The idea came to Kobe Bryant right away when his longtime collaborators at Nike told him the Lakers wanted their fourth jersey — the so-called "city edition" — designed in his honor: a snakeskin pattern to play off of his "Black Mamba" nickname.
"The snake came to me immediately," Bryant says. "It came to me so fast, I was thinking, "This can"t be that easy. This idea is not going to work." I spent months trying to talk myself out of it. But in the end, simplicity always wins."
Esleban Montoya, Nike"s art director for NBA uniforms, had worked with Bryant before on shoe designs and knew Bryant would want to be involved with every step in the creation of the first "Lakers Lore" jersey. (All 30 teams will have city edition jerseys, but the Lakers are the only ones planning to use them to honor franchise legends, the NBA and Nike say.
With Bryant"s jersey set to be retired on Dec. 18, he was a natural choice to kick off the series, which will debut on Friday Jan. 26. The Lakers intend to make these their Friday jerseys for the rest of the season).
"They have always had a more traditional aesthetic," Montoya says. "This was an opportunity to look at something more progressive." They toyed with the idea of enlarging the ball in the team"s primary logo and blowing up the logo itself — a play on the Lakers being "larger than life," Montoya says. They showed Bryant mock-ups of orange, sunset-themed jerseys that would hint at L.A."s weather and glamorous nightlife.
They ran every mock design past Bryant. He liked the sunset theme, but his mind kept going back to the black mamba. "We talked about playing off the weather and the sunset — all this gimmicky s—-," Bryant says. "But it all felt like trying to talk ourselves out of the simplest idea. In the end, you have to get right to the truth of it." The Lakers and Nike might return to that sunset theme in future alternates, but everyone agreed to go with the snake motif.
With that settled, it was time to dig in. Bryant and the designers thought about using a brighter base color, or one that would make the snakeskin print easier to see. There are more garish designs floating around.
Bryant insisted the jersey incorporate elements of uniforms the Lakers wore during his rookie season, Montoya says. Those touches include 3-D-style lettering, with the classic drop shadow and the scoop neck. (Nike"s new jerseys have a sharper V-style-neck). The silhouette of the jerseys, including the shorts, is meant to evoke the Showtime era of the 1980s, Montoya says.
The jersey is littered with little treasures for uniform nerds. Eight stars run down the outside of the shorts on each leg — one star for each of the Lakers" 16 championships. Unfold the flap at the bottom of the shorts on the right leg, and you"ll discover a gold "8." Do the same on the left side, and you"ll reveal a gold "24."
這件球衣印上了一些珍貴的東西. 在球褲每一側腿部部分有著8個星—— 一顆星表示著湖人16個總冠軍。展開球褲右腿底部的側面，你會發現一個金色的「8」.在左腿也有同樣的設計，你會揭看到一個金色的「24」.
They gave "24," Bryant"s number starting in the 2006-07 season, center stage on the belt buckle, and Montoya added one snazzy final touch: He colored the parts of the "2" and "4" that connect gold, so that they stand out as a slanted "LA" within the 24 numeral. "It represents the idea that Kobe and L.A. are really one of one," Montoya says.
Bryant is thrilled with the result.
"It was fun to help create it," he says. "It means something right when you look it. And if you"re a Lakers fan, you know what it means."
As a Lakers fan, you know what it means.