Phil Knight is known as many things, but being a bore isn’t one of them. The founder of Nike who has launched hundreds of campaigns of cool over the past three decades is a well-known University of Oregon supporter, and his creative stamp on Duck uniforms has given legions of commentators great discussion material over the years. As we all know, Oregon’s brand new hoops home, the Matthew Knight Arena, is scheduled to open for business in early 2011 and the Nike CEO may have outdone himself this time with its design. Or more specifically, the design of the centerpiece of the building — the Ducks’ basketball floor.
Is It a Rorschach Test or a Basketball Floor?
This isn’t the best photo, but the floor, designed by Nike’s VP for Design and Special Projects Tinker Hatfield, depicts the evergreen forests that the Pacific Northwest is known for with the motto “Deep in the Woods.” There’s also a secondary meaning behind the floor, as UO’s 1939 national title team (in the first NCAA Tournament) was nicknamed the “Tall Firs.” Hatfield, who may have staked his reputation and career on this design, had this to say: “We wanted to design the most iconic television presence possible for the University of Oregon by conjuring up a highly unique and visible basketball floor design. It’s inspired by our beautiful tree-covered region and the UO 1939 NCAA Championship basketball team nick-named the ‘Tall Firs.’”
Score one for unique and visible. But unless Hatfield was going for the always-hip unvarnished Rorschach Test look, we’re not sure what he was thinking. Looking at this thing makes us want to climb down there with a bucket of paint and a few brushes — well, after we’ve spent an hour wondering why the iconic Oregon “O” sits upon what appears to be a Stonehenge structure that spells out Tatt (ed. note: obviously, it is supposed to read “Matt”). Other than wondering where that damn sailboat is hidden, we see a few problems with this floor. First of all, the actual floor doesn’t have nearly the contrast of the artist’s rendition (see below), but we’re honestly not sure if that would make it better or worse. Next, other than the emerald in the lettering and playing lines, this floor doesn’t really appear to capture the school’s primary colors of green and yellow. It looks more like wood color, which would be fine on its own if they weren’t actually going for something else.
Color us skeptical, but maybe this floor will look a lot better in high-definition television with 12,000 green/yellow-clad screaming fans around it come January, but for now, we’re more aghast at this design than anything else. This floor in its current form is definitely a candidate for our Ugly Floors post from a couple of years back. We will say this about Oregon, though — more than any other school in America, they’re willing to try new and imaginative things, even if those attempts are incredibly ugly and easily mocked.