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MLB City Connect: All 29 uniforms ranked, from the so-so to the sublime

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MLB City Connect: All 29 uniforms ranked, from the so-so to the sublime

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to include the Los Angeles Dodgers’ second City Connect entry, which was introduced Monday afternoon.

When the Minnesota Twins took the field last Friday, they became the 28th team to debut their MLB City Connect uniforms, capping off the first round of Nike’s planned three-year cycle of city-inspired fits. (It will begin again this week as the Dodgers debut their second iteration.) The two teams not participating in this round were the New York Yankees, who don’t mess around with their classic look, and the Oakland Athletics, who are in a complicated situation with the city they are supposed to connect with.

Eight teams debuted new uniforms this season: the Twins, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers,  New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays.

With each new uniform set introduced, many opinions have been espoused online and at the ballpark. All versions seem to have their detractors and defenders, stirring up purists and progressives alike.

It’s hard to find a consensus for something like this, but our panel — featuring MLB writers C. Trent Rosecrans, Tyler Kepner and Stephen J. Nesbitt and Culture writer Jason Jones — took the baton from last year’s cohort and made a case for its favorites, discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of the complete City Connect slate.

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Our writers ranked each uniform using a scoring system of 1-30 (1 being the best), and those totals then were averaged and ranked. Here are their takes:



Joe Kelly. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

The uniforms, in addition to showing love to the Hispanic community, celebrate Fernando Valenzuela and his outstanding rookie season in 1981, which resulted in a World Series championship.

On-field debut: Aug. 20, 2021

C. Trent Rosecrans (29): Just lazy. While I’m not an all-out hater of dark jerseys on dark pants, the switch to white pants from blue pants was an improvement. But the fact they needed to change it tells you all you need to know about how much effort was put into these.

Tyler Kepner (29): With all of Hollywood to use as a theme, slapping “Los Dodgers” on a blue jersey (over blue pants, no less) was almost aggressively dull.

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Stephen J. Nesbitt (29): Odds are, if you go to a game at Dodger Stadium and sit at least 10 rows back, you’ll forget these are City Connects. It’s hard to miss them when they’re gone if you barely noticed them in the first place.

Jason Jones (16): I like “Los Dodgers” but as a Los Angeles native, “Los Doyers” would have been better. They’re not terrible, but not great. Kinda in the middle. More black on the jersey might have helped.

28. Detroit Tigers (24.75)


Tarik Skubal. (Junfu Han / USA Today)

An homage to the Motor City’s ingenuity, these unis feature several car-inspired details, including tire treads, VIN tags and road signs.

On-field debut: May 10, 2024

Rosecrans: (26): At least in other hype videos, they pretend to like the new uniforms, but in this one half the people are wearing regular Tigers gear and they rap about the Old English D, which only has a cameo on the uniform’s sleeve patch. The tire tracks look like the people wearing this have been run over, which may be an appropriate metaphor for the last decade or so of Tigers baseball, but it’s hardly inspiring.

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Kepner (27): This predictable “Motor City” theme is begging for the Jaws of Life. It’s yet another dark jersey over dark pants combo, with a cap that looks like a mid-level prize option at a carnival.

Nesbitt (27): In case the “Motor City” nickname didn’t get the theme across, you’ve got tire tracks down the placket (?), a VIN tag on the cap and helmet (??), and a sleeve patch designed like the M-1 road sign (???). We get it! Cars! It could have been worse, I guess. Shocked that the designers didn’t just slap “SOUTH DETROIT” across the chest while they were at it.

Jones (19): I’m fine with “Motor City” but it goes overboard with the car references. Who wants a jersey with tire marks?! Might as well have used a license plate for names on the back.


Connor Joe. (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

Incorporating the colors of black and gold is a Pittsburgh sports thing. Also, notice in the shirt the asteroid, which references the city’s “steelmark” logo.

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On-field debut: June 27, 2023

Nesbitt (25): These are bright and loud, but not novel. Going with black and yellow in a city where every team wears black and yellow is safe. That’s fine. But this franchise has a rich history of interesting and unusual uniforms from which inspiration could have been drawn.

Kepner (16): The yellow-over-black works really well; it’s the combo the Pirates wore in their last World Series victory, Game 7 in 1979 World Series. But “PGH” is just so lazy. Give us a new pirate, or go back to that rugged rapscallion from ’79.

Rosecrans (28): There’s no better example of being so close yet so far away than this thing. It’s much like the Braves in that it’s almost more of a throwback than a City Connect, but at least the Braves’ uniform looks good on its own. This does not.

Jones (29): I guess it’s illegal for teams from Pittsburgh to not wear black and yellow. The huge “PGH” feels like someone’s initials. These are too basic.

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26. Philadelphia Phillies (23.5)


Bryson Stott. (Bill Streicher / USA Today)

Taking its palette from the city’s official flag, the blue-and-yellow kit incorporates some of Philly’s most famous historical iconography.

On-field debut: April 12, 2024

Nesbitt (23): These were billed as “unapologetically Philly.” Nothing says Philly like a font pulled from our founding fathers’ documents. Nothing says Philly like a disconcerting blue gradient. Nothing says Philly like a numeral style that makes Trea Turner’s number look like a question mark. So edgy. So historic. So unapologetically Philly.

Rosecrans (20): This is one where I think it’s important to see the uniform on the field. I defended this when it was announced and we saw the studio pictures. I was wrong. Seeing this on the field, it’s, well, a series of choices. The biggest difference between glamor shots and game action is just how utterly ridiculous the gradient from blue to black looks with the jersey going into the pants. The hat is elite, but it’s not enough to save everything beneath it.

Kepner (26): The stylish caps can’t save this hot mess. From the jagged wordmark to the bizarre numerals to the ridiculous color scheme, it’s a certified phiasco. According to the official press release, “Philly has always been a place unafraid to revolutionize, start anew and work hard to make change.” Maybe so, but it’s also a place that sees through pandering nonsense like this.

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Jones (25): Nothing about these really makes me think “Philly.” I guess the Liberty Bell on the hat? Keep this uniform on Phillie Phanatic and I’m fine. It looks like a costume for the mascot.


Brett Wisely. (Sergio Estrada / USA Today)

The Golden Gate Bridge is on the sleeves of the jersey. There’s also a story with the fog gradient throughout the uniform.

On-field debut: July 9, 2021

Kepner (14): There was real potential here with the bridge-and-fog theme. It’s a clean look, but without another color, it seems unfinished. Subtle black accents would have punched it up.

Rosecrans (19): These have always looked incomplete to me. Still do.

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Nesbitt (28): Devastatingly poor execution. Using fog as a gradient theme is, in theory, an inspired choice. But these come out looking awkward and cheap. The bridges look bad. The fonts of the “SF” and “G” logos clash. It all just looks like a big L.

Jones (27): Players look like containers of orange sherbet on the field. The bridge had real potential if these were designed knowing the A’s would be leaving Oakland after this season. Welp, it’s a swing and a miss.


Gunnar Henderson. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

Basic black uniforms connecting with the city’s arts culture courtesy of mosaic designs. “You can’t clip these wings.”

On-field debut: May 26, 2023

Rosecrans (11): My initial reaction was that it was a bit generic, as if it should have a UPC sleeve patch, but it’s grown on me. It’s fine.

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Kepner (21): It’s a boring jersey — the kaleidoscope of colors is mostly hidden on the inside collars and sleeves — but the set looks much better now that the team has switched from black pants to white. The “B” on the hat is sharp; they should use this style (rendered in orange), as their alternate insignia instead of “O’s,” with its upside-down apostrophe.

Nesbitt (26): At least the Reds tried. The Orioles’ all-black unis are readable, but the only interesting elements are the socks and the sleeve piping.

Jones (28): Yawn. The colorful parts are barely noticeable.


Jordan Wicks. (Matt Marton / USA Today)

In an attempt to unite Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, “Wrigleyville” was born.

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On-field debut: June 12, 2021

Kepner (19): I like how the “Wrigleyville” lettering mimics the famous marquee outside the ballpark. But those dark pants — ugh! They should ditch them for white pants with a stripe of green Wrigley ivy crawling up the side.

Rosecrans (23): I lump this one with the White Sox because they both look more like bad souvenir stand jerseys than actual uniforms. The use of the star from the Chicago flag inside the C on the cap is solid, but that can’t make up for the rest.

