Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Incredible Bleacher Report NFL/NBA Jersey Mashups and the Few They Missed

Recently (it's not date-stamped), Bleacher Report took it upon itself to release this spectacular photo gallery of NFL players wearing Photoshopped versions of what NBA teams would look like in NFL uniforms. There are 22 in total, each matching teams by city. (For example, there's a picture of Peyton Manning in a "Denver Nuggets" NFL jersey. One of the pictures, of the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch, shows him in a Seattle SuperSonics jersey; of course, the Sonics haven't existed since 2008.

The pictures are all very well done, and I encourage you to peruse them. There are, however, 32 NFL teams and 30 NBA teams. Which cities are missing, and could this gifted graphic artist make more based on matching cities?

Here is a list of the teams, by city, Bleacher Report's photo gallery covers:

New England Patriots Boston Celtics
Indianapolis Colts Indiana Pacers
Houston Texans Houston Rockets
Arizona Cardinals Phoenix Suns
Chicago Bears Chicago Bulls
Carolina Panthers Charlotte Hornets
Miami Dolphins Miami Heat
San Francisco 49ers Sacramento Kings
New York Giants New York Knicks
Green Bay Packers Milwaukee Bucks
Detroit Lions Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia 76ers
Oakland Raiders Golden State Warriors
Dallas Cowboys Dallas Mavericks
Minnesota Vikings Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Saints New Orleans Pelicans
New York Jets Brooklyn Nets
Washington Redskins Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers Cleveland Browns
Denver Nuggets Denver Broncos
Atlanta Falcons Atlanta Hawks
Seattle Seahawks Seattle Supersonics*

*defunct franchise

Each team matches up with the one next to it, so for example, Darrelle Revis is shown as a New York Jet wearing a Brooklyn Nets jersey.

Here's a list of existing teams the photo gallery doesn't cover. They are listed alphabetically by league, with no regard for matching because the whole point of this list is that they're unmatched:

Baltimore Ravens Los Angeles Clippers
Buffalo Bills Los Angeles Lakers
Cincinnati Bengals Memphis Grizzlies
Jacksonville Jaguars Oklahoma City Thunder
Kansas City Chiefs Orlando Magic
Pittsburgh Steelers Portland Trailblazers
San Diego Chargers San Antonio Spurs
St. Louis Rams Toronto Raptors
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Utah Jazz
Tennessee Titans

So, of this assortment, which other jerseys could Bleacher Report feature? Keep in mind the Sonics example shows that defunct franchises can be dusted off, and Colin Kaepernick's dashing purple and black Sacramento Kings picture shows at least a little geographical leeway. Although Sacramento and San Francisco are a 90-minute car ride apart, Kaepernick as a King makes a lot more sense than, say, Joe Flacco in a Portland Trailblazers jersey. (Note that the 49ers-Kings match occurs largely because Oakland claims the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors' arena is in Oakland, after all. No idea which team would claim the San Joe Sharks in the event of a NHL mashup.)

Based on the above list, a few additional jerseys spring to mind immediately. Here's a list I've made matching the remaining NFL teams to their NBA counterparts, with question marks every time I just can't find one:

Baltimore Ravens Baltimore Bullets*
Buffalo Bills Toronto Raptors
Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati Royals*
Jacksonville Jaguars ?
Kansas City Chiefs Oklahoma City Thunder
Pittsburgh Steelers ?
San Diego Chargers Los Angeles Clippers
St. Louis Rams Los Angeles Lakers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Orlando Magic
Tennessee Titans Memphis Grizzlies

*defunct franchise

The Ravens benefit from the much-ballyhooed Bullets to Wizards name change that took place in Washington in 1997. Otherwise, they would have been out of luck... unless you want to use total geographical license in the name of the common raven's habitat distribution. Alas, "Utah Ravens" just doesn't bring up images of Edgar Allan Poe writing by candlelight any more than "Utah Jazz" does, well, jazz. Kudos for the Ravens, getting to go retro, while the Redskins are stuck with the recent blue and gold Wizards monstrosity. Well, I suppose RGIII could have had it worse...

The Bills-Raptors connection comes about from the now-turfed annual Bills losing in Toronto game. I went to the first two! Great way to catch Ronnie Brown playing for the Dolphins back when that was a thing.

