Designing NBA alternate jerseys for teams across the league started as a personal passion project for ESPN social media specialist Grant Goldberg. Posting to his personal Twitter account, they quickly gained popularity with fans and the sports community, including a Nipsey Hussle-inspired Los Angeles Lakers redesign that caught LeBron James’ attention.
Jersey swaps are a part of the social team’s daily workflow. The ability to quickly turn around engaging visuals has benefitted not only ESPN’s social accounts but also studio shows like SportsCenter. They are also important to ESPN App alerts, where visuals often accompany the latest breaking news notifications.
Most recently, this included the depiction of James Harden in a Brooklyn jersey published immediately to the @espn and @sportscenter accounts once news broke on a four-team mega-deal that sent Harden from the Houston Rockets to the Nets. The top two visuals attracted more than 26 million impressions and 1.57 million social engagements across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They were pushed to more than 35 million people via ESPN App alerts.
Goldberg shares his experience since starting the project and his thoughts on where it is today:
What started the idea to create these redesigns? When did you post the first, and which team jersey was it for?
I’ve always been a fan of on-court looks and uniforms, so as I grew my skills with Photoshop, I wanted to see if I could come up with looks that compete with what teams wear today. I started doing alternate jerseys for the Lakers, but the first redesign was actually the [Seattle] SuperSonics. I’m excited for them potentially rejoining the league.
How heavily did feedback from fans influence the designs you created? Of all the jersey redesigns, which one generated the strongest response?
Fan feedback played a big part in my process. My main goal was to make something that not only I liked, but fans enjoyed as well, so considering their input with my own ideas was key.
The Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder are the two that got the most attention. The Pistons haven’t had a new look in a while, so I figured fans would be excited. My teammate [social media specialist] Mark Kim (a suffering Pistons fan) gave me feedback and let me know I was going in the right direction. The Thunder redesign was a bit more gratifying since I did a complete redesign, which is always more of a leap of faith than relying on my usual mix of a modern, yet nostalgic look.
Did you ever anticipate this kind of response when you started? What does the success of these designs say about the importance of visuals in storytelling?
I didn’t expect it, as I was just doing it for fun as a personal project, but it was nice to see fans of every team respond so positively to my work. I think visuals are crucial to storytelling, especially when you involve the audience and lean on them for direction in that story you’re telling. People are always appreciative of being represented and having their voices heard.
At least four new jerseys for each NBA team ✅
Feeling proud after finishing this project that nobody asked for. Appreciate everyone that showed love and helped me with different ideas! pic.twitter.com/a8rZFJoc0D
— Grant Goldberg (@GrantGoldberg) December 22, 2020