Nesbitt (21): For such a storied franchise, in an iconic stadium and a colorful city, this is remarkably unspectacular. If I were a Cubs fan going to a game and they were wearing this boring all-blue (yet not Cubbie blue) uni, I’d be bummed.

Jones (18): It’s not bad. It’s also not spectacular. I don’t hate it. But it doesn’t do much for me.

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22. Minnesota Twins (20.0)


Jorge Alcala. (Matt Krohn / USA Today)

The blue and yellow color scheme and ripple pattern on the jersey pay tribute to the elements of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

On-field debut: June 14, 2024

Kepner (28): There’s so much they could have done to weave in the natural beauty of a Minnesota summer, but by plunging into the deep waters of a “ripple effect,” the whole thing drowns. As for the postal code “MN” wordmark, I’d stamp it: RETURN TO SENDER.

Rosecrans (21): This has big end-of-the-cycle energy, when all enthusiasm for a project is over and you just want to put something out so it’s done. While not terrible, it’s just … there. Here are a few suggestions I think could help:

  1. White pants.
  2. Remove “10,000 LAKES” from the side of the hat.
  3. Sleeve patch as primary logo.

Boom. You’re not getting an A if you make those changes, but you don’t have to worry about bringing down your final grade so far that it gets uneasy.

Nesbitt (16): Forgot how many lakes? It’s on the side of your cap, in 10,000-point font.

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Jones (15): Fan of the details on the jersey, even though these could be mistaken as knock-off Seattle Mariners jerseys at a glance. A top-tier decision would have been to go with purple for Prince.


Justin Verlander. (Troy Taormina / USA Today)

Houston has a respected reputation for its space education. “Space City” has similar font as the NASA logo from the 1970s.

On-field debut: April 20, 2022

Kepner (20): Do people in Houston ever say they’re from “Space City”? Wouldn’t that name work better for a self-storage facility? I love the lettering and numerals, which evoke the NASA wordmark. But given the Astros’ history of innovation — like the glorious “Tequila Sunrise” jerseys of the 1970s-80s — they should have used something more whimsical than navy-over-navy.

Nesbitt (11): Each element of this City Connect uni is, on its own, quite agreeable. The yellow-to-orange gradient is everywhere from the cap to the socks. The NASA “worm” font is fun. The uni number on the pants is a nice throwback touch. But the dark blue background steals from all that goodness. If Nike reprints this as a white jersey, it would soar up these rankings.

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Rosecrans (22): When Ronel Blanco was throwing his no-hitter, I was distracted by the way the placket fell between letters and looked like it said “SPACIE CITY.” I like elements of this one, but it’s just too much blue. Maybe using an orange hat, or at least an orange crown with a blue bill would break up all the blue a little.

Jones (20): The colors are great. Space City? I could do without that. How about “H-Town” on the front? The “H” on the hat is the best part.

20. New York Mets (18.0)


Jose Quintana. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

An homage to all boroughs, these unis take inspiration from the people, bridges and transit that power the city. 

On-field debut: April 27, 2024

Kepner (15): It’s better up close than in action, because the names and numbers are hard to read in the black-over-dark-gray style. I love the bridge on the hats and helmets, but they should have leaned into the purple a little more, especially for the cap emblem.

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Rosecrans (13): They look better on the field — the purple accents are great — but the helmet alone bumps up their ranking. While I don’t like the bridge motif on the hat, I love it on the batting helmet. The best part is the subway map in the lining of the hat. As is the case with too many of the City Connects, the best parts are hidden from view.

Nesbitt (22): Why go with “NYC” across the chest? “Queens” is right there. It’s only faintly Metsy. And it’s a flop, for me.

Jones (22): The “NYC” style lettering and colors remind me of a Negro Leagues jersey. Feels like this was a missed opportunity not going with “Queens” and leaning more into the purple accents. More Queensbridge could have led to a great partnership with rap legend Nas.

19. Toronto Blue Jays (17.75)


Tim Mayza. (Dan Hamilton / USA Today)

These ‘Night Mode’ themed uniforms feature vibrant colors meant to reflect Toronto’s energetic nightlife and illuminated skyline.   

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On-field debut: May 31, 2024

Kepner (24): White outlines could have accentuated the fun skyline motif, but without them, we’re left with an illegible blur from more than a few feet away. And have I mentioned that black jersey/black pants is a tired act?

Rosecrans (16): The evolution of my reaction to this one:

Hat leaks: So good! This could be the best one yet!

Jersey leaks: So bad! This could be the worst one yet!

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Official release: Oh yeah, not good.

On-field debut: Better than expected.

Nesbitt (19): Cool colors. Entirely illegible. Rinse, repeat.

Jones (12): I really like the design. It probably would have worked better against a white, gray or light blue backdrop, but I still like it. Maybe it is just because I really like Toronto as a city and seeing the skyline makes me happy.


Jesús Tinoco. (Jim Cowsert / USA Today)

The uniform is a nod to Texas’ independence day. The jersey also features a peagle, a mythical creature blended from the minor-league logos of the Dallas Eagles and Fort Worth Cats (originally called the Panthers).

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On-field debut: April 21, 2023

Kepner (12): The hat is a jumbled mess, and the number “0” looks weird, but this set does have an 1800s-Texas kind of vibe; you could picture a cowboy wearing it as he struts through the double doors of a saloon. Also, they created an animal! It’s a panther-eagle mix called a peagle. I’m all in on the peagle.

Rosecrans (10): I think this uniform is similar to my feelings about the movie “Talladega Nights” — the parts are better than the whole. You can tell a team is onto something when the merchandise associated with the uniform is more successful than the uniform itself. If the peagle hoodie were black instead of navy, I’d already own it.

Nesbitt (24): When the headliner of your City Connect is the mythical creature you created for a sleeve patch, and the warm-up act is a lid with a hilariously oversized “TX,” you’ve swung and missed.

Jones (24): Looks like the jersey was meant to be worn with Wrangler jeans and an oversized belt buckle. Don’t get me started on the peagle. It just confuses me.

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Justin Martinez. (Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

“El Camino de las Serpientes”: The way of the serpent. These uniforms show love to the Sonoran Desert and Arizona’s Hispanic culture.

On-field debut: June 18, 2021

Nesbitt (20): The “Serpientes” script is nice. Really nice. But there’s a missed opportunity for a snake logo on the cap, and overall the uniform is overwhelmed by the desert-sand backdrop.

Rosecrans (18): There are maybe five people on Earth who remember the movie “Megaforce,” but it was some weird early-80s paramilitary fantasy movie that featured some weird desert camouflage and everything was that sand color. This reminds me of what Megaforce’s softball uniforms would look like. That’s not a compliment.

Kepner (25): I can see what they’re going for with the sand color scheme, but they take it too far when they use it for the pants, too. Credit, at least, for using the Spanish word for “snakes” rather than the lazy “Los _______” format we often see in MLB and the NBA.

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Jones (7): “Serpientes” on the jersey is one of the best things in the City Connect series. Especially with a snake used to spell out the word. It also leans into the Hispanic culture of the region, and the gold jersey is different.

16. St. Louis Cardinals (16.75)


Dylan Carlson. (Jeff Curry / USA Today)

A more traditional and understated take on a City Connect, save for the center-stage homage to St. Louis’ favorite son, Nelly.

On-field debut: May 25, 2024

Nesbitt (18): Having studied all 28 designs, I’ve come to appreciate a safe approach. This looks like a Cardinals jersey. It’s not better than what they already have, but not atrocious, either.

Kepner (18): What a shame they didn’t perch the birds on the Gateway Arch, as designer Cameron Guzzo suggested on Instagram. And while the younger demographic in St. Louis might use the phrase “The Lou,” to everyone else, it means “the bathroom.”

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Rosecrans (27): Milquetoast and uninspired. It’s a spring training jersey and an airport souvenir stand hat.

Jones (4): Nelly’s music introduced me to St. Louis culture in the early 2000s. He said, “I’m from The Lou and I’m proud!” So just like “The A” for Atlanta, this Cardinals jersey resonates. This isn’t overly creative, and I’m fine with it.

What can I say? City nicknames on City Connect jerseys work for me — except for Space City.


William Contreras. (Benny Sieu / USA Today)

“Brew Crew” always has been a team nickname. MKE is the abbreviation for Milwaukee’s international airport. Look closely and notice the city’s area code within the MKE.

