Best Sports Stuff from the '90s
The dream of the '90s might be alive in Portland, but it's also preserved in our hearts.
It was a time when jackets broke the wind like hammers, our pants could double as lean-tos, and Rollerblades were a primary means of transportation.
Sure, there were hard times. We lost a lot of good Koosh balls and Tamagotchi pets out there, but we kept a smile on our faces and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme in our hearts.
Lets take a look back at this time, namely the sports treasures of the period. It's time to break out our trading card binders and remember the best sports stuff of the '90s.
I don't know when the first windbreaker was crafted.
I have no idea when the first storm-chafed sailor sat down and went to work with needles and fabric in the name of forever neutralizing the interminable oppression of Father Wind and his blustery nuisance.
What I do know is that the art of stitching sailboat sheets into a wearable garment was perfected in the '90s, and that the golden age of breaking through the wind is behind us all forever.
I know: It makes you a little misty-eyed.
Blade Runner Pros
What do you know about speed? Comfort? Passion?
What do you know about walking your childhood dog while wearing Blade Runner Pros? Even more importantly, what do you know about being dragged through three of your neighbors' yards because you're wearing Blade Runner Pros and your dog is chasing a squirrel?
The point is, if you didn't have the purple-and-gold Runners, you didn't know nothing.
The tennis ball cannon.
That's all you needed to see or know about American Gladiators. This transcendent piece of machinery brought a nation together in the name of watching monstrous men and women in spandex rocket green orbs at nerdy men and women in spandex.
Credit must also be given to the cushy, dual-sided battle batons. If we had never known of this device, many of our most painful childhood ideas would have never come to fruition.
The Aggro Crag
The Aggro Crag wasn't an obstacle course as much as it was a children's crusade up a synthetic hillside.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Crag, it was a majestic mountain of steel, smoke and whatever leftover refuse was lying around the Nickelodeon studio lots.
Blow up a laser tag arena and stack the rubble in a pyramid. That's an Aggro Crag.
While that may sound unappealing, kids from all around the world drooled over the prospect of being showered with paper mache rocks as they trudged up its sides, and many of us would have choked out a house pet just for a shot at that space mountain.
Fleer Metal Cards
Fleer Metal cards were the trading cards for bad boys.
They didn't need your uptight fonts, realistic background coloring or general sense of organization. They were metal.
On another note, one day—long after the human race has died out—aliens are going to find a box of Fleer Metals and make some interesting deductions about the rampant presence of solar flares and oily, faceless creatures that were involved in mid-1990s basketball games.
Vortex Mega Flight
"Do you have arms? Congrats, you're John Elway."
This was the basic advertising model for the Vortex Mega Flight—the ball that turned every backyard football play into "Da Bomb."
Speaking of "Da Bomb"...
First, pick the Broncos. Second, throw "Da Bomb."
That was the game plan in NFL Blitz—the game that taught a generation of kids that maiming your opponent after the play is a lot more fun than helping them up.
What Blitz lacked in "realism" and "players with faces," it made up for with pure, butt-stomping brutality. Shannon Sharpe scored a touchdown? Awesome—now let's tackle him to the ground and batter his spinal column into a paste.
The Dream Team
As a kid who grew up in Atlanta in the '90s, the 1996 Olympics was a special time for me.
I went to a soccer match, watched the U.S. destroy Australia in basketball and probably walked 10 miles around the Olympic Village, drooling as athletes walked past with their cool, lanyard name tags.
Above all else, I remember the '96 Olympics for the loot. My dad spent an ungodly amount on a Brazilian soccer jersey for me, but the coolest piece I grabbed was a wooden plaque studded with Dream Team trading cards. The piece had Shaq, David Robinson, Charles Barkley—everyone. I treasure it to this day.
Regardless of your age, basketball fans should know one thing—the '92 and '96 teams were two true Dream Teams, and we may never see their like again.
It wasn't a gimmick as much as it was a compulsion.
Reebok Pumps fostered a wave of excitement in the '90s that was only matched by light-up sneakers.
Adults and children were bending over and squeezing their pumps, convinced they were doing something positive for themselves. Whether or not you actually believed you were filling your feet with Nitros jump gas didn't matter—you just knew it looked cool and could only help.
It's almost impossible to overstate NBA Jam's impact on immortalizing certain terms in the basketball lexicon.
"Turbo button," "on fire," "nothing but nylon"...the list goes on.
Also, if you grew up a basketball fan in the '90s, a never-ending Jam grudge match was an integral part of every childhood friendship. That came standard.
The only bad part of the game was not being able to play with Michael Jordan. Thanks a lot, right-of-publicity laws.
Simple, beautiful and everlasting—Space Jam is a fixture in basketball history and the highest-grossing hoops film of all time.
People are still working this 1996 masterpiece into current pop culture, and it was only last week when an NBA 2K14 mod was released that allowed gamers to play as Bugs Bunny and the gang.
"But is it sports?"
Yes, Zubaz pants were and forever will be sports. That's a terrible question.
They were pioneered in the '80s but perfected in the '90s.
Koosh balls were (and continue to be) a man-child's best friend. And unlike that old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish—if you give a man a Koosh, he'll Koosh for life.
...Or until he picks all the stringy things off and loses it under a couch.
The NBA Dunk Contest
"Back in my day, the NBA Dunk Contest shut down the city! We'd walk uphill through five feet of snow both ways just to trade tales of these chaps dunking! Rabble rabble rabble!"
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: The NBA Dunk Contest used to be a different animal, and the reason no one will shut up about it is because it really was that good.
No pomp and circumstance—just nasty, freakish feats of athleticism.
Now, we sit around watching faux court heralds make announcements and guys dunking over chairs.
"Aw wah, uh plaaaaaace to stay. Getcha booty on tha flo tonight..."
I'll never forget the first time my parents brought home Jock Jams. They slid that bad boy into a slot on our giant jewel-case library/TV stand/media super station, and in no time our bonus room was shaking to the synth-boogie stylings of Technotronic and Black Box.
The calories we burned together, old friend.
What were your favorite things from the '90s? And don't say pogs. Please don't.