Because of a breakdown in the uniform selection and approval process, the Thunder and Hawks played the first half wearing extremely similar colors, the Hawks in their red “icon” uniforms and the Thunder in their orange “statement” alternates.
On television, the combination was especially bad.
“It looked weird at first, but it didn’t have too much effect once I got going in the first half,” Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It wasn’t much to it, but I think it made it a little easier for our peripherals and stuff like that in the second half. But other than that, it was cool.”
The league requested the jersey change, a Thunder spokesperson said. The Hawks had only their red “icon” jerseys on their road trip, so the Thunder made the change to white for the second half.
Both coaches, the Thunder’s Mark Daigneault and the Hawks’ Lloyd Pierce, said they didn’t really notice the uniform similarity in the first half.
“I certainly didn’t notice it or even think about it, to be honest with you, then it was a league mandate that we just reacted to,” Daigneault said. “They made me aware of it at halftime when we went into the locker rooms that guys were in white uniforms, and then we went out and played the second half.”
With teams having multiple combinations and alternates to wear, and no longer observing the traditional standard of home white and road color, the uniform-selection process is done before the season for the entire schedule using an input system called LockerVision. The home team picks first, then the road team.
The league double-checks all combinations and approves them, but the Thunder and Hawks mistakenly slipped through the approval process, according to a league spokesperson.
Typically, when there are close contrasts such as the red-orange issue with OKC and Atlanta, the league catches it and corrects it before the game happens. According to a league source, this is the first time in more than 4,000 games this has happened since the system was introduced in 2017-18.
There have been other notable basketball wardrobe malfunctions, such as the Argentina women’s national team forfeiting a game in the 2019 Pan Am Games because its players were wearing the wrong jerseys. In the 2002 men’s NIT, both Syracuse and South Carolina showed up wearing white uniforms, with Syracuse changing in the first half and wearing orange tops and white shorts.
The change didn’t impact the Thunder, who led 63-55 at the half and won 118-109.