On-field debut: June 24, 2022

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Nesbitt (12): I like these! The grill is genuinely great. The caps are a bit of a bother. I once came home from Milwaukee with a free Brewers T–shirt that had “MKE” across the chest. No one knew what it meant. Stop trying to make airport codes happen.

Kepner (13): The MKE/414 mashup and the pointy wordmark don’t do it for me. I’d have preferred an all-out, gut-busting tribute to sausage varieties. Nothing goes better with brew.

Rosecrans (24): I’ve always hated “Brew Crew” as a nickname, but it’s even worse seeing it here. The airport code/area code hat logo is just too forced and jumbled. This one would jump about five places if the hat used the same grill logo that’s on the sleeve.

Jones (11): Brew Crew is one of the more fun nicknames in baseball (I know Rosecrans disagrees). The “MKE” on the hat isn’t my favorite, but the colors are vibrant and different enough from the usual Brewers look for me.

14. Cincinnati Reds (14.75)


Alexis Diaz. (Katie Stratman / USA Today)

Cincinnati’s uniforms represent a modern-day visual of the city. Looking to the past is the opposite of what they tried to do here.

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On-field debut: May 19, 2023

Rosecrans (2): Yep, I’m going full-on homer with this one. I was skeptical when I first heard that the Reds’ City Connect was going to be all black, in part because I hate the black drop shadows on the Reds’ regular uniforms … but man, it’s been a breath of fresh air, even for a team that wore 29 uniform combinations in one season.

Nesbitt (17): The all-black look is fabulous in studio lighting or framed on your wall. But designers need to take pains to make an all-black uniform work in games, and this doesn’t pass that test. The “CINCY” and number font are unreadable.

Kepner (23): Black hats, black jersey, black pants — lighten up, guys! The new logo is a nifty, modern twist on the classic wishbone-C, but the whole thing is just too dark.

Jones (17): The cap is cool, but the more I look at it, the more the uniform reminds me of something I’d create in a video game.

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13. Tampa Bay Rays (14.25)


Yandy Diaz. (Mady Mertens / USA Today)

A skateboard-influenced design meant to evoke the counterculture energy of the team’s home.

On-field debut: May 3, 2024

Rosecrans (3): I ordered my hat the day it was announced. I absolutely love it. The green accents are fantastic and I think if the numbers were that same color and more visible, this might take the top spot. The hat logo is the best the Rays have ever had and it should exist well beyond the three-year cycle.

Kepner (22): Using black letters and black numbers on black jerseys makes no sense. Paired predictably with black pants, the whole thing just looks like a black void from a distance, like a Spinal Tap album cover. And yes, I understand that referencing a 40-year-old movie proves the point that these unis are made for a younger generation.

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Nesbitt (9): Stitch for stitch, this is one of the coolest designs yet, with a dope logo, a cap tip to skateboard culture and neon flourishes all over. Worn best when players are decked out in colorful belts, sleeves and high socks. Without those, the look loses much of its sizzle.

Jones (23): I feel the glow with this one. I don’t mean that in a good way. Reminds me way too much of the New Orleans Pelicans’ fusion of black and neon this season, which I was not too fond of either.

12. Los Angeles Dodgers II (13.25)


Freddie Freeman. (Courtesy of Jon SooHoo / Los Angeles Dodgers)

A second wave of City Connect Dodgers uniforms pays homage to the city and its ties to the organization since moving from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1958 — including the front workmark and the number typefaces.

On-field debut date: June 22, 2024

Rosecrans (25): What do you get when you combine the branding of Disney and Pop Tarts? Well, the new Dodgers Brand Connect! But hey, at least they didn’t make it “The Doyers.”

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Kepner (8): You gotta love the nonsensical “storytelling” that accompanies each of these uniforms. The Dodgers say their front typeface has an “upward trajectory (that) speaks to the city’s pursuit of what’s above and beyond.” Also, that upward trajectory looks exactly like the DirecTV typeface. The uniforms feature a “galaxy of stars,” we’re told, which represent “the brilliance and diversity of Los Angeles.” Also, they look like sprinkles on an ice cream cone. Laughable explanations aside, I actually really like this one, as City Connects go. As a one-off, the name-under-number style on the back is kind of fun, and the Dodgers still look like the Dodgers, which is more than most teams can say.

Nesbitt (15): For a second effort, it’s not a home run. But the sprinkles look should at least sell well at the team store, and the cap logo, name-on-back positioning and color scheme are all moderately interesting elements.

Jones (5): This is a much better effort. Love the blend of the old and the new. The blending of the “LA” and “D” is nice. The look feels very Hollywood and futuristic. It’s baseball meets “Star Trek.” The hat is the best part, but I like the overall look.


Kenley Jansen. (Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

Going against the grain — no red — Boston pays homage to Patriots’ Day, as well as the Boston Marathon.

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On-field debut: April 17, 2021

Rosecrans (8): You know the theory about how your first pizza will always be your ideal pizza? This is kind of like that — it was the first City Connect and as such, it’s what I think of when I think of the City Connect. That said, I still actually like it. While it’s a huge departure, it makes sense with so many of the Patriots’ Day touches and the marathon. I like that it’s completely different and is more about the city than the ballclub.

Kepner (17): Yes, these are the colors of the Boston Marathon. So maybe do it as a one-off on Patriots’ Day. Any more than that, and it’s out of step for a city and ballpark with many more sources of inspiration.

Nesbitt (14): As a two-time Boston Marathon attendee (not to brag), I think this is a cool idea and unique look. But there’s so much history in Boston — and so much Red Sox uni history — that I think if designers took another crack at this, they’d come up with something more evergreen.

Jones (13): No red on a Red Sox jersey is bold. I’m sure there’s a UCLA alum somewhere with this cap who doesn’t care that it represents Boston or has anything to do with the Boston Marathon.

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Hunter Renfroe. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

Dark blue meshing with light blue. It’s a tip of the cap to why it’s called the “City of Fountains.”

On-field debut: April 30, 2022

Kepner (10): A rare conservative offering with the KC emblem patterned on the city flag and rendered like a fountain. And this has my favorite unseen element: “HEY HEY HEY HEY” on the inside collar, in tribute to the Beatles’ Little Richard cover that plays after every home win.

Nesbitt (13): This one doesn’t demand deep analysis. The fountain-inspired logo is neat, but the overall look doesn’t sing. It’s all right, but tame for an alternate. Nothing grabs your attention.

Rosecrans (17): Nez is right.

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Jones (10): I’m a big fan of the color scheme. Give me all shades of blue.

9. Cleveland Guardians (12.25)


José Ramírez. (Ken Blaze / USA Today)

The classic color scheme, textured pattern and Art Deco influences are a nod to Cleveland’s famous Guardians of Traffic.

On-field debut: May 17, 2024

Kepner (1): I’ve felt all along that the Guardians should do more with the actual “guardians” — the bridge statue figures near the ballpark — to help folks embrace the 2021 rebrand. It’s hard to rally around a “flying G” insignia, after all, and this set includes a new logo that should become permanent. As for the uniform itself, the racing stripes are a welcome callback to the “Major League” era, the art deco font is classy, and I love how they weave little home plates into the CLE lettering.

Rosecrans (14): One of the things I’ve liked about the City Connects is trying to get away from the tired red, white and blue color scheme that is too prominent in baseball. Cleveland had a chance to do something new when they renamed themselves but just did the same old, same old.

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Nesbitt (8): The more I see this one in action, the better it is. Each element is distinct and in agreement with the rest of the design. No one’s asking for the organization to lean harder into the “Guardians of Traffic” bridge pillars, but I’m digging the Art Deco font and the 1990s vibes.

Jones (26): I imagine it’s not easy figuring out what to do with the Guardians’ name because there isn’t much history with it yet. They tried, but ultimately these feel like the pants from the movie “Major League” and a jersey that’s still in the works.

8. Chicago White Sox (8.75)


Jared Shuster. (Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

Dark gray, white pinstripes and gothic font prove to be a winner. Notice the “Chi” — also in gothic lettering — where “Sox” normally is on the cap.

On-field debut: June 5, 2021

Kepner (9): The White Sox claimed black-and-white as their color scheme in late 1990, and they’ve owned that look ever since, setting a trend that far too many teams have clumsily tried to imitate. I’ll make one exception for dark-jersey-over-dark-pants, and this is it.

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Nesbitt (10): It’s very White Sox. If you like that, great. If you don’t, you still probably find this design inoffensive.

