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Where has all the purple gone?

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A once legendary staple synonymous with Lakers road games is swiftly starting to fade away.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The year is 2004. Within a raucous arena whose stands are filled with fans clad in white, black and silver garb, stands a singular man on the hardwood. In a moment, he’ll mute them all.

The 6’1” guard — whose purple jersey is nearly engulfed by a glob of big men who will later each go on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame — is about to make history of his own as he darts past the then full mane of Manu Ginobili and catches the inbound pass.

His name is Derek Fisher. And the time on the clock reads 0.4 seconds.

Fisher’s game-winning swish would go on to be immortalized in annual playoff commercials, replays and various postseason countdowns everywhere.

But it’s the lasting image of the point guard and his teammates, with their fists and arms raised triumphantly in the air as they sprint past the Spurs and into the visitors’ locker-room like they just swiped a cooling pie off a windowsill that still resonates with Lakers’ fans 15 years-later.

A sea of purple. A color synonymous with the team’s away contests on KCAL 9, Magic Johnson’s baby sky hook and other iconic moments for the franchise. A hue that has sadly begun to swiftly fade away.

Any unforgettable road moments in the future may not much resemble Fisher’s legendary shot, because in the last two seasons, Los Angeles has worn their purple color scheme (now monikered as their “statement” line) just 32 times in 164 games. During the 2017-18 campaign, the team wore the jerseys previously reserved for road contests a mere 13 times.

An iconic uniform that was once a staple of Lakers games not taking place in Staples Center has become a rarity. What’s the reason for this injustice?

It began with the league’s eight-year partnership with Nike, which officially began during the aforementioned 2017-18 season and made the massively popular corporation the “exclusive on-court apparel provider” of the NBA.

NIKE

During the inaugural year with the swoosh, the league ditched the concept of “home” and “away” jerseys and instituted four new interchangeable “editions” (Icon, Association, Statement and City). They added the “Earned” line last year, and reinserted throwbacks for several team’s growing uniform rotation.

Home teams have the flexibility to choose any uniform of their liking. The away team has to then pick a jersey, preferably of a contrasting color, in return.

But the questions thus arise: Why are the Lakers foregoing the other half of their trademark “purple and gold” if they have any say? Why are they cursing eyes everywhere by wearing gold in a road game against Boston?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics
Yuck.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

For one, there are new flavors. Like a child — or say a 28-year-old man — gazing upon endless rows of Baskin Robbins tubs, there will always be the appeal of passing on the ever reliable “Jamocha Almond Fudge” for whatever seasonal monstrosity that happens to arise.

Enter the City edition.

With black font, lining and pinstripes contrasted by a yellow drop-shadow, the team’s attempted homage to their former President of Basketball of Operations Magic Johnson was a rough look.

Reminiscent of youth basketball uni’s scattered amongst smoldering hot YMCA gyms across L.A., the team’s City edition garnered mixed reviews — at best — from the fanbase. But the hodgepodge jersey was at least purple. So it had that going for it.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Still, it’s a real shame the team’s aforementioned City and Association editions (combined) were worn more than the Statement in LeBron James’ first season with the squad.

In fact, according to LockerVision, the Lakers wore their purple uni’s only seven times within their first 40 games last year, which was sadly an improvement in comparison to the 2017-18 season.

“Everybody’s dying to wear the purple ones,” former team equipment manager Carlos Maples, divulged during that purple-less year . “They’re probably our prettiest uniform.”

The initial policy on team jerseys reportedly prohibited clubs from wearing their Statement uniforms until after Thanksgiving in it’s inaugural roll-out. Which does help explain the rarity of its appearance in Lakers’ games that year. Fortunately, that rule seems to have already been lifted as of a season ago.

Change, and evolving with modern times and aesthetics is an important aspect of sports and everyday life. From updating antiquated logos, to stuffing those acid-washed jeans into the back of a closet, adapting is an important part of growing up.

The Lakers will likely never stop wearing their basic purple uni’s, or shed them from their legendary team colors for something new. But, seeing it less during these past two seasons has been a stout reminder of its importance to the history of the franchise.

One of the most special parts of Lakers history is looking back and seeing those iconic home yellows and road purples that nearly every Lakers great has worn without overly changing them. They’re a through-line connecting nearly all of the franchise greats. The Lakers weren’t one of those teams trying a gimmicky new color scheme every 10 years. When you look back through the archives of the team’s history in Los Angeles, you can always instantly recognize their iconic scheme, of which purple is a big part.

While it’s refreshing to see the team experimenting and even bringing back some of its more dazzling throwbacks, hopefully that doesn’t continue to be at the expense of an old friend.

As of now, the Lakers have not officially released any new information regrading the team adding any alternate or throwbacks to their rotation. Which could, and likely will, change.

So for those fans who are nostalgic and wistful of the yesteryears filled with purple, there is still hope that it will one day be back soon. But if it isn’t, it is probably safe to assume many would just settle for those City editions to be burned and scrubbed from existence.

All stats per NBA.com unless otherwise noted. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.