Whether it sways fan opinion remains to be seen, but the story behind the Wizards’ newest uniforms is genuinely fascinating. The design was inspired not by Medieval Times or “The Legend of Zelda,” as some jokingly suggested, but by the oldest monuments purchased by the U.S. government — 40 stones, placed at one-mile intervals, that marked the original boundary of the District of Columbia after the Residence Act of 1790 authorized President George Washington to establish an up to 100-square-mile site for the nation’s new capital along the Potomac River.
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson appointed Major Andrew Ellicott to survey the land, and after mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker helped locate the point where the survey should start in February 1791, Ellicott and his brother roughly marked the District’s 40-mile, diamond-shaped perimeter over the next month. The first boundary stone was laid at Jones Point in Alexandria on April 15, 1791. The project, which involved a logging party clearing a 40-foot swath of land across the boundary line carved out of Maryland and Virginia, was completed Jan. 1, 1793.
Today, 36 stones, including four replicas, can be found in their original locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Some are buried deep in the woods, while others go virtually unnoticed alongside busy streets or get mistaken for gravestones in homeowners’ front yards.
“I live a block away from one of the stones and I’m a history nerd, so I brought it up and we ideated on it,” Hunter Lochmann, Monumental Sports and Entertainment’s chief marketing officer, said of how the idea for this season’s City Edition uniforms originated more than two years ago. (Lochmann and his team are already planning the Wizards’ City Edition uniforms for 2025-26.)
Before pitching the idea to Nike, Lochmann sought input from one of the world’s leading experts on the stones, Stephen Powers, who happens to be a die-hard Wizards fan and longtime season ticket holder.
Powers, a 59-year-old civil engineer and amateur historian, grew up in Northern Virginia and fell in love with the Washington Bullets during the 1970s. He developed an interest in the boundary stones much later, when his daughter was tasked with coming up with a trivia question about her native Arlington for a second-grade class project. Powers offered that Arlington was part of D.C. until Congress retroceded the land on the Virginia side of the Potomac to the commonwealth in 1846.
After taking his daughter to a couple of the boundary stones still standing in Arlington, Powers became determined to find them all. With some help from the Nation’s Capital Boundary Stone Committee, for which he now serves as chairman, Powers and a friend visited every remaining stone May 7, 2006. They documented every stop with a photo.
“We had so much fun, we did it again and again,” said Powers, who has completed the same journey on the first Sunday in May for 18 consecutive years. Lochmann tagged along for the start of this year’s trip.
Nike loved the boundary stone idea; after all, the historic markers literally defined the District and were now part of the fabric of D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Powers, whom Lochmann called a “wonderful resource” throughout the design process, offered feedback on several boundary stone-themed prototypes created by Nike’s designers.
The chosen design reflects the boundary stones’ colorful history. The diagonal red piping across the jersey and shorts creates a gray diamond that represents the original shape of the District. The copper and teal patina around the trim was inspired by the oxidized metal of the fences the Daughters of the American Revolution installed to protect the boundary stones in 1915. Beginning around 2011, Powers helped organize groups of volunteers to restore 22 of the fences over the next several years.
The six red stars along the side of the uniform are a nod to the legend of how Banneker determined the location for the placement of the southern corner stone in 1791, by plotting the movement of six stars across a spot in the sky at a specific time of night. Six teal compasses above the NBA tag on the jersey symbolize the survey instruments used.
The uniform features a modified version of the Wizards’ primary logo, with a boundary stone replacing the Washington Monument. “The District of Columbia” appears in blackletter, or Gothic script, on the front of the jerseys, representing the type of font found on maps around the time the boundary stones were installed. “DMV” is featured in the same typeface on the waistband of the shorts.
The boundary stones were made out of Aquia Creek sandstone from Stafford County, the same material used in the construction of the Capitol and White House. Lochmann said a light gray or beige color more similar to the color of the stones was considered, but the NBA nixed the idea out of concern for how the jerseys would look on traditional hardwood courts, especially on TV broadcasts.
Powers is pleased with the uniforms and suggested the leaked images didn’t do them justice, in part because the diamond shape that’s such a key part of the design is only apparent when the jersey and shorts are paired together.
“I’m hoping the tide is going to turn when people see it presented holistically and get the backstory on it, that there will be more pride and understanding,” Powers said. “And hopefully, for me, people are like, ‘Oh, I want to go see these stones.’ Maybe this will get us closer to one day the stones being National Historic Landmarks and getting money to take care of them.”
Lochmann acknowledged that the popularity of last year’s cherry blossom design will be hard to top, but the team is proud to bring awareness to a seldom-told part of D.C. history.
“At the end of the day, we can’t make everyone love it, but what’s neat about the City Edition jerseys is it’s a way to educate your city about what makes it special,” Lochmann said. “Very few people who grew up here have heard of [the stones]. … This one is a stretch, it’s out there, but we’re excited to educate our fan base.”
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” Powers said of being able to combine two of his passions. “It’s surreal to see it happen. I think the stones are going to get a little more national attention because of this, and that to me is the best part.”
The Wizards will wear their City Edition uniforms for the first time Nov. 10 against the Charlotte Hornets, which is Washington’s first home game of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament. The team will debut a boundary stone-themed court — different from the custom court the league created for in-season tournament games — on Dec. 15.
Wizards City Edition uniforms and other merchandise will be available at the Capital One Arena team store and online beginning Thursday.