Rosecrans (15): I get why they did it and why some people like it, but it looks like a knock-off White Sox jersey you’d find on a clearance rack. And the hat? Huge downgrade, even if it’s just the three letters. It seemed cool when they did it, but it hasn’t aged well.

Jones (1): The black White Sox jerseys have long been a favorite. My affinity goes back to Snoop Dogg wearing a team jacket in the “Deep Cover” video in 1992, followed by Dr. Dre wearing the cap in the “Nuthin But A G Thang” video. I’m not from Southside Chicago, but if I was, I’d proudly wear this jersey to the ballpark.


Kevin Pillar. (Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

There’s a California beach theme within these uniforms. The left sleeve has asymmetrical stripes that remind some of retro surfboards.

On-field debut: June 11, 2022

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Kepner (3): This feels straight out of SoCal in the ’60s, when the Angels arrived on the scene. The swirly, bubbly letters, the beach-blanket sleeve stripes — it looks like something you’d see on “Gidget.” Fun, fun, fun.

Nesbitt (4): Just delightful. It’s simple yet sharp, winking at the surf and skate culture while not completely throwing out the classic Angels look.

Rosecrans (6): You could’ve told me this was the team’s new everyday uniform and I’d just think they upgraded. It doesn’t feel City Connect-y enough but it’s hard to knock it for being just a good, solid baseball uniform. And hey, it’s better than the Dodgers, and how often can you say that about the Angels?

Jones (21): Feels very old-school in a way that doesn’t work for me. Could it be my Dodgers bias? Probably. I don’t like the Angels claiming Los Angeles from Orange County. Lean into Anaheim and the OC next time.

6. Seattle Mariners (7.5)


Luis Castillo. (Stephen Brashear / USA Today)

This uniform honors the city’s original MLB team, the Pilots, and it features Mount Rainier on the sleeve and a trident on the cap.

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On-field debut: May 5, 2023

Nesbitt (1): There’s this line from a radio program I listened to as a kid: If you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best. That’s what the Mariners have done, bringing the Seattle Pilots back to life. For all the wildness, weirdness and wackiness of Seattle baseball, the Pilots got the look right. The trident logo. The chest font. The piping. Chef’s kiss.

Kepner (6): The jersey and hat are so sharp that the black pants (while horrible) don’t ruin it for me. The 1969 Pilots and the early Mariners teams didn’t win very much, but I’m always in favor of honoring a city’s baseball history. And I’m a sucker for the trident.

Rosecrans (9): I love the Pilots-inspired wordmark, but I don’t like the black, especially on the bill of the cap. There are very few caps I like where the bill is a different color than the crown and going from the blue to the black is jarring. There is just way too much black and blue together for me.

Jones (14): The cap is top-notch. It’s my favorite part of the uniform. The colors and font on the chest are all nice touches. And it’s a bit of a throwback. That’s big for someone who loves throwback jerseys and still wears them when relaxing.

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Ha-Seong Kim. (Denis Poroy / USA Today)

A binational fan base is celebrated with these uniforms. Many of the team’s fans hail from San Diego, Tijuana, Mexico and Baja California.

On-field debut: July 8, 2022

Nesbitt (5): Wonderfully whimsical color scheme. Bravo. Pink and mint dominate the design. There’s yellow trim and name-on-back lettering, and most accessories seem to be yellow. It’s a lot. But it all works on the white uni. Different sleeve colors — who woulda thought!

Rosecrans (7): I’m not sure this would work anywhere else, but in San Diego it’s fantastic.

Kepner (11): Before they finally switched back to brown, the Padres’ uniforms had gotten so maddeningly boring that I can’t complain about their wacky City Connects. These uniforms are pretty silly, but they’re also lively and fun. Nothing wrong with that.

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Jones (6): This is perfectly San Diego. That’s the best way to summarize this look.


Lane Thomas. (Geoff Burke / USA Today)

“Back in bloom”: The Nationals use a well-known signature of the city in their alternate uniforms.

On-field debut: April 9, 2022

Rosecrans (4): Pink is underutilized in sports uniforms. Gray has been overutilized, especially in the last decade. These two work in harmony on this gorgeous set. While I’m not a fan of airport codes (or what looks like airport codes) on uniforms, the rest is enough to make up for it. (If they’d just used “DC” on the breast, it’d be an easy No. 1 for me.)

Kepner (7): The cherry blossoms work perfectly here — distinctively D.C. and a new element to a baseball uniform. The pink-and-gray combo is a welcome contrast to Nike’s default dark, tough-guy costumes. Don’t love “WSH” though.

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Nesbitt (7): Heartbreaking that this set is going away after the 2024 season. It’s a beauty.

Jones (8): I’m usually meh with gray uniforms. For some reason, I like the pink and gray combo. It’s a great combination for a suit-and-tie for church and works surprisingly well for the uniform.

3. Atlanta Braves (5.5)


Matt Olson. (Mady Mertens / USA Today)

Hank Aaron chasing his 715th home run in 1974 reminds many of this uniform. “The A” offers a look of nostalgia for older fans. 

On-field debut: April 8, 2023

Kepner (5): You’ve gotta appreciate a uniform that honors Hank Aaron breaking the home run record in 1974. I’ve never cared for the lowercase “a” from those caps, so I love that they replace it here with the current “A.” Extremely well done.

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Nesbitt (2): Most City Connects feel as if the design process began with outlawing anything remotely signature about the team’s current look. Not here. Crisp white unis with blue and red accents and hidden tributes to Hammerin’ Hank? Looks sublime. That’s all I care about here.

Rosecrans (12): So close to being good — the ’70s Braves uniforms are gorgeous. But there’s something about the unoriginality that makes me dislike it. But what I really dislike is the “The A.” I think there’s a difference between City Connects, throwbacks and alternates. This one is more throwback than City Connect.

Jones (3): Adding “The” next to the “A” puts this one over the top and makes it one of the best of the bunch. Almost all my friends say they are going to “The A” and not Atlanta. I know this is a tribute to Hank Aaron, but “The A” gives it just the right amount of modern flavor.


Josh Bell. (Rhona Wise / USA Today)

The uniform is a slightly modified tribute to the Cuban Sugar Kings, a Triple-A team that won a championship in 1959.

On-field debut: May 21, 2021

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Rosecrans (1): Wonderful. No notes. Better than what they normally wear and anything they’ve worn before. The story makes it even better.

Kepner (4): It’s the only red jersey I can think of with white pinstripes, so it pulls off the rare trick of being unique yet uncluttered. Love the crown on the cap.

Nesbitt (6): The crown logos are a nod to the Havana Sugar Kings, a Cuban team that was the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate from 1954 to 1960. It’s bold and it works. Miami, baby!

Jones (9): I’m a sucker for jerseys with heavy historical connections. The nod to the Havana Sugar Kings is a winner here. The colors are bold, as they should be when representing Miami.


Ryan Feltner. (Rhona Wise / USA Today)

The Rocky Mountains, a predominantly green appearance and the letter font have these uniforms looking similar to the state of Colorado’s license plate.

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On-field debut: June 4, 2022

Kepner (2): It doesn’t try to do too much: it’s the Colorado license plate, with matching wordmark and mountain range — not Rockies colors, but richly evocative of the state. Bonus points for the clever flourish of a double-black diamond ski patch on the sleeve.

Nesbitt (3): I don’t want an alternate uniform that feels like it was drawn up by a dozen creatives in a conference room. I want one that feels like it came from the days when everyone sent in designs to the local newspaper, and a sixth grader would win with something garish and unreasonable and … perfect. That’s what this is. A beer-league softball uniform in the big leagues.

Rosecrans (5): The hat looks like it was made by Patagonia and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked them better with the green pants, which is probably an unpopular opinion. Green is underused in baseball, so it’s nice to see it.

Jones (2): This is nothing like the traditional Rockies uniform. No black, gray or purple and that’s what makes this edition stand out. It’s distinctly Colorado from the cap on down. No complaints here.

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(Illustration by Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photos by Megan Briggs and Scott Kane / Getty Images, and Nic Antaya / MLB Photos)

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Culture

My front row seat on 'Inside the NBA,' the greatest studio show in sports TV history

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My front row seat on 'Inside the NBA,' the greatest studio show in sports TV history

The first day I went down to Atlanta in 2005, to TNT’s Techwood Drive studios to do “Inside the NBA,” the show’s producer, the legendary Tim Kiely, made things simple for me.

