Around this time of the year, millions come to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. It’s a celebration that Louisiana as a state prides itself on because, while other states and locations celebrate Fat Tuesday, the Pelican State is often associated with the sounds of bands performing as they walk down the street with floats containing costumed people throwing beads and goodies for paradegoers behind metal barricades.
The same culture can be found in the New Orleans Pelicans. For the 2022-23 season, they introduced a purple uniform set — called “City” uniforms by the NBA — meant to be alternates to the red and blue ones we are accustomed to seeing.
With three stripes on the front of the jersey and three stripes on the side of the purple shorts, the “City” uniform consists of the three colors associated with Mardi Gras: purple, gold, and green. According to many NBA pundits and fans, they are some of the better alternative uniform sets in the league. However, one question remains: Is the uniform set affecting the Pelicans’ play?
It is often said that to play good, one must look good. However, in the five games that the Pelicans have worn their “City” uniforms as of Feb. 11, the results have been mostly negative in terms of winning. The Pelicans are 1–5 with their “City” uniforms, with their lone win coming against the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 7, 116-107. For those keeping track at home, that’s a winning percentage of .142, which is not noteworthy.
Their team stats also take a slight but noticeable dip. In the 2022-23 season, the Pelicans are shooting 48% from the field, which is 11th in the NBA as of Feb. 12. However, in the six games in which they wear purple, the Pelicans only shoot 45% from the field. In the long-range department, the Pelicans shoot 34.4% from beyond the arc when wearing purple, which is average. However, by comparison, New Orleans usually hits 3-pointers at a rate of 35.7% across all uniform combinations.
As for scoring points, the Pelicans also come up short. Over the course of their five nights wearing “City” uniforms, they averaged 104 points per game, significantly less than their 115.3 points-per-game average this season. Their opponents scored 111.5 points per game in these games, which is less than the 113.6 average that New Orleans allows, but the point differential sees a shift from two points in the Pelicans’ favor to -7.5 in their opponents’ favor. This is a 9.5-point shift.
So why do the Pelicans play so poorly when donning the colors of Mardi Gras? Sure, it may be because they’re playing talented squads with limited players, but even then that argument is somewhat flimsy. Players get hurt often in New Orleans it seems, but the Pelicans still persevere and perform well without their stars. Is there a psychological aspect to the purple jerseys that cause the team in the Crescent City to underperform, or is it something else that plagues the franchise to lose when they wear their purple jersey ?
These are questions we may not know the answer to, but one answer remains clear: the New Orleans Pelicans, to increase their odds of performing well and winning basketball games, should do their best to avoid using their “City” uniforms for the 2022-23 season to have any possible chance at the postseason.