The Top 25 Uniforms in Sports

Stephen ArnoldContributor IJanuary 8, 2011

The Top 25 Uniforms In Sports

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    From college to the pros, whether the sport is baseball, basketball, football or hockey, fans love to debate who has the best uniform in sports. And while most hold passionate opinions, few are rationale and none objective about the quality of their team's threads.

    Good luck finding an Ohio State fan that likes Michigan's maize and blue or a Boston fan who approves of pinstripes. The truth is, fans like colors they know and love, no matter how bad the combination may be to the rest of the world.

    There's only one rule of thumb: Don't combine red, orange and yellow in the same uniform. (Just look at those old Astros' get-ups.)

    That's basically it. Otherwise, the world of sports uniforms is a free-for-all where one fan's trash is another fan's treasure.

    Uniforms have changed a great deal over the decades. Ever since the NFL encouraged teams to mute their colors for the sake of marketability, the Philadelphia Eagles' green has never been the same. And aren't we all a little nostalgic for New England's "Pat the Patriot"?

    Truthfully, uniforms have improved in many ways. Remember the ridiculous amount of leg that basketball shorts used to reveal? I never wanted to see that much of Larry Bird. How about the itchy wool jerseys MLB players tolerated for decades? And I'm pretty sure NFL players like the latest additions to their uniforms: face masks.

    This list is about the present. After consideration, this slide identifies the 25 best uniforms in sports, spanning the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL, as well as college football and basketball. You may not agree. But then again, your favorite colors may be red, orange and yellow.

1. New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees have the most formidable, recognizable, loved and hated uniform in all of sports. From Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle to Joe DiMaggio to Yogi Berra and on down the years to Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, it seems that only baseball royalty don the pinstripes.

    There's something about the Yankees that transcends sports. The navy and white pinstripes create an unmistakable aura. Perhaps the movie, "Catch Me If You Can" best captures the lure of the Yankees in a scene featuring an exchange between fugitive Frank Abagnale, Jr. and FBI agent Carl Hanratty:

    Abagnale: "Do you know why the Yankees always win?"

    Hanratty: "Because they've got Mantle?"

    Abagnale: "No, because the other team's too busy staring at the pinstripes."

    It's true, whether you love or hate the Yankee uniforms, they intimidate opponents and reek of class, tradition and honor. Simply put, the New York Yankees have the greatest uniforms in sports.

    As a long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan, I feel like less of a man for praising the Yankees. I also threw up in my mouth a little.

2. Oakland Raiders

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    Sorry, Kansas City Chiefs fans—the truth is sometimes hard to accept. The silver and black of the Oakland Raiders is as unmistakable as their infamous owner, Al Davis.

    On Sundays in Oakland, the "Black Hole" contains some of the most loyal, disturbed and disturbing fans in all of football. Wearing enemy colors is not an option.

    The Raiders' uniform is sleek, cohesive and has remained largely unchanged over the years. It's been worn by a long list of football legends. Decked in the iconic silver and black, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Plunkett, Jack Tatum, Howie Long, Marcus Allen, Tim Brown and Bo Jackson led the Raiders to three Super Bowl victories in five appearances.

    Not everyone likes the Raiders or their owner. But everyone should appreciate the time-tested glory of the best uniforms in the NFL.

3. Boston Celtics

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    NBA fans are green with envy. The Boston Celtics own 17 NBA Championships, including an unmatched eight in a row from 1959-1966. The Celtics also wear one of the greatest uniforms in sports. The legendary green and white has been worn by Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird and Paul Pierce.

    When I was a kid, Larry Bird was my basketball idol. I owned a #33 Celtics jersey and rarely took it off during basketball season. There was something about those Celtics teams of the 1980s that personified team basketball.

    Larry, Magic, Michael and Isiah ruled the court during an NBA era that will never be duplicated. Today's stars would rather join together to win a title the easy way than develop their own talents and those of the players around them.

    There was something to be said for Michael Jordan's stubborn determination to win a championship for his team and city in Chicago. Six NBA titles later, Jordan is a legend. Kudos to Kobe Bryant for having the same competitive attitude, pride and loyalty to his team. Aside from Kobe, today's NBA stars are long on flash and short on substance.