“If you look at the (bleeping) camera, I’ll wring your neck,” he said.

I smiled. This was going to work out.

Kiely and I were former employees at ESPN. So I knew exactly what he meant.

TK, as everyone knows him, had gone to what was then called Turner Sports years before I did, and was the driving force behind “Inside” becoming the greatest sports studio show in the history of television, a Sports Emmy-winning Leviathan.

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At ESPN, the network was the star. You could be on the network for a while, and if you were deemed essential for a while (it was, with few exceptions, not for all that long), you could be on the network a lot. But no one anchor or reporter was indispensable. The iconic SportsCenter set? That was indispensable.

So, when you were on an ESPN show, it was important for you, representing the show when you were on it, to connect with the people watching at home, not the people sitting next to you in the studio. You were told, early and often, when you wanted to make a point, to literally turn your body away from the person sitting next to you, who may have asked you a question, and to look into whatever camera to which you were assigned. Then, you could disseminate your information, or make your point, to the people watching.

By contrast, in Techwood’s Studio J, from where TNT’s “Inside” was broadcast, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and, later, Shaquille O’Neal were the stars, along with the best studio host of all time, Ernie Johnson. But, and this is why the show worked, they weren’t cast in bronze. If you were on the set with them, you were, as far as everyone on set was concerned, their equal. If you thought they were wrong about something, you were allowed – you were expected – to challenge them. Just because they were former players, and great ones, didn’t mean your opinion didn’t count. But, it had to be genuine, not forced, canned “debate.”

TK would say, over and over, “Charles is right there. Talk to him! Kenny’s right there! Talk to him! You disagree with Chuck? Say so!”

During Kiely’s 28 years of producing the show, “Inside” took the top place in the NBA firmament. It has remained there since he retired last year. There was, and is, no game crew or league-ancillary programming on any other network that was, or is, as good as what came out of that studio every Thursday night during the season. And that extended to the “40 games in 40 nights,” as TNT called it, of the playoffs. Nothing, including the finals, or draft coverage, was as good. “Inside” was the gold standard.

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I was on a bunch of NBA studio shows when I was at the Four-Letter, including “NBA Today” and “NBA 2 Nite.” I loved them all. We did good work, occasionally excellent work, in the years I was there, with Mark Jones, Jason Jackson and Stuart Scott. It was an honor and an education to work on those shows with coaches such as the late Jack Ramsay, and Fred Carter. I learned so much from them.

But we all knew “Inside” was better.

That’s why TK’s words made me smile. At Turner, I didn’t have to play the role of the “information guy,” even though that was my job. I could just be me. And that was what I did when I made appearances on the show over my 14 years at Turner.


In over 14 years on “Inside the NBA,” David Aldridge, left, held his own with Shaquille O’Neal and others. (Noah Graham / NBAE via Getty Images)

And thus, the lamentations about the future of “Inside” after next season, when the NBA’s new media rights deal begins, are heartfelt and genuine. The NBA’s Board of Governors, on Tuesday, approved the new deal, which begins with the 2025-26 NBA season. It introduces Amazon Prime Video as a media rights streaming partner and reintroduces NBC, which had the NBA package from 1990 to 2002, for both broadcast and streaming rights (via its Peacock streaming service).

As part of the new deal, which will run for 11 years, starting with the 2025-26 season, and pay out $76 billion to the league’s 30 teams, NBC would broadcast games nationally on Tuesdays, while Peacock would have games on Mondays. Both NBC and Amazon would put NBA games into their current slots for NFL broadcasts, on Sunday nights (NBC) and Thursdays (Amazon), after the NFL season concludes.

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ABC/ESPN would continue to broadcast the NBA finals, while airing slightly fewer regular season games, and have a conference final every year. Amazon and NBC would alternate years carrying the other conference final.

And Turner, now Warner Bros. Discovery, would be the odd network out.

But, WBD will have a five-day window to match the terms of the new package and hold onto its Thursday night package of games, as well as an annual conference final – and, of course, “Inside” – once the league formally delivers the package to WBD’s corporate offices. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at a news conference following the Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas Tuesday that the media deals were not yet done, and wouldn’t confirm if or when the five-day window for WBD has opened.

So, the waiting will continue for WBD/Turner employees, who’ve been in limbo for months as the parent company negotiated with the league, yet have continued to produce the kind of memorable programming for which Turner and “Inside” have been known for three decades. Silver felt compelled to apologize to WBD/Turner employees for leaving their futures twisting in the wind in his news conference at the start of the finals last month.

It’s something no one wants to truly contemplate. There’s never been anything like “Inside the NBA” in sports media, and there’s not going to be anything like it if it’s gone after next year.

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It was, as a friend put it a while back, the TV manifestation of where people who love the NBA assemble every week, a communal hangout. A place where you’d feel comfortable getting a beer, or another substance, maybe, with your friends, and loud talk about your favorite teams and players, or the teams and players that you hated, while inhaling a sandwich and watching the game together, either in person or via group chat.

It was a place where you felt … safe.

You felt like you knew Chuck and Shaq and Ernie and Kenny because their actual personalities, who they really were off-camera, came through so clearly on camera. The show had some scripted elements to it, and Ernie did the best he could to keep the show on topic, but for the most part, every week, they went out there and … winged it. Barkley, Smith and Shaq never went to the production meetings before airtime. It was just four guys who actually enjoyed being in each other’s company, riffing off one another. But that requires tremendous trust. The television business does not often engender trust among people who are competing for air time and money and keeping their jobs.

It all started with Charles.

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Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley became must-see tv on “Inside the NBA.” (Brandon Todd/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s funny. People under a certain age — say, 40 or so — don’t seem to realize this now. But Barkley was as big a superstar in his NBA days as anyone not named Michael Jordan.

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Barkley was on both the NBA’s all-time Top 50 and Top 75 teams. He was the 1992-93 NBA MVP. He was an 11-time All-Star. He averaged 23 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 123 career postseason games, including a 56-point gem against the Warriors in a first-round game in 1994. He was the best player on the Dream Team, in 1992 — a team that included Jordan, Magic and Bird.

Now, to be sure, Magic and Bird were on the back nine of their careers by the time they went to Barcelona for the Olympics, and Jordan was picking his spots after a grueling year leading the Bulls to a successful defense of their championship. But Chuck was nonetheless dominant, a blur in transition, a beast in the paint. And he was, as ever, the go-to guy for anyone with a notepad or camera. (Charles once spent half an hour explaining to reporters in Philly why he wasn’t talking to the local media.)

“I don’t know much about Angola,” he said of the U.S. team’s opening-round Olympic opponent in Barcelona, “but I know they’re in trouble.”

He had as many commercials back in the day as Shaq has now. He hosted “Saturday Night Live” (and beat up Barney the Dinosaur in the process). He got arrested in a Milwaukee bar after punching a weightlifter; he got arrested in Orlando after an incident in a club where he wound up throwing a belligerent patron into a mirror, which crashed through a plate glass window. (Chuck actually didn’t know how many times he’d been arrested over the years. When he got to Turner, TNT, smartly, assigned him a couple of bodyguards.)

He was, then as now, completely fearless, saying whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. In Philly, he’d verbally immolate his boss, 76ers owner Harold Katz, and do the same to his coaches and teammates, or anyone else who got in his craw.

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“I love when they say Magic makes James Worthy better, and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) better,” he’d say at his locker. “I have to make Sheldon Jones better.”

So, when Barkley came to “Inside” after his retirement as a player, he could have put up all kinds of caveats and I-won’t-do-thats, befitting a player of his stature. But he didn’t. In fact, he did the exact opposite. He would do anything, including things that made him look ridiculous.

Barkley battled weight problems throughout his playing career and well into his retirement. An overly sensitive superstar could have insisted that fat jokes were off limits on the set. Instead, Barkley leaned into the constant digs at his girth. Weighing 30-plus pounds more than his supposed 290 pounds early in December 2001, Barkley vowed to be under 300 by the end of January 2002. He made it a thing around which “Inside” could build programming! And he followed through on his promise to get weighed “in my drawers” on the show.

