The Brooklyn Nets’ new court was designed to push the limits of design in sports. The iconic herringbone hardwood of the Nets’ former floor has been given a two-toned gray wash, a nod to the classic asphalt blacktop of New York’s public outdoor courts, 172 of which are in Brooklyn alone.
A full-colored court is a highly unusual choice for an NBA team. Though they are sometimes seen at the college level, this is the first fully colored court in NBA history. Jeff Gamble, the Nets vice president of content and creative, says the team wanted something dramatic. After all, this would be the franchise’s first redesign since relocating from Newark, N.J. to Brooklyn in 2012. “We wanted to do something that we hadn’t seen anywhere else in the league,” he says.
And so they did. From the new “weathered wood” and “concrete gray” color palette, to the simplified graphics in the center circle, to the MTA-inspired apron, the redesign carries the Nets brand identity into a sleeker future.
The Nets’ new gray floor is perhaps further evidence that the rules of design in the NBA are changing. Considering design-forward ventures like Nike’s annual alternate jerseys—including the Nets’ new street-savvy Statement jersey—and the increasingly-popular alternate court, there’s a new sense that every franchise in the league vies to be bold, creative, and unique with their aesthetics.
But as Gamble explained, change doesn’t happen without teams boldly asserting their own identities to the more conservative league office.
“The NBA is extremely innovative in many ways, but they also have gotten there by being calculated,” says Gamble. “They do have their standards, and in some cases, we have to push the envelope a little bit.”
Here’s what Gamble had to say on the new elements of the redesign:
Keep the Herringbone
While the new gray color might be what you see at first glance, the classic herringbone hardwood is still visible underneath the color stain. Gamble explains that losing all of the herringbone wasn’t on the table.
“We were open to almost anything in terms of the redesign of this court with the exception of herringbone,” he said. “There’s been no other team that has used it, that we’re aware of. It’s become very identifiable. That was the one component we wanted to make sure that we continued to integrate into the court.”
The MTA/Helvetica Connection
The color of the court isn’t the only design element cribbed from the street. The typography along the baseline is modeled after the iconic graphics of the New York City subway.
“The Helvetica type that we use on the baseline is a direct nod,” Gamble said. “We saw a lot of value in it just from a clean aesthetic as well. We really liked how it presented.”
But Will it Play on TV?
The black apron also shows a new subway motif: A line of white squares reminiscent of classic subway tile wraps around the court. Gamble explained that this wasn’t the first time that the floor sported a subway reference. In 2015, when the NBA All-Star Game took place in New York, the Nets modified the court to include a subway mosaic along the baseline.
“We got away from it for the last couple of seasons,” said Gamble. “but as we started talking about this iteration of the court, that case just kept coming back up.”
But there was a question as to whether or not the apron was going to stay black, as it had been previously, or if they were going to switch it up. In a different iteration of the court, the apron was white and the tile pattern was black. But some thought it was too bold. Ultimately, the league determined that a white apron wouldn’t be optimal for television viewing, and so the Nets stuck with the black apron.
The Streamlined B
The center court logo, the “B” in the center of a basketball, has been simplified for the new floor. The Nets have shed the “Brooklyn New York” wording that previously surrounded the center court logo, first designed by former part-owner Jay Z and frequent collaborator Timothy Morris. Gamble explained the choice had everything to do with how well the team has established its brand identity during its time in Brooklyn. The plan is to incorporate this sleeker logo on all kinds of merchandise.
New Talent, New Look
The new floor made its debut last Friday during the team’s 137-89 victory in its first preseason game against Brazil’s SESI/Franca Basketball Club.
The team pushes towards title contention for the first time in almost 15 years, aided by the free-agent signings of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this past offseason. With so much national attention on the team, it’s no wonder that the creative department thought it was the right time for a redesign.
“We want to make sure that we’re putting our best foot forward,” Gamble said.
Even though their efforts occurred behind the scenes, the work of the Nets creative department will be extremely visible during every dunk and 3-pointer this season.