Every NBA Team's Sweetest-Looking Retro Jersey
Style is a funny thing. It morphs with time, history and culture, like a democratic and physically manifested feedback loop.
Some people prefer simplicity, like a T-shirt with jeans. Others opt for tasteful understatement, like an earth-tone Merino wool sweater with tan slacks. And then there are the tuxedos from Dumb and Dumber.
Who's to say what's right and what's wrong? Just make it interesting! I am one of the few people I know that is not a fan of the Brooklyn Nets' new uniforms and logo. Bore me later.
The only consistent fashion change in the NBA is that the shorts got longer in the 1990s. In fact, they got so long that they made a rule about how long they were allowed to be. Then they got slightly shorter.
But with so many amazing jersey changes out there, I have plumbed the depths of NBA fashion history to come up with every team's "sweetest-looking" retro jersey. They may not necessarily be "tasteful" and they may not be cool, but each of them is decidedly sweet.
Some uniforms just exude the zeitgeist of the late '80s and early '90s. These Atlanta Hawks jerseys fall into that category.
Dominique Wilkins was called the "Human Highlight Reel" and was Michael Jordan's main rival in slam dunk contests. Sadly, 'Nique's athleticism didn't translate into playoff success, which is something Atlanta is still searching for.
The Boston Celtics take the New York Yankees approach to their jerseys (just don't tell them that). They keep them the same for at least 60 years. Aside from some minor tweaks in font and a debate over where to place the shamrock, they have not changed.
The sweetest and most retro thing about the C's for a long time was Larry Bird's mellifluous mustache. The Celtics have tried to introduce some black and green alternates recently, but you can't mess with the classic green-and-whites.
The Brooklyn Nets had so checked out of New Jersey last season that they even sported their throwbacks that said "New York" for several games.
Instead of the "stylish" black-and-whites that they now sport—which look like the uniform maker gave them a discount for selecting no colors and the generic font—the Nets used to have some pigment in their uniforms, even when they played in the ABA.
That was also the franchise's championship era. Sure it was pre-merger, but they've won a title more recently than the Knicks.
Okay, so the Charlotte Bobcats have been around for less than a decade. But 2006 is still pretty retro, right? Remember "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado and Timbaland?
Perhaps this slide merely justifies the use of a hairy Adam Morrison photo, but check out that sweet two-tone side paneling!
Plus, the Bobcats are riding high, having equaled their win total from all of last season through just 13 games this year.
The Chicago Bulls are another team that has made very few alterations to their uniforms over the years, aside from at one point deciding to write "Chicago" in cursive.
But in the 1995-96 season, they sported these ballin' black road alternates with red pinstripes. All they needed were red fedoras and they would have been in full Suge Knight mode.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the distinction of donning some of the ugliest jerseys in NBA history. The black and sky blue uniforms the franchise inexplicably chose to sport during the late '90s were a fashion crime of the highest order.
Thankfully, they have since reverted to a wine and gold color scheme which looks pretty nice, but the early '90s were the height of their jersey style, just as was the case for so many teams.
You see, the "V" is like a basket and the ball is going into it. It's perfect. Brad Daugherty thought so. Just ask him when he's not busy announcing NASCAR (yes, really).
I may be slightly biased because I had that exact jersey when I was a kid despite being a Knicks fan. But the Dallas Mavericks jerseys in the mid-'90s were pretty sweet.
I mean, their logo was an "M" wearing a friggin' cowboy hat! It doesn't get much better than that. Now it's a stylized horse. Lame.
Imagine living a pastoral lifestyle, sitting on the clay earth of your ranch and gazing upon an arresting sunset over a panorama of the majestic Rocky Mountains.
Now look at the jersey that Dikembe Mutombo is wearing. Okay, so it's not an ideal manifestation of a sunset over the Rockies, but those jerseys are pretty darn boss-looking.
In the late '80s and early '90s, the Detroit Pistons had an entire roster of tough players that were hated by virtually every other team in the NBA. Isiah Thomas was known as the "Baby-faced Assassin" and Bill Laimbeer was the toughest white guy not name Kevin McHale. Oh, and they had Dennis Rodman.
Joe Dumars was also one of the "Bad Boys," and he played great defense, but he was actually a nice guy.
Then, in the mid-'90s, the Pistons changed their jerseys to an abomination of weird teal with a horse's head that had a flaming mane. The franchise struggled.