During Yao Ming’s rookie season, in 2002-03, Kenny insisted that Yao, the celebrated big man from China, would score at least 19 points in a game during his rookie campaign. Chuck said if that happened, he’d “kiss Kenny’s ass” on national TV. Ten days later, Yao went 9 of 9 from the floor and scored 20 against the Lakers. Two days after that, with then-Minnesota Governor Jesse “the Body” Ventura on set, Kenny brought a donkey onto the set. If Chuck kissed the donkey’s ass, Kenny said, the bet would be satisfied.

Chuck puckered up.

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I am fairly certain that Jordan would not have done this.

The one time I saw Barkley actually distraught was the night his Suns lost Game 6 of the 1993 Finals, at home, to the Bulls. He drove up to the Houston’s restaurant in downtown Phoenix, alone, after John Paxson’s dagger 3 beat Phoenix in the last seconds. He joined a bunch of sportswriters eating outside. He was down. He really thought the Suns were better than Chicago that season. But he couldn’t get them over the top.

And yet, years later, Chuck let “Inside” clown him for a segment where a set was transformed into “The Champions’ Club,” which you could only enter if you’d won an NBA title. Magic, on set with the crew that week, obviously got in easily with his five championships with the Lakers. So did Kenny, who’d won back-to-back titles with Houston in 1994 and ’95. Ernie got in on Magic’s invite. But after Kenny walked in, with Barkley right behind him, Chuck got stopped at the door by the “bouncer.” Ernie soon stuck his head out of the “club” door, noting all the guys with rings that were supposedly in the club: Fennis Dembo, Mike Penberthy, the late Earl Cureton.

“Oh, y’all are playing a joke on the Chuckster,” Barkley said.

That same ethos applied to Kenny. When Kobe Bryant came out with a new Nike shoe, the Hyperdunk, in 2008, he did a viral ad for Nike with then-teammate Ronny Turiaf  in which he, allegedly, jumped over an incoming Aston Martin, so great were the Hyperdunk’s qualities.

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Naturally, when the Lakers were on TNT, and Kobe had a great game, “Inside” had Bryant on afterward. Kenny said that he, too, had a new Nike shoe coming out — the “Hyperdunk Smiths” — that would soon be in stores. And he, too, could jump over a car!

It didn’t go quite as well as Kobe’s leap.

Shaq also got got, after he joined the show.

“Inside” quickly built a “storyline” where the 7-1, who-knows-how-much-he-weighs self-described “MDE: Most Dominant Ever” center bullied poor Ernie, literally shaking him down for lunch money. But, ultimately, Ernie got his revenge. And, infamously, a moment of extreme clumsiness by the Big Fella in 2017 was replayed, a few thousand times, on “Inside” over the next few years.

Shaq made fun of my headshot. I made fun of his movies. Joe Underhill, a diminutive researcher and field producer who worked his butt off for years, was reborn and became semi-famous as “Underdog,” who’d feed Ernie and others statistical information, appear in skits and be prepared, as O’Neal would say seemingly every week, to put some pithy saying on a T-shirt. And, the portal went both ways: in the last few years, fans have been encouraged to clap back at the crazy things Shaq, Kenny and Chuck said and did, whenever possible.

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“Inside” was not for the Sloan crowd. There was no genuflecting at the altar of True Shooting Percentage or PER or Defensive Box Plus-Minus. If endless video breakdowns of the three best ways to ice a pick-and-roll was your thing, this was not your show. And the Insiders reveled in their ignorance; they were definitely eye- and smell-testers, not Second Spectrum guys.

General managers and executives around the league would occasionally rail to me about how little educating about the game Chuck, Kenny and Shaq did with their large platform. (Interestingly, coaches rarely complained.) I would acknowledge the point, but also point to “Inside’s” growing collection of Emmys. Their approach seemed to resonate with an awful lot of viewers, and voters.


Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was one of many to share a dose of wisdom with David Aldridge during his TNT days. (Soobum Im / USA Today)

Nor did “Inside” make the games the network paid billions to air every week sacred, as other networks did. If TNT had a dog of a doubleheader on in January, the “Inside” guys would say it was a dog. Chuck would talk about shows on other networks that he was watching in the green room while TNT aired its crappy-for-that-night NBA fare. A staple at the start of every season was “Who He Play For?,” a faux game show segment that served only to display Barkley’s thimble-like knowledge of non-superstars around the league.

But — and this was rarely acknowledged by the show’s critics — nothing excited the studio more than a well-played, riveting game. Chuck, in particular, would fall in love with the last good team he saw on the air, pledging that they were the best (or second-best, or third-best) team in their conference. He made Manu Ginobili into a household name with his weekly “GINOBILI!!” fanboying. On the other hand, Chuck’s many wrong “gar-run-teeed!” game/series predictions became their own cottage industry.

When “Inside” did focus on the games and players, though, its analysts’ praise was as welcomed as their scorn was withering. It made clear the lie of so many of the current players who dismissed the “Inside” guys as fossils, incapable of playing or understanding today’s game. If they were so out of touch, why did the players care so much what they said about them?

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O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segments became must-watch TV, as he (more accurately, the show’s producers) lampooned the biggest blunders players made in games every week. Shaq crushed JaVale McGee to the point where it became kind of cringeworthy. It wasn’t that McGee wasn’t messing up, occasionally in spectacular fashion, but a) he wasn’t doing it every second of every game, as Shaqtin’ made it seem, and b) Shaq was rubbing his nose in it every week.

When McGee had a good game in 2013 while with the Nuggets and was invited on “Inside” afterward, he told Shaq to his face that he didn’t watch what he called “Shaqtin’ a Coon.” O’Neal’s and McGee’s mothers actually had to step in and squash the beef between their sons.

And there was so much beef over the years. Chuck vs. Durant. Shaq versus Chuck. Shaq versus Kenny. Chuck versus Draymond Green. Shaq versus Shannon Sharpe. Shaq and Chuck versus Kendrick Perkins. Chuck, infamously, versus the women of San Antonio. A postgame skirmish between the Clippers and Rockets, with Houston players supposedly trying to break into the Clippers’ locker room, became part of “Inside” lore when reporter Ros Gold Onwude noted a “police presence” outside the Rockets’ team bus, and Shaq and Chuck eviscerated the softness of whoever thought cops were needed to settle things that the players should have handled themselves.

But it was because everyone watching had seen Barkley’s struggles with weight over the years that his digs at the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson hit so hard. It was because Barkley was fearless with his words (critics might say careless) that he could so effectively lampoon the account of actor Jussie Smollett that he’d been mugged late at night in Chicago by two men, one of whom allegedly yelled racial slurs at Smollett. And it was because “Inside” was so well-respected by so many that it’s “Gone Fishin’” segments, sending every team off into the summer after it was eliminated in the playoffs, were so eagerly anticipated.

Yet, on a dime, “Inside” could, and did, get serious.

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In the midst of COVID-19 in 2020, the crew assembled remotely after George Floyd’s memorial in Minneapolis. “This plague of racism, which comes at the same time as the pandemic, demands our attention,” Ernie said.

They talked about Jan. 6. They used the start of their pregame show before Game 4 of the Western Conference final in 2022 to discuss the mass shooting earlier that day in Uvalde, Texas, that resulted in the death of 19 children and two teachers. When players in the Orlando bubble refused to play scheduled playoff games in 2020 to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., and to protest police violence around the country, Kenny followed suit, walking off the set in solidarity with the players. Ernie talked openly in 2006 about his cancer diagnosis; his partners spoke in his absence, eloquently and emotionally, after Ernie’s son, Michael, died at 33, in 2021.

And they were there for Shaq after Kobe died. They understood. We understood. Shaq and Kobe had mad beef when they were together with the Lakers. But you can fight your brother, call him all kinds of names, in the moment. He’s still your brother. He’s still family.

None of this felt forced. No one brought scorching hot takes to these topics. They talked through things, as friends do with one another at hard moments. They stumbled over their words. They talked over one another. Often, they disagreed. Unique among such shows, the “Inside” crew had the cachet to pivot from the ridiculous to the solemn, and back, in a matter of minutes. All due respect, but you didn’t see that — or, at least, you didn’t remember seeing that — on the Sunday NFL shows, or the Saturday college football shows.

“Inside the NBA” always stood on its own. Just as multiple generations have grown up watching The Simpsons,” the “Today Show” or “Sesame Street,” “Inside” has just been so indefatigably there for so long, and has so rarely failed to entertain or at least make you react, that it’s hard to imagine turning on a television going forward without being able to see what the fellas are up to this week.

