Detroit — The Pistons’ teal jerseys might be on their way back.
Since their debut in the 1996-97 season, the teal uniforms have straddled the line of ire and desire from fans and fashionistas alike. It’s an eclectic look, a stark deviation from the franchise’s traditional red, white and blue to the bold teal, with a black, flaming horse’s head and complementary piping inspired by a car-exhaust system.
The images of Grant Hill in the teal jersey were striking. It was an extreme makeover at the time — and like many extreme fashion fads, it comes back in style.
In the past year or two, the teal look has experienced a renaissance, with some fans clamoring for the Pistons to bring it back since it was shelved in 2001 — even for one game, for the cultural aspects and for nostalgia. All-Star center Andre Drummond has been at the forefront of the teal resurgence, sporting a teal jacket he found at a recent tent sale where the Pistons liquidated much of the game-worn and throwback stock they had at the warehouse at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
It was a huge success.
“We definitely hear the fans and we see all the comments on social media,” said Jason George, vice president and creative director with the Pistons. “When it comes to throwback uniforms, the league has set rules on when you can use a throwback uniform; it has to fall within their Hardwood Classics program. That means it has to fall on an anniversary of your franchise.”
Although teal Pistons gear is available on the team merchandise store and at Little Caesars Arena, the movement is building to have not just fans wearing teal jerseys, but players as well.
In looking at the Pistons’ available options, the NBA mandates that they could use teal as a Hardwood Classics jersey, which can be in five-year intervals of a franchise anniversary. The next one is three years away, so fans will have to wait for the 80th anniversary of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons’ start in the National Basketball League.
“Our first opportunity would be the 2022-2023 season, because it would be the 80th anniversary of 1941. If we wanted to bring back some variation of the teal as a city edition, the league doesn’t let you do that,” George said. “You can’t bring back portions of a retro uniform; you can only bring it back in its original form as part of Hardwood Classics.
“You have to apply. When it’s an anniversary year, if the league accepts your application, you can pretty much use any uniform from your history that you want to honor.”
Additionally, the team would have to work on options for Hardwood Classics jerseys two years in advance, with the application process. Given that timeline, it would seem that the Pistons would be working on Project Teal now — ahead of the current deadline.
NBA teams have four jerseys they can wear, after the league moved away from the traditional “home” white and “road” dark jerseys. The new configuration includes Association (former “home”), Icon (former “road”), Statement (Pistons’ gray) and City (Pistons’ Motor City). The City Edition jerseys can change each year and the Pistons moved from a dark blue in 2017-18 to a black with gray accents last season.
The Pistons’ new City Edition design for this season hasn’t been revealed but likely will be released this week. The debut game will be Nov. 29 at home against the Charlotte Hornets, according to lockervision.nba.com, which has the schedule of the jerseys that each team will wear.
The Hardwood Classics would be the fifth jersey and there are some teams each season who have the fifth option, but those are only for franchise anniversaries.
What does that mean for the Pistons’ burgundy jerseys?
If that’s even an option, it likely will have to wait until 2027-28, for the 85th anniversary.