50 Sweetest-Looking Retro Jerseys in NBA History
In the NBA, there are numerous things a player can do to customize his look to make him more recognizable.
Allen Iverson had his arm sleeve, Rip Hamilton has his face mask and Kurt Rambis, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had sports goggles. However, most often the thing that makes a player most recognizable is the jersey he wears.
The player that is bigger than the jersey becomes the jersey. He is the reason the jersey is memorable, and he is the one that becomes associated with the jersey.
It's a good reason that teams change their jersey styles so often, because players so often become associated with certain jersey styles, and when they leave, teams feel the need to change to start a new era.
I've taken a look and found the most iconic and coolest-looking jerseys worn over the years and found the players most often associated with them.
50. Bernard King's Terrible Knicks Jersey
A jersey doesn't always have to look good to look good, if that makes any sense at all. Sometimes the best thing about a jersey can be the groundbreaking new look it displays, as is the case with this Knicks jersey from 1980.
It featured a complete deviation from the norm for the Knicks, darkening the blue and throwing the "New York" underneath the numbers.
It might not look great, but it's unique.
49. Shawn Bradley...Yep, Shawn Bradley
Price: $100 for a cheap-looking knockoff on eBay
There probably isn't a worse jersey in the history of the NBA than these beauties from the 76ers back in 1992. Even worse, if you can find one of these babies with Shawn Bradley's No. 76 plastered on the front, you have a piece of basketball history on your hands.
The only thing worse than the 76ers' jerseys that year were their warm-ups.
48. Rick Barry Looks Like He's in High School
Price: Can't find these puppies
I'd like to include a few non-NBA jerseys along with the collection of NBA throwbacks in this list, and one of the ABA uniforms that stick out in my mind is from the Oakland Oaks, Rick Barry's team.
They look like high school jerseys, but they remind you the important thing about basketball is not the laundry, but the guy wearing it and what he's doing for the team. In the one and only year he was with the Oaks, Barry led them to the ABA championship.
47. Dikembe Flies Away
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Price: Not even on eBay
These Hawks jerseys are the perfect example of what NBA jersey designers were doing in the '90s. They threw together some colors that were completely different from the team's past colors and put a giant graphic on the front. In this case it's a soaring Hawk.
Some people hate the huge graphics on the front of jerseys, but I find them to be a very distinctive feature of an era, and what better way to pay homage to the '90s Hawks than a Dikembe Mutombo jersey?
46. Pre-Flat Top Chris Mullin
The Warriors have had a vast number of interesting uniforms over the past 40 years, and one of their most noticeable is the jersey that really lasted from 1971 until 1989, with slight alterations in the color scheme.
However, this jersey of Chris Mullin's before he went with a flat top is the tops, with the darker blue and the outline of California adorning the right side of the logo.
45. Bob Pettit's Throwback from Way Back
Price: $400 on eBay
There are no frills about it, and it's pretty bland by today's standards, but I can't help but look at this old-school jersey and be happy.
It isn't ugly like so many of the early NBA jerseys, and it wasn't trying to be too flashy like those that came after it. It just looks good.
44. MJ's Dream Team Uni
Price: Either cheap knockoffs for 50 bucks or autographed jerseys for a few grand
I'm a sucker for the rarely worn uniforms like those of the Olympic teams, but the 1992 Dream Team uniforms have to be my favorite.
They might not look the best, but when you think about the history behind the uniforms, it's just impossible not to enjoy these things. And of course, if you had to pick one guy to have a Dream Team jersey of, it would have to be Michael Jordan.
43. Karl Malone's Mountain Landscape
Price: A few around eBay for $60 or so
These late '90s Jazz jerseys were the first attempt by Utah to try to make an allusion to how ridiculous their name is.
The mountain landscape with the word "Jazz" plastered across the front is quite humorous, but nobody every really says anything about it.
Still, these jerseys instantly remind me of 1997 and 1998.
42. The Double Zeroes
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images
There hasn't been very much variation in Celtics uniforms over the years, so the best thing about them are the guys that wore them.
One player that doesn't get enough credit for how good he was over the years with the Celtics has to be Robert Parish, who rocked the double zeroes for the entirety of his career.
There's just something about the 00 looking back at you from the jersey that makes it unique and just cool-looking.
41. Reggie Theus' '80s Special
Price: Can't find the baby blues
Look at this picture. There is nothing about this that doesn't shout at the top of its lungs, "Hey, it's the '80s!"
Reggie Theus rocking the thick mustache, the pseudo-mullet and the baby blue uniform with the script "Kings" across the front just make this a beautiful piece of basketball artwork.
40. Gary Payton Before the Change
J.D. Cuban/Getty Images
The Seattle SuperSonics jerseys prior to 1995 were probably some of the most iconic and long-lasting in the NBA, and then they changed to an ugly brownish-red and dull green and ruined them.