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(Photo illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic. Photo: Issac Baldizon / NBAE Getty Images)

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MLB front offices under the most pressure — and the least — this trade deadline

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MLB front offices under the most pressure — and the least — this trade deadline

Major-league front offices have completed the amateur draft and All-Star week and now can turn their full attention to the July 30 trade deadline.

Contending teams are trying to find ways to improve their rosters for the pennant race and the postseason through trades with “sellers” as well as other contenders. They’re also trying to add organizational depth to protect against unexpected injuries the rest of the way, knowing they can no longer make August waiver trades.

The phone calls, texts and even occasional emails are in full swing between front offices despite a difficult trade marketplace due to the cloudy, crowded playoff picture; exiting the All-Star break, only six teams — the White Sox, Marlins, Rockies, A’s, Angels and Blue Jays — sit more than 7 1/2 games out in the wild-card standings.

Life as a general manager at the trade deadline is a hectic, intense time, and every front office — regardless of market, track record or place in the standings — is under the microscope to some degree. But certain front offices, from clear sellers to aggressive buyers, face more pressure to deliver difference-making deals.

Here are the front offices and executives that are under the most pressure to make significant moves this trade season, as well as the teams that by contrast I believe don’t face as much pressure to swing deals.

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Six front offices under the most pressure


Chris Getz has been in the GM chair for less than a year but this trade deadline could define his tenure. (Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

1. White Sox, GM Chris Getz

The White Sox are set up to be the headliners of this year’s trade deadline. They are 27-71 and a whopping 32 1/2 games out of first in the AL Central. Getz has told the other GMs that there are no untouchables on his major-league roster; he is open to trading anyone if it expedites their rebuild, and that includes ace Garrett Crochet, mid-rotation starter Erick Fedde and Gold Glove center fielder Luis Robert Jr. Now, the White Sox don’t have to trade any of them, but if they do, the returns in those trades will significantly shape the legacy of Getz and perhaps even eventually determine the longevity of his tenure in this role.

2. Blue Jays, president Mark Shapiro, GM Ross Atkins

In my opinion, the Blue Jays need to extend the contracts of both first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette between now and July 30, and if they can’t sign them to long-term deals, they should trade both and do a complete rebuild. I understand the Jays instead could trade one or both of them in the offseason or at next year’s trade deadline, but their trade value will never be higher than it is now as an acquiring team would get them for two pennant races, not one. (Both players will be eligible for free agency after next season.) Some will argue that Bichette’s down year would hurt his trade value too much, but according to several major-league executives, teams would value him the same as they always have despite his subpar season. And the interest would be there: For example, the Dodgers would move Mookie Betts to second base, once healthy, if they traded for Bichette; the Yankees would play him at third base if they pulled off a deal with their division rivals.

But even if the Blue Jays stick to their stance from June of not trading either superstar at the deadline, at a minimum they need to be shopping them. They are in last place, eight games under .500 (44-52) and have a weak farm system, so they need to make trades to improve their short- and long-term future. If the Blue Jays could make two blockbuster trades and land five to 10 solid prospects in return by dealing both, then it might make some sense. But if they maintain the position that Guerrero and Bichette won’t be dealt, then their focus at the deadline will be on trying to trade some of their top starting pitchers, including Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi and maybe even Kevin Gausman. The Blue Jays must make trades to get better and younger and they must improve their prospect cabinet at the same time.

3. Mariners, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, GM Justin Hollander

The Mariners have arguably the best starting rotation, one through five, in the American League, which gives them a legitimate shot to run the table in the playoffs if they can win the AL West or secure a wild-card spot. However, the big question is whether this team can score enough runs to not only make the postseason, but also compete with the offensive juggernauts — such as the Orioles, Yankees, Guardians and Astros — in the potential AL playoff field if they get there. Executives around the league still can’t understand why the Mariners let Teoscar Hernández sign with the Dodgers last offseason, and it must have been hard for them to watch him win the Home Run Derby this week. (Hernández, who did not receive a $20.325 million qualifying offer from Seattle after last season, signed a one-year, $23.5 million contract with Los Angeles.) The front office’s job at this trade deadline is to add offense, and whether that’s Luis Robert Jr. from the White Sox or Jazz Chisholm Jr. from the Marlins or hitters such as the A’s Brent Rooker or the Nationals’ Lane Thomas, Seattle is under serious pressure to add bats.

4. Yankees, GM Brian Cashman 

The Yankees front office and Cashman will make this list every year because that’s the deal when you run this storied franchise in New York City, where the fan base always views it as World Series or bust. The Yankees need a starting pitcher, and whether it’s an ace such as Garrett Crochet or a mid-rotation starter like Chris Bassitt (who has a limited no-trade clause), the need is real. They also should improve their offense at second, third or the DH spot, and they have a deep enough farm system to fill both needs (a starter and an offensive upgrade). What will Cashman do? The Yankees’ longtime GM has had some trade deadlines where he’s made big moves and others where he’s largely stood pat, and this year could go either way.

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5. Dodgers, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman 

The Dodgers have had more injuries to starting pitchers than any team in MLB, with Tyler Glasnow, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Emmet Sheehan all on the injured list. Glasnow should be back soon but Yamamoto can’t return until Aug. 16 at the earliest; they are the two most important starters the Dodgers need to be healthy. The Dodgers don’t know how effective Buehler and Kershaw will be when they are activated, and Gonsolin, May and Sheehan are out for the season. With all that uncertainty, the Dodgers have to make a move for a starting pitcher and they match up well with teams like the White Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers and Angels, all of whom could be trading starters. They have been searching for another outfield bat as well. In the offseason they committed more than $1 billion for two players, Shohei Ohtani and Yamamoto. When you invest that type of money, you can’t stop there in this scenario, when the goal is to win the World Series. The Dodgers must trade some top prospects to improve their pitching staff for both the regular season and postseason.

6. Marlins, president of baseball operations Peter Bendix

The Marlins will be selling at the deadline and they’ve made it clear to the industry that they are going to trade infielder/outfielder Jazz Chisholm Jr., closer Tanner Scott and first baseman Josh Bell. Chisholm probably won’t get traded to the Yankees or Phillies because many evaluators question how he would perform in those markets and fit in their clubhouses. Instead, most execs think he’ll end up being moved to the Pirates, Mariners or Giants. The Marlins have another good trade chip in Scott, one of the best-available closers, and teams like the Orioles, Astros, Rangers and Dodgers would love to land the All-Star lefty. Bendix, who was hired away from the Rays last offseason, is on the clock and under huge pressure to get strong returns, especially in the trades of Chisholm and Scott.

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Five front offices under the least pressure


Dave Dombrowski and Sam Fuld will look to make the right additions to a strong roster with an eye toward October. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

1. Phillies, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, GM Sam Fuld 

The Phillies have the best team based on win-loss record (62-34), scout evaluations and many of the game’s key metrics. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs, especially in the outfield, where they could use a long-term solution for center field and a right-handed platoon outfielder for left field. A trade for the White Sox’s Luis Robert Jr., or the Diamondbacks’ Jake McCarthy, or maybe even the Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm (if the Phillies front office thinks the fit with their clubhouse would work) could make sense if they address center field. For left field, they can upgrade their right-handed-hitting options to pair with Brandon Marsh, and the trade candidates include Lane Thomas of the Nationals, Tommy Pham of the White Sox and maybe Mark Canha of the Tigers, among others. As one of the favorites to win the World Series, there’s always pressure to pull the right levers at the trade deadline. But this team is pretty strong as is.

2. Orioles, GM Mike Elias

The Orioles sit atop the AL East and are in for a great race with the Yankees and Red Sox for the division title. They arguably have the best team in the division but also are not strong enough, at present, to put away either New York or Boston. They could use another starting pitcher, having lost Kyle Bradish, John Means and Tyler Wells to season-ending injuries, and more bullpen depth. But no one has a better or deeper farm system than the Orioles, which puts them in a strong position to address both areas. At the same time, they don’t want to trade any of their top five prospects, and who can blame them when they didn’t have to do so when they acquired ace Corbin Burnes from the Brewers earlier this year.

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The Orioles would love to add another ace such as the Tigers’ Tarik Skubal or the White Sox’s Garrett Crochet, and they are one of the few teams with the farm system and major-league roster to acquire one of them without giving up their top two or top three prospects. If they can’t land either of them, they could pursue one of the Blue Jays’ starters like Yusei Kikuchi, or the Angels’ Tyler Anderson, or the Rockies’ Cal Quantrill or Austin Gomber. Bottom line: Given their trade assets compared to other teams, the Orioles will be able to add pitching at the deadline, so there’s relatively little pressure on Elias and the front office.

