Every NBA front office has a few simple questions to answer each time they make the playoffs... Are we going to have a blackout or whiteout? Shirts or towels? Should we get shirts all in the same color or alternate sections?
And what should our playoff slogan, motto or battle cry be?
The slogans certainly bear no correlation to playoff success. Indiana has one of the best slogans of 2017 and... they gone already.
Here’s the “definitive” rankings of playoff shirts/slogans...
Yep. We’re going full Simmons by putting this ranking list in groups.
16. Golden State Warriors — “Defend Our Ground”
This is currently the NBA’s most high profile franchise. In the nation’s most buzz obsessed metropolitan area. Even some of the Bay Area’s ubiquitous bacon-wrapped hot dog carts have hashtags and a social media presence.
And the Warriors straight ripped their slogan, “Defend Our Ground,” from Cleveland. Who somewhat notably defeated them in the NBA Finals last year...
"Hey, what should our playoff shirts say?"— Cleveland Sportsline (@CLEsportsline) April 16, 2017
"I donno, let's just copy the NBA champs" pic.twitter.com/QOhpkWL4TB
It’s easy to Google “Defend The Land” and trace Cleveland’s relationship with it back to last year’s playoffs.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder — “OKC Thunder”
This is not here because we’re a Rockets blog and we’re playing the Thunder. It’s here because the Thunder playoff shirt this year is just “OKC Thunder.” That’s it.
It’s like if President Trump’s next campaign hat were to just read “Donald Trump.”
They even have a great slogan, “Thunder Up.”
And we’re aware they changed their shirts for game 4, but they knew they were in the playoffs for long enough to get it right in game 3 and they didn’t.
14. L.A. Clippers -- “It Takes Everything”
What takes everything? The Clippers are on the verge of breaking up their All-Star trio of Paul-Griffin-Jordan, facing another devastating injury and still haven’t made the Western Conference Finals. “It Takes Everything” comes a bit short of inspiring confidence in a team who can lose everything if they come up short.
This slogan doesn’t inspire so much as it authorizes you to accept a loss by saying... “Well guess we didn’t have or bring everything, that sucks. Let’s all go home now.”
If only the city of Los Angeles had a single creative/PR/advertising firm that could have aided this effort.
The Regional Attempt
Each of these shirts and slogans tried to do something regional. Tried being the operative word.
13. Washington Wizards -- “DC Family”
Uh. Sure? A franchise who’s highest profile moments have all involved turmoil and who has never really connected with their community now proclaiming ‘we’re all a family.’
Not buying it.
The Nationals, Capitals and the football team all have an identity that survives regardless of personnel or on-field tactics. The Wizards just don’t and “DC Family” doesn’t seem to get them any closer to having one.
12. Toronto Raptors — “Northside”
‘Northside’ is super Toronto-y and is a pretty ‘hot track with a sick beat.’ Did I say that right?
I’m down with all that. But just take a gander at this shirt.
Game 2 shirts, which kinda actually look like what they're supposed to look like. Go figure pic.twitter.com/3hTFgHBLNx— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 18, 2017
On TV I thought everyone in the stadium was wearing a Detroit Red Wings logo. Even after staring at the shirt for 20 seconds it didn’t register to me that this was a shoe.
Please take no offense if you read this and say “that guy just doesn’t get it.” I really don’t.
11. Memphis Grizzlies — “Believe Memphis”
This one straddles the lines.
Here’s the positive: Memphis has always had an identity. They’re the unexpected and disrespected gritty underdog. They embrace it.
Here’s the negative: Coach David Fizdale created TWO better slogans in a single press conference after game 2: “You won’t rook us” and “Take that for data.”
At the end of the day, this isn’t even the best Grizzlies shirt/slogan from years past. And they’ve used this one in the past.
Better phrases: “Grit and Grind,” “We Don’t Bluff,” anything with ‘Grindhouse,’ just yelling “Don’t fuck with Zach Randolph,” or “We can still beat you up.” If you can’t envision Randolph yelling it at an opposing team’s fan while walking through the tunnel then it’s not a keeper.
10. Boston Celtics — “It’s Not Luck”
I love things that are so bad they’re good. This one just doesn’t make it there.