However, before they did that, Gary Payton had a chance to rock the green away unis with the white arch across the chest and yellow piping and numbering. It's a classic look with a classic player.
39. Mike Bibby's Train Wreck Gone Right
Price: $85-100 on eBay
Sometimes when there are so many things that look bad on a jersey, it just ends up looking good. With this jersey, some people out there will agree with me, and some will think I've gone off the deep end.
Still, this jersey is without a doubt a classic. The baby blue base with the "Grizzlies" looking like it's chiseled from stone and the strange symbols bordering the entire thing—bonus points if you get the shorts with the fearsome grizzly bear growling angrily.
38. Kevin Garnett Looking Fierce in Black
Price: Varies around the Internet
Kevin Garnett was and still is the best thing to have ever happened to the Timberwolves, and the best he ever looked on the team has to be the black jersey with the green trim and jagged lettering.
It gave him a frightening edge and just looked good altogether.
37. Vince Carter's Jurassic Park Tribute
Price: Cheap versions on eBay
This was the last of the ridiculous '90s uniforms to survive, and now that they're gone, I kind of miss them.
Sure, they had the ridiculous look that so many of the '90s uniforms had, but they were unique, and they weren't off-putting.
The original Raptors purple with Vince Carter's "15" pushed off to the side to make room for the basketball-playing Raptor just does it for me.
36. Charles Barkley's Purple Suns Jersey
Price: Various degrees of eBay price and quality
Another one of the most iconic jerseys of the '90s was Charles Barkley's uniform from when he was on the Suns in the middle of the decade.
It featured the sun streaking across the bottom half of the jersey that doesn't look too gaudy and is iconic enough to resonate years later.
35. George Gervin's Intimidating Dress Blacks
George Gervin is the most iconic member of the Spurs not named David Robinson or Tim Duncan, and his jersey from the origins of the Spurs just looks clean and sharp.
It shows off the no-frills jersey style from the early years of the franchise coming out of the ABA; it didn't try too hard to look cool like many of the jersey styles of the '70s, but it still looked cool.
34. Dominique Wilkins' Away Hawks Jersey
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Whenever I see the Hawks colors from the '80s (or the current Rockets jerseys, for that matter), I'm reminded of getting a burger at the local McDonald's.
However, whenever I see this particular Dominique Wilkins jersey, all I can think of is the Human Highlight Film soaring through the air.
33. John Stockton in Purple
Price: Home version for $250
The classic basketball style of John Stockton crossing paths with the classic Jazz uniform style just fits together well.
Putting the purple and gold on Stockton is pleasing to the eye, even with that strange stripe of green squeezed into the siding.
32. Dr. J's Twilight Years
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Julius Erving never won anything in the NBA wearing the stylish jerseys of the '70s, but when he put on this slick, subtle Sixers jersey and was joined by Moses Malone, he ended up with a ring.
This jersey wasn't as fancy as the earlier ones he wore with the 76ers or the Nets, but it evokes thoughts of success and more subtle patriotism with blue border around the white lettering on the red jersey.
31. Mark Price in Blue
Price: $80 around the Internet
For about a decade after the Ted Stepien era in Cleveland and before they went to the worst jerseys of all time, the Cavs had some legitimate '80s jerseys going on.
The Cavs took the Knicks' color scheme and made it work, darkening both the blue and the orange and turning the "V" in "Cavs" into a hoop with a ball going through.
30. Gus Williams' Championship Green
Price: Expensive autographed and game-worn jerseys here and there
The early Sonics jerseys are quite similar to the early '90s ones, but the colors aren't as shiny, and the wording is just a bit thinner.
It's got the same color scheme and the same arch across the chest, however, and it still looks just as cool. This style is exemplified by Gus Williams, the leader of the 1979 championship team.
29. Reggie Miller's Diagonally Striped Jersey
Price: Degrees of style, price and quality all over
One team that didn't opt for either gaudy graphics adorning the front of its jersey or just an ugly style altogether in the '90s was the Indiana Pacers.
They were ahead of the curve in the '90s, with a throwback-looking style with a diagonal swath of yellow along the right-hand side and the three-dimensional-looking lettering on top of the dark blue.
28. Clyde Drexler's Away Jersey
Price: $85-100 here and there
Another jersey style that didn't vomit graphics or ugly was that of the Blazers; they kept the basic jersey style with the diagonal red and white stripe on the bottom but introduced the block lettering.
It keeps the classic Blazers look while bringing it into the '90s with turning it into an abomination.
27. Yao Ming on a Rocket
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Price: Hard to find these
A few years after the Rockets drafted Yao Ming, they got away from the '90s, which was disappointing considering these were some of the best '90s uniforms when it came to throwing a huge graphic on the front.