    Here's a message for today's NBA stars: Like the proud green of the Boston Celtics' uniform, surviving the test of time is the true mark of a legend.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    As a Cleveland Browns fan, it pains me deeply to recognize the Pittsburgh Steelers as one of the greatest organizations in sports. Admitting the Steelers' black and gold uniforms are among the game's best only adds insult to injury.

    There is a perfect symmetry between the emblem worn on the Steelers' helmets and the hard-nosed, determined city it represents. Just mention the names of Terry Bradshaw, "Mean" Joe Green, Franco Harris or the famed "Steel Curtain" defense of the 1970s, and images of black and gold come rushing to mind.

    While the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls is impressive, the way the Steelers have won them is incredible, relying upon continuity of ownership and coaching while believing in a system bigger than any one player. They wrote the book for how to contend in a small market and they continue to do just that year after year.

    I may bleed orange and brown on Sundays, but my hat is off to the black and gold. Nobody does it better or looks better doing it than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

5. Boston Red Sox

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    It seems fitting that what is arguably the greatest rivalry in baseball features two of the best dressed teams in sports: the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. There is symbolic harmony in the old-fashioned red, white and blue uniforms that are worn in a city where patriots clashed with the British long before they ever won a Super Bowl.

    From Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk to David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox continue to play in one of the greatest sports venues in the world, Fenway Park. If you have never seen a ball game in Fenway Park, you've missed the most nostalgic atmosphere baseball has to offer.

    When I saw my first game in Fenway Park, I had a ticket in the front row behind the right field wall. My seat was tucked just into fair territory. After entering the park in time to catch batting practice, I stood for a moment taking in the sights. It was small, cozy and historic and felt like the birthplace of baseball. For a moment, I expected to see Ted Williams shagging flies in the outfield.

    The names of the players have changed over the years but the passion of the Boston fans has not. A simple uniform of red, white and blue has captured the hearts of baseball purists everywhere.

6. San Diego Chargers

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    The powder blues. Every NFL fan knows about the San Diego Chargers and their unique look. After all, there is no bad way to put a lightning bolt on a uniform. It just works.

    From 1960 to 1973 the powder blues were the look of the Chargers. Since then, they have been used as alternate jerseys. Some changes just don't equate to progress.

    Ever since the days Dan Fouts threw to Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner, the Chargers have enjoyed sunny California and a fair measure of football success. Still, San Diego fans are hungry for a Super Bowl title.

    Fear not, Charger fans. With Phillip Rivers and those sweet powder blue unis, I'm sure a title is coming your way soon. If only I could say the same about my Browns. Hey, at least a Browns player made a picture in my slide show, even if he's being blown by for an apparent touchdown. Some things never change.

7. Chicago Cubs

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    If it weren't for the Bulls, White Sox and Blackhawks, I'd say the city of Chicago deserved to see the Cubs finally win the World Series. At least the city isn't starved for championships. Need I remind you that the city of Cleveland hasn't celebrated one since 1964?

    The Chicago Cubs, the lovable losers of baseball, play in historic Wrigley Field surrounded by a passionate, loyal and patient fan base. The Cubs wear unique and irreplaceable uniforms. Although Chicago hasn't enjoyed the same level of success as that pinstripe-wearing team from New York, the Cubs have class, style and a rich tradition of baseball history.

    The late Harry Caray made famous one of the greatest traditions in baseball, singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field. Too sloshed to sing the words at times, Caray was a larger-than-life figure who will live on in baseball lore.

    Who among us could ever forget his errant ramblings into the world of martian dune buggies? On more than one occasion, he screamed about a "deep drive to left" that was eventually caught by the shortstop.

    Baseball misses Harry Caray. And sooner or later, the Cubbies will pull through and break their World Series drought, probably years before my Indians. We fans are going to have to be patient for a couple more years (or decades).

    Hey Chicago fans, at least your Cubs made the best dressed list. Somewhere, Chief Wahoo is reading this list. Let's just say he won't be offering me a peace pipe.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Somewhere, Paul "Bear" Bryant is smiling. (Nick Saban doesn't smile.) The Alabama Crimson Tide empire that Bryant helped build boasts 13 national championship titles and one of the most classic uniforms ever worn.

