Story from concept to the court — Pacers introduce new Pride uniforms highlighting Hickory from ‘Hoosiers’

The Pacers will wear Hoosiers-inspired uniforms in six games during the 2015-16 season.

The Pacers will wear Hoosiers-inspired uniforms in six games during the 2015-16 season. [Photo: Pacers Sports & Entertainment]

Nearly two years ago, a small group gathered together in a room to brainstorm an idea for the Pacers to create a special pride uniform. The NBA Pride Collection allows teams to come up with a uniform that uniquely connects with their home market.

Numerous ideas were shared but one stood out among the rest. The uniform from the movie Hoosiers, arguably one of the best sports films of all-time. It is a fictional story based on Milan High School being a small-town school that wins the 1954 state basketball championship by overcoming adversity and knocking off the big dogs.

[Pacers Hickory gear now available]

Todd Taylor was the primary man behind the idea. The group knew the 30th anniversary of movie’s 1986 debut would be a great tie-in and be sufficient lead time for adidas, the official sports apparel supplier of the NBA through the 2016-17 season, to get it done.

From the idea first conceptualized at the end of the 2013 to today — the Pacers announced they will begin wearing Hoosiers-inspired Hickory uniforms at select games over the next several years.

During the 2015-16 season, they plan to wear them in six games.

George Hill was the only player involved in the process and he first made the big announcement Tuesday morning — fittingly because he’s an Indiana guy. The ‘Hometown Hero’ he’s dubbed, a student at both Broad Ripple High School and IUPUI.

“It’s an honor to break this news: Pacers going Hollywood next season!” he wrote on Twitter, followed by a photo of him modeling the uniform.

“It was really important to us to have George be the one announce it,” Taylor said. “… This made it uniquely authentic for us. And he was great with it.”

This a brilliant idea that perfectly connects the state of Indiana and its basketball heritage with those outside the basketball state.

In 2013, the team brought back the pinstripes for a season. Then in 2014, it was the Flo-Jos. These Hickory uniforms take it a step further and have received well-deserved praise from the basketball community.

And, the players not only like the selection but also the change in wardrobe.

Look good. Feel good. Play Good.

“I think our players have liked wearing things from (previous eras),” Taylor, the Pacers’ Sr. Vice President/Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, said Tuesday afternoon. “In talking with George [Hill], I think he likes this because it is so drastically different from what we normally wear. Most teams stick with their normal color pallet and stick pretty true to their brand identity.”

(Other NBA Pride uniform examples: Boston, BrooklynCharlotte, Los Angeles ClippersOklahoma CityOrlando. … and they are mostly short-sleeve jersey types.)

“It looked good on George Hill and the way his hair looked, too. It kind of just fit his whole style,” Rodney Stuckey joked, also noting that he’ll miss wearing the Flo-Jos. “I’m definitely excited to wear them.”

A look at the Pacers' Hickory uniform. [Photo: @ChrisDenari]

A look at the Pacers’ Hickory uniform. [Photo: @ChrisDenari]

13 months later, this past February, Taylor received the first prototype.

There were a couple different prototypes created over the last few months with the Pacers and adidas finally getting it to their liking, featuring Rio red with gold shorts, “Hickory” across the chest and a Pacers round logo on the right side.

And while it says Hickory, that doesn’t mean it’s any one team. “It’s actually representative of all the teams in the state,” Taylor noted.

Through that, the team plans to draw attention to great basketball stories and honor groups or individuals that have made contributions to the game.

As you can imagine, the team is still working through the details on a number of fronts. To keep the idea quiet and prevent the news getting out premature, just a few were privy to the information.

The Pacers hope to have a gala where folks from the film would come back and be celebrated. They plan to have a display case on the main concourse with material on the folks they honor over the next few years. They hope to take a set of game-worn uniforms and auction them off — and then, in joint partnership with MGM, use those proceeds to help fund a school that doesn’t have uniforms.

“Our team will be honored to wear the Hickory uniforms because of the attention it will bring to the storied history of Indiana basketball and the success of that movie,” Larry Bird, an Indiana native and the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, said in the news release. “Hoosiers takes us all back to a special place and time.”

[Larry Bird talks Hickory uniforms and more…]

For those questioning the individual selection, the Pacers absolutely considered uniforms that recognized Milan or Crispus Attucks High School.

“We did talk about it,” Taylor shared. “[We picked Hickory] for two main reasons. One, obviously Hoosiers has a worldwide appeal to it and Hickory, being in Hoosiers, allows people to see it and get it right away. If we had Milan or Crispus Attucks, it would mean a lot to us in the state but it wouldn’t really draw attention from a worldwide standpoint. And, we really felt like if we went with Hickory and had people get it from a bigger concept around the movie, we could draw from some of the equity of the film — which is really a message of teamwork and a small-market overcoming big obstacles.

“That’s what really cool about it. It can Crispus Attucks. It can be Milan. It could be individual contributors, like a school’s secretary that saved basketball [for their school].”

Coming next season: Pacers in Hickory uniforms.

Coming next season: Pacers in Hickory uniforms. [Photo: Pacers Sports & Entertainment]

After a few months of building on the concept internally, a trio of Pacers met with MGM Studios in January, 2014, to present the idea. Frank Pulice, the organization’s Vice President of General Counsel, had a connection with someone at MGM and got the team a meeting.

For the 30th anniversary of the movie, which was written by Angelo Pizzo (who was raised in Bloomington, Indiana), MGM plans to re-release the movie.

It would make perfect sense for the Pacers to wear these Hickory uniforms while playing in Los Angeles twice during the season, against the Clippers and Lakers. (The schedule should be released in a few more weeks, around mid-August.)

Jerseys from the Pacers’ Pride Collection are expected by the start of the regular season. Other Hickory apparel with a Pacers logo will be rolled out over the next six to eight weeks. Those items include t-shirts, sweatshirts, track jackets, and novelties.

[Click here to be alerted when the Hickory jerseys are available for purchase.]

“The thing I’m most excited about … our whole theme has been ‘Indiana’s Game. Indiana’s Team,'” Taylor added. “So this gives us a whole new platform to tell those great stories.”

Pacers Hall of Famer Reggie Miller approves the new uniform:

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