The pinstripes were a bit much, but in the end it all worked out with the giant snarling rocket taking off from a basketball planet across the chest.
26. Bob McAdoo's Away Braves Jersey
Price: Moderate quality for $100 on eBay
In just four years with the Buffalo Braves, Bob McAdoo became the best player in the team's history, and he still is now that they are the Clippers.
His name across the back of those sharp baby blue Braves uniforms is a comforting sight for the hoards of Clippers fans that have dealt with decades of disappointment.
25. The 1996 Abominations
Price: Game-worn for nearly six grand back in '04
All-Star Game jerseys are rarely works of art, but the ones on display for the 1996 teams were just something special.
These things are so bad that they are legendary. From the All-Star Game in San Antonio, they featured a chili pepper spinning a basketball on top of a baby blue and orange uniform where the words "NBA All-Stars" and the player's number were just strewn about willy-nilly.
24. Dennis Rodman in Pinstripes
Price: Some autographed ones for a couple hundred bucks here and there
Two things are unique about these Bulls jerseys from the latter part of their dynastic years. First, they are a complete deviation from the norm, which the Bulls aren't keen to do usually, and second, they have pinstripes.
The player I most associate these slick jerseys with is Dennis Rodman because they are so unique, just like Rodman himself.
23. Bill Walton's Vertical Blazers Jersey
Bill Walton was the Blazers in the late '70s. He was the reason they ended up winning a title in 1977, and he was the league's most recognizable player with his shock of red hair and his mountain-man chinstrap.
He was as unique a player as the jerseys they wore, which were the classic Blazer red but included the team name vertically along the right-hand side and the number off-center to the left.
22. David Thompson's Gold Digger
Now I ain't sayin' they're gold diggers, but it's been a long time since the Nuggets actually made their uniforms or logos make any sense.
These early '80s Nuggets uniforms used on occasion were a spectacular allusion to the fact that their name is actually about digging for gold.
21. Pre-Kareem Jersey
Price: Good luck finding any
If you can find one of these babies out there, hold on to it, or mail it to me and I'll do it for you.
He was known as Lew Alcindor for just two years with the Bucks, and when they won a title in 1971, he went out and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
20. Larry Bird's Same Old, Same Old
There aren't any frills or fancy designs on this jersey, as is the same with just about every other Celtics jersey in the history of that franchise, but there are particular Celtics jerseys that look better than others.
The Larry Bird Special with the double-threes adorning the front just looks special compared to all the other Celtics jerseys throughout history.
19. Pistol Pete's Green Atlanta Jersey
Price: You can find the blue ones; the green ones, however...
This is the most unique Atlanta Hawks jersey in the history of that particular franchise.
For two seasons in the beginning of the '70s, just two years after their move from St. Louis to Atlanta, it seems they wanted to distance themselves from the past, so they changed their colors from red and black to green, blue and white.
The jerseys were perhaps the first of the '70s to go with a unique design, with an all-green base, a vertical white line across the right-hand side and a squiggling blue line going from the bottom right to the top left. And of course, there isn't a more iconic player to have worn those duds than Pistol Pete Maravich.
18. Wilt's Yellow Lakers Jersey
The Lakers only ever deviated from the white numbers during the Magic Johnson era (on through the late 90s), but for some reason it looks unique with the number 13.
There is something special about the Wilt Chamberlain jersey from when he was on the Lakers with the classic "Lakers" print across the top and the white-filled numbers.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same for his maxi-pad-looking headband.
17. Isiah Thomas in Blue
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images
The '80s were a time for simple, yet classy-looking uniforms across the league, and the Pistons jerseys from 1981 until they changed to the hideous teal jerseys during the Grant Hill era were near the top of the heap.
The red letters surrounded by white on top of the classic Pistons blue looks downright fancy.
16. Purple Magic Johnson Jersey
Perhaps the best Lakers jersey in purple and gold over the years, Magic Johnson's away jersey during his time with Los Angeles is iconic and just exemplifies the '80s.
It's got the gold shadow behind the white lettering that just screams "'80s," and the dark purple and gold lettering just looks slick.
15. Michael Jordan Looks the Same, Yet Different
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
One of the most unique jerseys out there has to be Michael Jordan's 45-special when he came back to the team for the last few months of the 1995 season. I've never understood why he couldn't wear No. 23, as the Bulls retired it in honor of him, so couldn't they just un-retire it for him?
This rare and interesting jersey is confusing but still very cool nonetheless.
14. Hakeem Not Looking Like a McDonald's Employee
Getty Images/Getty Images
Before the Rockets plastered a snarling rocket across their chests, and before they started looking like McDonald's employees, they had normal, good-looking jerseys.