For the Bengals, I had to plumb the depths of NBA arcana. The Cincinnati Royals had a good run back in the '60s. Although they eventually became the Sacramento Kings, there was a 13-year span when neither team existed. More recently, Cincinnati has probably not housed a NBA team due to its fanatically NCAA-driven basketball culture that neighbouring Kentucky shares. It's similar to how basketball-mad North Carolina didn't have a team for a couple years, and football/basketball-mad Iowa has never had any pro team. In some population centres, college is king. Speaking of kings...

The Kansas City Kings existed, but I have other plans for the Chiefs. Kansas and Oklahoma are neighbouring states. One impassioned fan has made the case more emotionally than I ever could for Kansans to root for the Thunder. Arrowhead Stadium may be in Missouri, but once you get far enough west, distance matters less. Just ask whoever put the aforementioned Thunder in the same division as the aforementioned Blazers, and both those teams in the same division as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz. Kansas City and Oklahoma City may not be adjacent, but in Midwestern terms they're close enough.

The Los Angeles Clippers used to play in San Diego. The San Diego Chargers, well, currently play in San Diego, and rumours are swirling about a possible LA relocation. The two cities are close together. This makes all kinds of sense.

The Rams were historically LA's team. There's a movement to bring them back, from recent headline-generating stories to more antiquarian tastes. They were in the City of Angels from 1946-1994, over twice as long as they've been in St. Louis. Their blue and gold would be easy to template into Lakers purple and gold. Rams, Lakers, makes sense. The alternative would be to go full St. Louis with them, but there's already a team by the name of Hawks featured here.

Tampa Bay and Orlando is an interesting case. Not because of geographic proximity or shared fan base - those are around in spades. The Buccaneers get the nod to have their grey and orange swept away in favour of Magic blue and silver, but the tough part is that the Jaguars don't. There's no NBA presence within a long way of Jacksonville if you don't count the Magic.

The Titans and the Grizzlies play in the same state. If I need to add anything else, they both wear two-tone blue colour schemes, and Grizzlies star Zach Randolph is bigger than most NFL linemen. This one seemed so obvious I'm surprised it wasn't already there. Small fan bases, possibly?

Now for the two teams that don't have any remote NBA equivalent:

The Jaguars are suddenly nearing hot-button status again. It coincides nicely with LA Weekly's Nicholas Pell's call for a Limp Bizkit critical reappraisal, which is fitting considering Limp Bizkit was releasing #1 albums the last time the Jaguars topped the AFC. Owner Shad Khan is taking an active role. They'll play a home game in London every year until at least 2020. They're inexplicably one game out of first in the horrific AFC South. (So horrific, in fact, that I typed "horrific" before finding that link, Googled 'AFC South', and found that article - with "horrific" in its title - as the first result.) "Bortlesmania" is a phrase you can never unlearn. Maybe they should hope the NBA expands to London, which seems like a better bet at this point than North Florida.

The Steelers are tough because Pittsbutgh, for all its rabid fans in every other major sport, has never had a NBA team. Fans frequently discuss both the desire and the difficulties. For whatever reason, Western PA just doesn't seem to be able to pull a pro roundball team. There's good college ball to be found in the area, at least, with Pitt and West Virginia frequently fielding good squads.

An overarching theme here is that the NFL tends to have franchises farther east, whereas the NBA is content to explore westward. The NFL has six teams in the Great Lakes region* (Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh), whereas the NBA only has four (Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Toronto). The NFL has an additional Florida team (Jacksonville). The NFL even has a greater Midwest presence (Kansas City and St. Louis teams the NBA doesn't have). Meanwhile, the NBA not only has a team in Portland, where no other major pro sports league does,** but used to have two other PNW teams (Seattle, Vancouver). NFL support in the PNW outside of Seattle appears moribund. The NBA also has a team in Salt Lake City, which is a fan favourite but is a one-off for major pro sports.*** The NFL is an older league, which explains the greater Great Lakes presence. The Lions date back to Prohibition!

The search for remaining Photoshop-able uniforms teaches us two things. One, that I'm waiting for my autographed LeSean McCoy Raptors jersey. Two, that the leagues' geographical distributions may be an interesting starting point for discussing why fans cannot accept nearby cities' teams.

*Only counting Eastern Standard Time teams here. Midwesterners need not apply.
**Sorry, Portland Timbers. The MLS will get there in time.
***Real Salt Lake, see Portland above.

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