    There is nothing unique about their plain white pants with red stripes. Rather, the power of the Alabama's uniforms comes from the crimson jerseys and helmets, both sporting classic white numbers.

    They're old school yet strangely relevant in the modern college football world. Perhaps the timeless nature of the Crimson Tide uniforms is what sets them apart from other teams.

    Alabama is a special college football team and state. When you see those numbered helmets hanging in the locker room, only one phrase comes to mind: roll tide.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    The name Joe Paterno is synonymous with Penn State and college football. For over 40 years, JoePa has strolled the sidelines in Happy Valley leading the Nittany Lions.

    The blue and white jerseys and plain white helmets create the most traditional look in football. Penn State does football the right way. They play the game clean and tough, graduate players and teach young men life's lessons.

    They don't wear names on the back of their jerseys for the simple reason that it's a team game. One of my most vivid childhood sports memories was watching Penn State upset a supposedly dominant Miami Hurricane team led by star quarterback Vinny Testaverde. In classic Joe Paterno and Penn State fashion, the better defense and more cohesive team won that day.

    Although someday Joe will be gone, he will live on in the traditional blue and white. After all, legends never die.

10. Chicago Blackhawks

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    I can't tell you much about the Chicago Blackhawks you don't already know. Chicago is one of the six original NHL hockey teams and last year's Stanley Cup was their fourth championship.

    However, maybe you've never fully appreciated the traditional masterpiece that is a Blackhawk uniform. In a league where most uniforms are a blur of busy color and dizzying lines, Chicago wears a tasteful and timeless masterpiece.

    I'll admit that I am not an avid fan of hockey or its garb. Let's be frank—hockey uniforms are not exactly sports illustrated swimsuits. They're big, bulky, excessively long and sort of all over the place.

    In fact, if you think hockey uniforms are the best in sports, you're either Canadian or irrational. Or both.

11. The Ohio State Buckeyes

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes wear scarlet and gray. What most people don't know is that the school's original colors were orange and black. It boggles the imagination to conjure images of Rex Kern, Archie Griffin, Chris Spielman, Orlando Pace and now Terrelle Pryor wearing any other colors.

    The Buckeyes have seven national titles, seven Heisman Trophy winners and a legion of rabid fans known as Buckeye Nation. I am one of them.

    I missed trick-or-treat when I was four years old because Ohio State was playing. I was dressed to go and my friends were waiting at the door. But the game ran long so I refused and never lost a minute's sleep. Candy is overrated. Ohio State football is not.

    You can hate Ohio State all you want but their uniforms are fantastic, especially the helmets. Players earn buckeye leaves for their helmets based on achieving personal and team goals.

    While many of my Ohio State brethren undoubtedly prefer the scarlet jerseys, I like the away ones. The alternating gray and white combine with scarlet lettering to form a classy, traditional and clean look.

    Jim Tressel prefers the dull gray pants seen in this photo. Personally, I loved the shiny silver pants of the early 90s, symbolic of a defense known as "the silver bullets." Otherwise, not much has changed over the years except the size of the numbers.

    Watching "TBDBITL" enter Ohio Stadium and dot the "i" just before kickoff is my idea of heaven. Others prefer Iowa cornfields. Nevertheless, Ohio State's football uniforms and team are steeped in tradition.

    O-H ...

12. Dallas Cowboys

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    For as long as I've been alive, the Dallas Cowboys have been known as "America's Team" due to the stars on both their helmets and the field. The Cowboy star may be the most recognized symbol in the NFL.

    To play for the Dallas Cowboys is to be a member of football royalty. Over the years, legends such as Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith have all worn the star.

    Before I settled on the Cleveland Browns as my favorite team as a kid, I was first drawn to the NFC East. The Eagles were initially my favorite team because they had cool helmets and wore my favorite color, green. That's enough for any 4 year old. Next, I followed the Cowboys and No. 33 Tony Dorsett before eventually settling on the Cleveland Browns.

