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Minnesota Timberwolves to honor Prince with special uniforms inspired by ‘Purple Rain’

Prince as seen on TV while attending a college basketball game the day before his show at Oracle Arena

Photos have leaked of the Timberwolves’ new purple and black Prince-inspired uniforms. The uniform includes a black jersey and shorts with purple lettering reminiscent of the font on the Purple Rain album cover.

The uniform is part of the City Edition series, which the NBA launched last year in partnership with Nike. The City Edition uniforms, worn only occasionally on court, aim to capture the spirit of each team’s hometown and its fans. For comparison, last year’s Timberwolves City Edition uniform was a modest gray design with white accents meant to evoke the “tonal gray winter coat of the wolf”; further south, the Miami Heat have rocked a look inspired by the iconic Miami Vice graphics.

The leaked images come from r/timberwolves on Reddit via user u/Crucialest and from Twitter user @TwolvesFRA. The Timberwolves have not confirmed the legitimacy of these images, and are expected to officially unveil their uniforms in November along with the rest of the City Edition uniforms. While the uniforms are clearly an homage to the Purple Rain graphics, the Wolves are presumably hoping they don’t infringe any copyrights.

The uniform’s color scheme clearly nods to the Minneapolis icon, and nods to the album artwork for Purple Rain. The jersey’s purple text mimics the classic Purple Rain font against a simple black backdrop. It’s apt, given that the Timberwolves’ home court at Target Center is kitty-corner from First Avenue.

At just 5’2″, Prince was known to be an avid basketball player and fan. “I really believe [basketball] was his first love,” said Prince’s high school basketball coach, Al Nuness. “He was very small. But he was quick. He could handle the ball and he could penetrate and he could dish.”

Prince played point guard for Minneapolis’ Bryant Junior High in the early ’70s. In 2015, a photo of young Afro-ed Prince in his basketball uniform went viral. The photo originally appeared in Bryant Junior High’s yearbook, and in 1984 was published in the Star Tribune as part of a multi-day Prince series leading up to the release of the film Purple Rain.

After playing basketball in junior high and high school, Prince continued to keep up with the sport. He would shoot hoops on his personal court at Paisley Park in between recording songs. In 2004, late comedian Charlie Murphy recalled a 1985 basketball battle with Prince. In 2015, Prince invited the Lynx to Paisley Park to celebrate after they won the WNBA championship.

The Timberwolves uniform isn’t the first Prince-related Minnesota sports jersey. In 2004, the Minnesota Wild gifted Prince his own jersey adorned with his signature love symbol. Following his death in 2016, the Xcel Energy Center unveiled a permanent Prince memorial, which includes a replica of the jersey.