There’s tons of Celtic Pride and this comes up short for a franchise with a ton to work with. And despite securing the number one seed Boston’s still going to need luck to dethrone the Cavs.
The slogan celebrates their regular season accomplishment instead of inspiring the team to make a deep playoff run.
Team is iconic. Logo is iconic. Association with Irish heritage is iconic. This slogan... the opposite of iconic.
9. San Antonio Spurs — “Go Spurs Go”
San Antonio has been using this one for a long time. Not much to see here.
As far as the NBA goes, they own it. It’s of course used by tons of franchises and college teams across every sport. It’s not unique or even special, but it’s as Spursian as Coach Pop or Kawhi Leonard’s demeanor.
8. Portland Trail Blazers — “Rip City”
This is a longstanding classic and there’s really no reason to mess with a classic.
Extra points for arranging the shirts in Moda Center to spell out “Rip City” also.
There’s a hidden message in each one.
7. Houston Rockets — “Run As One”
We are not just one guy. We promise.
The slogan itself is pulled from a box of 20, but it’s fresh and gets the message across. The Rockets are “Moreyball.” It turns out James Harden was at his best when he shared the ball more than ever before. And the team captured the three seed because of the Morey-D’Antoni system.
6. Atlanta Hawks — “True To Atlanta”
They’ve used it before, but it’s so good when you realize it’s a giant subtweet to the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves made the decision to move from their stadium in downtown Atlanta to way, way, way out in the suburbs. Soon after that the Hawks started trumpeting that they were “True To Atlanta.”
Plus the color of these shirts is great. You’d actually wear this after you left the game. Not make it a lawn mowing or car washing shirt the second it got home.
5. Utah Jazz — “Take Note”
So bad it’s good. There’s no Jazz music to speak of in Utah and it isn’t entirely inspiring. By the way, the inspiring test is “will you yell this after paying $36 for three beers.” It’s the perfect mix of being tipsy and angry about paying a ton for Bud Light.
Going back to the Clippers, someone would have to cross the wildly dangerous threshold of 10 beers before bellowing “It takes everything.” And you’d only yell it after emptying your bank account to cover your bail for the justified public intoxication arrest.
This one does get points for the pun. In addition to the team name everything Jazz has flown under the radar all season. Gordon Hayward made the All-Star team, but his barber gets as much national publicity as he does.
So... you better, you know... take note. Get it?
Also... they’re giving out a shirt AND a towel. So that’s worth several places right there.
4. Chicago Bulls — “See Red”
You’re already the eight seed. So why not stir people up as much as you can.
See red is simple. It’s angry. It easily passes the “inspiring test.” Hell there’s probably a bulls fan in a Pippen jersey yelling this outside the United Center without even knowing it’s the team’s slogan this year.
It’s not really a throwback to the Jordan era, which is smart because this team has no shot of equaling the accomplishments of those teams.
3. Indiana Pacers — “One State”
Not sure if you’ve taken note over the past few years, but Indiana has made national news for all the wrong reasons.
So big ups to the Indiana Pacers for saying something positive and trying to promote a culture of unity with their shirts this year.
Only disappointment here is that the Pacers weren’t ever going to give fans much to rally around against the Cavs.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers — “Defend The Land”
They’ve used the phrase before when they were losing, Cleveland owns “the Land” and they’re the defending champs.
It’s just good.
You can see a little kid writing this on his little league helmet or a Browns fan yelling it in desperate agony. And most importantly, you can very easily see LeBron James sliding from saying “get one for the Land” to “defend the Land.”
1. Milwaukee Bucks — “Fear The Deer”
Sure, it’s an old slogan. But it’s so good. It takes something lame and makes it aggressive. This is the line an action hero mutters after vanquishing the super-villain.
Shoot down his helicopter? “Welcome to the spin zone.”
Destroy the super-villain’s castle with his own briefcase explosives? “Case closed.”
Be the young upstart team who puts a hurt on the Raptors running on high hopes? “Fear the deer.”
Yeah, these t-shirts are unsettling. Anyone want to play Buck Hunter, tonight? pic.twitter.com/N7cWcqoRsk— Matthew Scianitti (@TSNScianitti) April 20, 2017
They made a deer intimidating. Contest over.