Since then, they've returned to the classic look with some slight change to the font and outlines, and it helped bring them a championship in 2004 behind two big guys named Wallace.
Golden State Warriors
Yes, folks, Chris Mullin once had hair. That was before he began using the U.S. Marine Corps as his barber.
The Golden State Warriors also have their very sweet "The City" throwbacks with the Golden Gate bridge on the logo, but it's hard to beat these duds. After all, if you're unclear which state is the Golden State, or where exactly Oakland is on a map of California, this jersey will tell you.
I know, I know, many fans will chastise me for not selecting the classic Houston Rockets look of red and gold. But doesn't that just look like the new Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys?
I mean, here's Hakeem Olajuwon sporting the classic look. Pinstripes and a cartoon rocket? Suh-weet! And the pinstripes aren't even really pinstripes, it's really more of a cartoon mockup of the vapor trail from a rocket. Very authentic.
This cashes in on the national obsession with the 1995 movie Apollo 13. "Houston, we have some sweet jerseys for you." This is the best possible look short of full-on space suits.
As a Knicks fan, I had a burning hatred for the '90s Indiana Pacers. But dammit, did I respect those jerseys.
As you may be realizing, I think that pretty much anything with pinstripes looks cool. Tall guys plus vertical stripes equals stylish.
Plus, when you have a lot of yellow on your jerseys, it makes sense to have a blond center from Eindhoven. And no, I will not mention Reggie Miller in this slide.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have only recently resurrected themselves from the NBA's scrap heap. Their long history of irrelevance has ended, and they are now arguably the best team in L.A.
They've always been fond of writing "Clippers" in script across their uniforms, but they briefly shifted to writing out the entire city in blue font across their chests. This was both jumbled and hard to read, but it sure looked good. Unfortunately, almost half the league used red and blue as their colors, so it was hardly distinctive.
Los Angeles Lakers
I'm of the opinion that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it. That's why I did so little maintenance on my 1990 Ford Probe.
Clearly, the Los Angeles Lakers agree, because they have made very few changes over the years to their very sweet jerseys. But allow me to nitpick.
They shouldn't change anything. Go back to Showtime. Mike D'Antoni needs to shave his mustache, slick back his hair and maybe even borrow some of Pat Riley's suits. Go back to the old font on the uniforms.
And please, for the love of God, return to the scoop neck! The V-neck is way too modern.
The Vancouver Grizzlies were fierce! You did not want to mess with Bryant "Big Country" Reeves.
I know the team did not win very many games, but look at that piping around the neck and arms. Whoever designed that deserves a freakin' medal!
Now the Grizz have moved on down to Memphis, where they missed their chance to rename the franchise the Elvis Impersonators. Of course, there are no grizzly bears in Tennessee, but you are likely to see some grizzled people at a nearby NASCAR event.
The Miami Heat haven't tweaked their uniforms too much over the years, aside from the new monotones, like the creepy Darth Vader all-black jerseys, but the '90s kit was pretty sweet.
Notice the very retro white and red outlining around the name and number. Pretty boss.
There are few things more majestic in nature than a proud buck standing atop a high rock, surveying the lush earth. I've never seen one, but you can imagine, right?
That's why it was so kind of the Milwaukee Bucks to put one right on their alternate jerseys back in 1996. You can see Glenn Robinson invoking the spirit of the mighty buck as he throws it down in the picture above.
Now, you may not think that purple and green go together, but you are wrong. Purple is blue and red, while green is blue and yellow. It's perfect. It worked for the Joker in Batman and for Ariel in The Little Mermaid. And it's been working for the Milwaukee Bucks for a long time.
The Minnesota Timberwolves fell victim to the mid-'90s trend of using bright, simple primary and secondary colors. Sure, these looked like the Dallas Mavericks jerseys, but so what? They didn't even bother with the "T" on these jerseys. They were just the Wolves.
It didn't seem to hamper Isaiah Rider, a one-man wolf pack, from winning the 1994 dunk contest with his breathtaking between-the-legs slam. The team also had a reserved logo of a panting wolf instead of today's garish, snarling beast.
That's the problem with today's styles; it's graphic design school gone mad!
New Orleans Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets are no more, having been shipped off to New Orleans and replaced by some team named the Bobcats.