    Sometimes I wonder what it would've been like to cheer for the Cowboys all these years. Then again, I can't imagine celebrating Super Bowl titles.

    These are not healthy thoughts.

13. Texas Longhorns

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    Everything is bigger in Texas. From Bevo to Memorial Stadium, Texas football is rich in tradition, success and passion.

    Burnt orange is a unique color for a uniform. And the steered helmets are among football's best. Mack Brown's Longhorns hit you with speed and athleticism from all angles. But what makes Longhorn football so special is that such a high percentage of the players grow up in the state of Texas.

    With four national championships and two Heisman Trophies, the University of Texas is second-to-none in the Big 12 Conference and college football. Each year, they play the "Red River Rivalry" against Oklahoma in Dallas and the game is one of the biggest spectacles in college football.

    To Texans, there are few things more important than Texas Longhorn football, unless of course you're an Aggie from Texas A&M. Texas fans flash the "hook 'em horns" hand gesture every chance they get.

    The Texas Longhorns are a superior force to be reckoned with in college football. You can't miss the white helmets or the burnt orange jerseys with Texas emblazoned across the chest. The word is more than a player, school or stadium full of fans, it's also a state of mind.

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Notre Dame: the name says it all. The Fighting Irish own 11 national championships and seven Heisman Trophies. From Knute Rockne to the "four horseman" to Paul Hornung and Tim Brown, Notre Dame owns the richest history in college football.

    Notre Dame is a club. You are either in or out. The rest of college football roots against the Irish as feverishly as their own fans support them.

    But here's a secret the rest of us don't want Notre Dame supporters to know: "Rudy" hits home with us too. If you don't tear up when that talentless dweeb runs out onto the field and makes a tackle, you haven't got a soul. Like any good movie moment, there is a greatness about Notre Dame that cannot be denied.

    Play like a champion today.

15. Auburn Tigers

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    The Auburn Tigers are not simply "the other team in Alabama." From Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton to the 1957 National Championship team, Auburn continues to excel on the field.

    The war eagle is the Auburn mascot. On the gridiron, navy, orange and white combine tastefully to give Auburn one of the sharpest looks in sports. Auburn competes in the SEC, where they face the best competition college football has to offer. With seven SEC titles and a place in this year's national championship game, the Auburn Tigers have established themselves as a top program in college football.

    There is an ongoing NCAA investigation into Auburn's football program, surrounding allegations that boosters have given football players illegal benefits in recent years. To the relief of Auburn fans and football purists, those claims have not been substantiated.

    However, time will tell how Cam Newton will be remembered in college football. Will he be thought of for his incredible talent, Heisman Trophy and possible national title? Or will he be remembered as the player that forever changed Auburn's colors to orange, blue and green?

16. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Dodger blue is a historic part of baseball. It looks great on Dodgers of all shapes and sizes, except for those named Tommy Lasorda.

    The bright red numbers are one of the most unique and recognizable touches in sports. Much like the organization, Dodger uniforms are classy, traditional and represent the National League as much as Yankee pinstripes symbolize the American League.

    Part of the glory associated with the Dodgers' outfits comes from the success of those who have worn them. From Sandy Koufax to Don Drysdale, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, Los Angeles is well-known for pitching greatness.

    And who could forget the indelible image of Kirk Gibson, limping around the bases after hitting a game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series? The Dodgers' red, white and blue uniforms are not only a part of baseball culture, they're a part of America.

    And with all due respect to Fernando Valenzuela, that's nothing to roll your eyes about.

17. Washington Redskins

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    The Washington Redskins are one of the toughest tickets in sports. On Sundays, impassioned fans pack FedEx Field to cheer on their beloved Redskins. While old RFK Stadium was better, this is the era of luxury boxes and corporate-named stadiums. Lucky us.

    Despite a rich history, there hasn't been much for Redskins fans to cheer about during the controversial tenure of owner Daniel Snyder. All that aside, the Washington Redskins are the second most valuable NFL franchise and are steeped in tradition.

    There are few sights stranger in the NFL than the "Hog Ladies," a group of aging, heavyset men dressed up in feminine garb with hog noses.

