game jerseys would look like if designed by Nike's talented team.

Fans have their money ready; hopefully, Nike's design team is prepared too.

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