Creative Soccer Culture

NBA x Football Sees The Wizards v Knicks Game Reimagined

The NBA is arriving in London as the Washington Wizards take on the New York Knicks. It’s yet another example of the cross over of cultures that’s seeing the world adapt to encompass all passions, regardless of geography. Further to that, last year saw one of the first major sport crossovers with the huge Jordan x PSG collaboration. But you get the feeling that was just the tip of the iceberg…

Concept designer Aaron Givens has taken the opportunity that the NBA match presents to take the crossover to the next level, reimagining the Wizards and Knicks as football clubs, complete with kits and crests. We caught up with Aaron to get the lowdown on the NBA x football designs…

The American influence on football has been evident, especially when you think Jumpman x PSG – what do you like about that trend from a visual perspective?

It’s really interesting when you think about it. Growing up in the UK football is kind of engrained in you. It’s roots are strong, old and deep. The teams are part of your identity and the badge is your family crest. I love that about football culture here and it’s reflected in it’s aesthetic. The badges, the motto’s, it just feels different from a lot of American sports and teams you see. I feel like American sports and the branding that goes with them is very sleek. The country itself is huge and because of that it’s the glossy capital of the world. Everything is bigger, louder and shinier and it’s reflected in the sharp vector graphics, the bright colours and mascots. But every day the world is getting smaller. The Internet is better, travel is easier and these two cultures are colliding. Football is growing and growing, you can now follow teams from anywhere in the world, stadiums are getting bigger and the lights are getting brighter. Because of this you can see football’s influence on the American market and that American gloss and high fashion starting to influence the football aesthetic. Jerseys are being worn as fashion accessories; brands are making their own strips. It’s cool to see. 

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Flipping that and putting basketball through a football lens, can you talk us through these designs?

It was actually a bit trickier than I thought it would be. It’s easy to go overboard when designing a football jersey, especially one influenced by basketball. I wanted to keep the designs fairly simple, capture the aesthetic of the teams they were representing using the same colours and design cues but inject them with that football feel. So a lot of thought went into the badges. I wanted them to have that coat of arms vibe a lot of English teams have but also be instantly identifiable as the American teams they represent. 

Reworking each crest, talk us through what you wanted to showcase here?

A lot of English football badges reflect imagery of the place they’re from. I used this to influence the Knicks badge. They’re the New York Knicks and what is the most identifiable landmark of New York? Has to be the Statue of Liberty. I surrounded it with a crest and wanted the type to sort of reflect the bright lights and glamour of the capital of the world.

The Wizards logo was a little more straightforward. They’re called the Wizards so sometimes the logo has to go straight to the point. I didn’t want the image to have that same American vector aesthetic as the basketball advertising though. So I went for a fairly classic football crest shape and used line work to construct a simple but effective illustration of a Wizard, using the football as a crystal ball. Merlin vibes.

Jersey culture and the explosion there, is cross pollination of football and other sports through design something you want to see more of?

I love it. It’s always cool to see new trends emerge and something you’ve loved all your life to start taking centre stage across the globe. Seeing big brands creating their own football shirts, small independents doing it, people wearing them day in day out not just to the game it's great. The football shirt is such a simple design but one that can be interpreted in an unlimited number of ways. But no matter how big football gets, or how much it's influenced by other sports I think it will always keep its identity over here. It’s slide tackling in the mud, eating a pie with your arl fella, watching your tribe try to get those three points.

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From a creative standpoint, what kits have you had a lot of time for in 2018?

The World Cup definitely livened the kit scene up. I’d be a fool not to mention the Nigeria kit. The shirt was absolutely on point, and the range that went along with it was insanely good. They approached the design as a whole range and it showed. Hands down the best branding of the World Cup. The Germany strip always looks sharp too, clean effective design, German through and through. Premier League-wise I really dig the Burnley away strip. Black is always a great colour for a jersey and the metallic honeycomb gradient looks awesome. And of course, Everton’s third kit. A little biased because they’re my team but I love the design of this shirt. 90s vibes with that bold pattern. Can’t go wrong.

Do you think we’re just going to see designs get more wild in 2019?

I feel like the design is coming full circle. There was a period in the 90s when kits where full of super-bold patterns and colours and that’s starting to come back. That vintage football aesthetic is poking its head up again and people love it, so I can see that influencing upcoming design. 

What creative trends would you like to see in football in 2019?

I would love to see the football aesthetic continue to influence fashion. I want to see teams focus a bit more on their full range, similar to how Nigeria approached their apparel. Rather than just slapping the badge on a tracksuit, consider how and when the clothes will be worn. After all if you can create something someone will wear day to day and not just to the game it’s only going to benefit your club as a whole.

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With the NBA coming to London, surely it’s only a matter of time before Premier League fixtures happen on the other side of the world – what do you think that can do to the game?

I don’t know. Like I said earlier football culture here is like a family, you go to see your team every weekend, your stadium is local, you know who you sit by, you have your routine. It’s not like a music gig or a stage show that can work anywhere. It’s the passion of the local fans that make the game what it is. I don’t know how well that would translate if you took that game away from it’s home. I actually think it would be a better experience for an American to come to a game here, than go to one over there, away from the home fans, away from the songs and old stadiums.

Check out more of Aaron's work here.

Daniel Jones

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