But I defy the good people down in New Orleans to make a finer jersey than the one above. You Mardi Gras colors be damned! You can't beat teal with purple pinstripes. Larry Johnson knew it. And I defy you to argue with Grand Mama.
New York Knicks
Oddly enough, the New York Knicks' brand new jerseys look remarkably like the old ones. Gone are the dark blues, burnt oranges and black panels. Back are the bright orange and rich blue.
The key difference is the arc of the lettering for "New York." C'mon, designers, you can't write that practically straight across. That's nonsense. This look worked for Walt Frazier, it worked for Patrick Ewing, and it can work for Carmelo Anthony too.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder are an excellent basketball team, but their jerseys are like their city—just OK.
The Seattle SuperSonics, on the other hand, had gloriously garish green and yellow jerseys. Wind the clock back to before the days of Ray Allen, and you'll see that Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf and Gary Payton had some truly tasty jerseys.
The Sonics packed up shop and shipped off for Oklahoma of all places when Seattleites refused to pay for a new arena. Having visited the city this summer, I can confirm that they've reconsidered and are now engaged in a widespread campaign to lure an NBA franchise back to the city.
Isn't Sacramento pretty close to Seattle already?
Pinstripes? Check. A silver star used as both a letter and to dot another letter? Check. Man of Steel tattoo? Check.
Okay, so the last one wasn't technically part of the uniform, but these duds were styling and apropos for a team that played the sound of a genie granting wishes when a free throw is made.
Granted, when Shaquille O'Neal was Hack-a-Shaq, he didn't make that many free throws, but these were the glory days for the Orlando Magic and their jerseys.
While I know this decision will be controversial, you have to dig on these two-tone throwbacks that the Philadelphia 76ers sported back in 2004.
Allen Iverson was still delighting fans and, in this case, reminding them what the height of NBA fashion was back in 1965. The city apparently did not have its name lengthened past "PHILA" until the '70s.
You have to love the era of jerseys when the graphics were identical to the capabilities of video game designers. Here, the Phoenix Suns are depicting the way the sun would rise if shown on a Commodore 64 computer.
Portland Trail Blazers
They certainly weren't blazing any trails in the world of fashion, but these Portland Trail Blazers stayed classy. Black and red are excellent, and this was the season just before some misguided individual in the marketing department decided to ditch the lowercase letters for all caps.
The Sacramento Kings need to take a page out of the San Diego Chargers playbook. No, not by continuing to retain Norv Turner, but rather by sporting their powder blue throwbacks as often as possible.
Here, Reggie Theus is seen on a fast break with his fantastic hair flapping in the breeze.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs haven't changed all that much over the years. Their jerseys are still a tasteful blend of black and white, and their center is still Tim Duncan.
But the sweetest thing they ever did was deciding not to incorporate their so-called "Fiesta" colors into the jerseys. The '90s color scheme did find its way into the logo, warmups and even the paint in the lane of their home court! Ye gods, this is San Antonio, not Key West!
The Spurs did sport their ABA throwbacks last season, which honors their time as the Dallas Chaparrals, when Texas was controlled by France (actually, a chaparral is a shrubland...very intimidating).
I'm still waiting for the team to actually add spurs to the sneakers.
Jurassic Park was released in 1993. The Toronto Raptors were established in 1995. 'Nough said.
Based on the theory that the scariest and most powerful nickname would win games, Toronto went with a predatory dinosaur that resembles Chris Bosh. But it turns out that the Raptors had trouble beating anybody, even a Nugget, a Knickerbocker, a Pacer, a Piston or the musical genre of Jazz.
Hey, at least they had Vince Carter.
In the '80s and early '90s, the Utah Jazz were a rhapsody in purple and yellow. And they had a sweet musical note acting as the "J" in "Jazz."
I'm not sure how jazz fits in with Utah or why they didn't choose a new nickname when they moved from New Orleans, but they had John Stockton and Karl Malone, and that's definitely awesome. Unfortunately, a man named Michael Jordan also played in the league back then.
The Washington Wizards used to be called the Bullets, until someone pointed out that Washington D.C. had an extremely high violent crime rate. So, they changed the name of the basketball team instead of focusing on reducing Washington's extremely high violent crime rate.
While the name was not politically correct, "Bullets" did allow the sweet graphic design move of having the two "L's" look like two hands going up for a rebound. Plus, those red jerseys really popped.
The Wizards also changed their color scheme, and they're currently winless to start the season. Sorry, John Wall.