The iconic number from the '80s to throw across the front was 34, Hakeem Olajuwon's, which just brought it all together.
13. Wes Unseld's Road Jersey
Some people I've talked to absolutely abhor these jerseys, but for some reason I love these things. I find them to be among the most underrated jerseys with the name of one of the most underrated players of all time across the back.
Wes Unseld's 41 across the half red-and-white-striped, half completely blue jersey just pops to me.
12. Michael Jordan in Cursive
Price: Huge variation in price
My favorite rendition of the Bulls uniforms when Michael Jordan was on the team has to be the 1980s version.
The cursive "Chicago" across the front has always done more for me than the block "Bulls." Plus, these ones always remind me of Jordan flying across the sky in the famous dunk contests against Dominique Wilkins, which just gives me chills every time.
11. The Blue George Mikan Jersey
Price: $200 on eBay, two grand for a signed one
I'll be blunt with these jerseys: They are hideous. Absolutely, positively atrocious.
Still, there are some things I admire more than how a jersey looks, and one of them has to be the history that a jersey evokes. This George Mikan jersey from Minneapolis is stuffed full of history.
10. Rick Barry "The City" Jersey
Price: Hard to find, but expensive
My favorite jersey has to be this one with "the" in all lower case and "CITY" in block letters atop a circle containing the player's number and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The obvious choice for the most important and iconic jersey in this particular style is Rick Barry in his second stint with the Warriors.
9. Wilt's Globetrotter Jersey
Before Michael Jordan, the most popular and recognizable player in the history of the NBA was without a doubt Wilt Chamberlain. One of the reasons for his iconic status was the fact that he played for the Globetrotters, along with the Lakers, two of the most popular teams in the history of basketball.
A Globetrotters jersey with the Chamberlain name and No. 13 across the back is just a special jersey.
8. Gold Austin Carr Jersey
Price: $270 (just scroll down the list)
Some people have called this a product of the '70s with too much flair, but to me it's the perfect example of the eye-pleasing experimental '70s.
Austin Carr's 34 adorning the wine-and-gold beauty with colorful boxes up and down the border of the jersey is probably the most memorable of the bunch.
7. Shaq's Black Magic Jersey
6. Moses Malone's Lindbergh Special
Price: $220 on eBay
Of all the jerseys from the ABA, I would say this one is my favorite.
It's Moses Malone's No. 13 while he was a part of the Spirits of St. Louis, a team that existed for just two seasons after the Carolina Cougars moved to St. Louis and before the ABA folded.
The most unique thing about this is the image of an airplane flying off from the "S" on Spirits and underlining the whole thing. It just looks cool.
5. Oscar Robertson Vertical in Blue
Price: The white ones are around; the blues are hard to find
Oscar Robertson was a mainstay of the Cincinnati Royals during the 1960s, and even though they never won anything, they still were an important team during the decade.
The Royals' royal blue jersey with the red stripes along the left side with the vertical "Royals" in the middle is an example of the classic look of the '60s and a preview of the experimental jersey styles of the '70s.
4. Dr. J's Salute to America
Price: Good quality hard to find; otherwise about $60
Julius Erving captivated the country in the '70s with his high-flying dunks as his Afro streaked along in the wind behind him, and his jersey paid a salute to the country that loved him so in the late '70s and '80s.
The home version of these, with the white base, red stripe along the left and the blue field with white stars under the left arm, is a glorious salute to the nation.
3. Alex English and the Rainbow Mountian
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
You either love these jerseys or hate them, but there's no denying that they are perhaps the most unique and iconic jerseys in the history of the league.
The away version of these jerseys, with the blue base and the rainbow mountain-scape across the chest, are the most memorable of the '80s. They seem to be a cross between the experimental jerseys of the '70s and the gaudy uniforms of the '90s to create a gorgeous '80s jersey.
2. Jerry West's Blue Jersey
Price: $80 for a decent one, about $300 for a signed jersey
For the short period of time in the early '60s before the Lakers changed to their now iconic yellow and gold, they displayed the blue and white that the team used in Minneapolis, which actually made their name make sense.
Still, once they moved to Los Angeles and Jerry West came to the team, this beauty of a jersey—blue with the cursive "Los Angeles" in white across the chest—was forever associated with him.
1. The "Pistol" Jersey
Think back to a time when the "Jazz" nickname actually made sense, a time when they were still in New Orleans.
Pistol Pete was the hottest ticket in town, and he was running a team that never had much success but was still entertaining because he was there.
The most interesting thing about him was the name across the back. "Pistol" it read, and that on the Jazz purple and yellow border turned this jersey into a piece of basketball history, a work of art—a masterpiece.
If you are one of those twitterers, you can follow me @JDorsey33.