3. Padres, president of baseball operations A.J. Preller 

Preller and the Padres have already made two big deals — they just did them earlier in the season. They acquired ace Dylan Cease from the White Sox just before Opening Day and then traded for one of the best hitters in the sport, Luis Arraez, in a May deal with the Marlins. Preller may not have the open checkbook he enjoyed under the previous owner, the late Peter Seidler, but he does have the backing to trade the prospects it would take to make a difference-making trade. The Padres could go big at this deadline — Preller could still make a splash and pull off a trade with the White Sox for Garrett Crochet — or they could just tweak the bench and bullpen. Either way, he faces much less pressure to make a major move after already acquiring Cease and Arraez.

4. Guardians, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff

The Guardians are a legitimate World Series threat and they begin the second half with the best record in the American League (58-37). They have the best bullpen in the league, led by Emmanuel Clase, the league’s best closer; the best hitter for average in baseball, Steven Kwan; two of the best middle-of-the-lineup bats in José Ramírez, who’s also the best third baseman in baseball, and first baseman Josh Naylor, who’s having a career year; not to mention first-time All-Star David Fry, who’s played six positions and reached base at a .388 clip. The Guardians’ biggest area of need is a starting pitcher, and they’ll try to acquire one even if they have to trade from their strength in the bullpen or their middle-infield depth in the farm system. They probably aren’t going to be in play for Garrett Crochet or Tarik Skubal, but they do match up well with the Blue Jays for one of their starters based on the strong relationship they have with Toronto’s front office. The Guardians also could be in play for the Nationals’ Trevor Williams (currently on the injured list), the Rockies’ Cal Quantrill (a former Guardian), the White Sox’s Erick Fedde, the Angels’ Tyler Anderson or the Tigers’ Jack Flaherty. But at the end of the day, I don’t think they’re under much pressure.

5. Braves, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos

Despite losing Spencer Strider and Ronald Acuña Jr. to season-ending injuries, the Braves sit atop the NL wild-card standings and entered Friday with nearly a 94 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. Chris Sale is having a Cy Young Award-caliber season and Reynaldo López has surpassed all expectations en route to an All-Star nod, which have helped the Braves deal with the loss of Strider. They have the NL’s fourth-best record even though several of their stars, such as Matt Olsen, Austin Riley and Michael Harris II, underperformed in the first half of the season. The Braves need to add another outfielder or two and perhaps another veteran starter for the back of their rotation, but there really isn’t much pressure on the front office to address either area. The industry does not expect a big move from them, and it will be relatively easy for Anthopoulos to deal with those two minor needs. Remember, three years ago, he traded for four outfielders at the deadline after the Braves lost Acuña to an ACL surgery, and they went on to win the World Series.

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(Top image: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic. Photos: Ross Atkins: Cole Burston / Getty Images; Dave Dombrowski: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images) 

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The Open Championship psychology: How to thrive at one of golf's toughest tests

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The Open Championship psychology: How to thrive at one of golf's toughest tests

The gusts are practically blowing you over. Your socks are getting soggy. A treacherous pot bunker lingers in the corner of your eye. These are the physical sensations of the Open Championship, but the real challenge of this major test is psychological.

This week at Royal Troon, you’ll hear the broadcast analysts talk about the best links players as the ones who stay patient. They take their medicine. They grind it out. But beyond the cliches, what do the mental hurdles of an Open actually entail? What are the specific goals and necessities that allow one to prevail during a championship like this one at Royal Troon?

Acceptance

At the Open, players face a mental examination that doesn’t just require plotting around well-protected greens and fairways. Much of this test is simply out of the player’s control. You cannot control the wind and the rain. Nor the tee time draw: Only Mother Nature knows if you’ll play in a light breeze or just short of a hurricane. Discovering what lie you end up with in the sand is a relentless shock to the system.

Dr. Morris Pickens, a veteran PGA Tour sports psychologist, said accepting unfavorable outcomes is a learned skill specific to the Open. It all stems from knowing how to evaluate shots.

Pickens defines four categories for how to “label” a golf shot, and he maps it out in a four-quadrant graph, with two axes: “execution” and “result.” The four sections of the chart are as follows: good execution-good result, good execution-bad result, bad execution-good result, and bad execution-bad result.

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Pickens, who coached Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink to Open Championship victories and currently works with Keegan Bradley and recent PGA Tour winner Davis Thompson, asserts that in this tournament, you have to both anticipate, accept and appropriately react to the “good-bads” — in other words, a well-executed shot that didn’t turn out how you desired.

“In the Open, you’re going to get a lot of ‘good-bads,’ especially when you turn back into the wind,” Pickens says. “Maybe you played well on the front, maybe it’s been pretty easy and you’re 4-under. But you’re still going to hit some good shots that get bad results. And if you’re not careful, you’re going to lose your mind. Instead of shooting 1-over coming in, you’re going to shoot 4-over.”

At The Open, Pickens advises his players to control their emotions using this visual evaluation. The uncontrollable nature of the tournament conditions means that you’re going to get some “good-bad” outcomes, but you’re also going to get some “bad-goods” — in other words, lucky breaks. You have to appreciate and anticipate both, truly embracing the peaks and valleys of links golf, to keep your mental game in check.

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“You hope to grind out a decent score,” said Jon Rahm, who posted a 2-over 73 on Thursday.

Commitment

When dealing with factors out of one’s control, the best practice is to be ultra-specific with your pre-shot vision. Pickens describes commitment as “knowing where you want to hit the ball,” but many players mistake commitment for confidence or comfort. And that conflation can be a dangerous path.

“Confident means, ‘I know where this ball is going to end up.’ But you can’t know that. There are imperfections on the green. There are wind gusts,” Pickens says. “You don’t have to feel ease over the ball to hit great golf shots. You don’t have to feel comfortable, emotionally. There’s not one player, if they’re honest, who feels comfortable over the 18th tee shot at Augusta or at TPC Sawgrass. Those are physically demanding shots. I talk my players away from that — it’s not the goal. The goal is to be committed, and to trust your routine.”

Seeking confidence and comfort over the ball will only lead to disappointment and unrealistic expectations, and at the Open Championship, that can cause a quick downward spiral.

Commitment means utilizing the information at your disposal, devising a plan, and sticking to it. Crosswinds — which many players have described as one of Royal Troon’s most devilish challenges — make that practice particularly difficult. During links golf, the known variables can change in an instant, but it is the player’s job to know when to adjust. There’s a difference between feeling physically uncomfortable before a swing — because of improper aim, swirling winds, etc. — and feeling mental discomfort. Pickens advises his players not to ask questions while walking up to the ball, whether they’re asking themselves or their caddie. The self-talk has to be determined before the execution: Whatever happens in the lead-up to the shot is the only thing a player truly has control over at the Open. You can’t risk derailing it.

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Scottie Scheffler and other top contenders in the Open Championship will have to handle tough lies. (Harry How / Getty Images)

Resilience

You’re going to get kicked in the teeth at the Open. Whether it’s a funky bounce or a sudden gust at the worst time possible, there are going to be moments that force you to pick yourself up off the ground. But not every player has it in them. Acceptance, moving on from a wayward shot or a big number, is one thing. Finding the will to bounce back from the blips is another. It’s difficult to do — especially multiple times throughout a round.

“At some point, people lose their resilience,” Pickens says. “Then they start short-changing the process. They don’t pick good targets, they slap the ball around. They do that because they know they’re not going to be disappointed — because they didn’t put that much into it. It’s a way to protect your ego.”

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Open champions don’t let that happen. They pick themselves back up. Over, and over and over again.

“Resilience is saying no, I’m willing to put myself out there again to be disappointed again,” Pickens says. “A resilient player thinks to themselves, I’m not going to slap it around and let that habit start. Even if I miss the cut by five shots, I’m going to play this out.”

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A score will determine this Open. Some sort of concoction of birdies, pars and bogeys or worse. A three-putt. A hole-out. A 350-yard drive. But the eventual winner and his competitors will know that this championship is conquered first and foremost between the ears. The Open Championship is a mind game.

(Top photo of Rory McIlroy: Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images)

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