    From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the Washington Redskins won three Super Bowl titles. Their dominant running attack, led by John Riggins, Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm, gave the offensive line a nickname that stuck: "the hogs."

    Despite having a controversial name, the Redskins' uniforms are bold and unique. The team colors are burgundy and gold. From the double stripe down the legs to the white lettering, the Redskins' look is as unforgettable as the "Hog Ladies" themselves. Well, almost.

18. Michigan Wolverines

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    The Michigan Wolverines have won more football games than any other team in college history. They play in Michigan Stadium, one of the grandest venues in football. The Wolverines wear maize and blue and infamous winged helmets.

    As an Ohio State alumnus and fan, I won't let my disdain for "that school up north" prevent me from acknowledging Michigan's greatness. The history, tradition and success of both programs make "the game" the greatest rivalry in sports.

    I've seen Michigan play Ohio State many times in Ohio Stadium and once at Michigan. There are no words to describe the passion and pageantry that make grown men cry from both sadness and joy.

    Two men, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, played integral roles in making the rivalry what it is today. Bo's acceptance of the Michigan job led to an infamous stretch of games between 1969 and 1978 known as the "Ten-Year War."

    Over the years, legends such as Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson have earned Michigan 11 national titles and three Heisman Trophies. Their fight song, "Hail to the Victors," is one of the best in college football.

    Currently, Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes are enjoying an historic 9-1 run against Michigan. Since the modern era of college football began in 1951, Ohio State leads Michigan 32-26-2 in the series. Michigan won or tied the first 15 games between the two schools from 1897 to 1918 and leads the overall series 44-57-6.

    Michigan football has stood the test of time. They win football games, graduate players and send prospects to the NFL. From the helmets to the stadium to the football stars of past or present, Michigan will always be known for greatness. And Michigan will always be known for maize and blue.

19. Green Bay Packers

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    If you mention the Green Bay Packers, the conversation must include Vince Lombardi, Lambeau Field and cheeseheads. On the field and in the stands, Packers and their fans wear green and yellow like nobody else.

    From the players riding bicycles at training camp to the "Lambeau Leap," traditions like the Packer colors are a unique part of the Green Bay experience.

    Before the birth of the Super Bowl, the Packers won 11 championships. Add on three Super Bowls in the modern era of football and the NFL begins in Green Bay.

    The legends of Lambeau Field include Nitschke, Starr, White, Favre and now Rodgers. Their fans are among the most loyal anywhere. But it's not just about passion or the decades-long wait for season tickets, Packer fans know the game of football like few others.

    And Packer fans know the green and yellow will always be theirs on frigid Sundays in Wisconsin. Long live their classic uniforms and long live the Green Bay Packers.

20. Detroit Red Wings

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    Detroit is Motor City, USA, and the Red Wings rule the state of Michigan with an iron skate. The Red Wings own one of the most beloved uniforms in sports. The jersey is unique and symbolic and there is no better logo in sports than the winged tire.

    With 11 Stanley Cup titles and a mean lineup of jerseys, the Detroit Red Wings are the standard bearer of the NHL. And with all due respect to Jeff Daniels, it is the Detroit Red Wings that are truly "pure Michigan."

21. Oregon Ducks

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    Supposedly, the Oregon Ducks have over 300 combinations of uniforms when you include helmets, jerseys and pants. It is a fact that 99 percent of them would make any worst-dressed list in sports. Any way you slice it, the Ducks are not traditional or boring.

    This year, the Ducks wore a stunning combination of gray and white for their "Civil War" game against Oregon State. Beginning with a gray-and-white-checked helmet and including war feathers on the shoulders, the Ducks finally donned a look as cohesive as their play.

    Oregon is set to face Auburn in the BCS National Championship in Arizona. Unlike the Tigers, Oregon has never won or even played in a national championship game.

    The Oregon Ducks specialize in speed and are known to stupefy opponents with their pace of play and uniforms. I don't know about a standing ovation, but the Ducks deserve at least a golf clap for eliminating neon yellow from even one of their 300 looks.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Sometimes, older isn't better. In 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't win a single game in their inaugural season. To make matters worse, they sported hideous uniforms that shouldn't even be remembered, let alone described.

    Fast forward a few decades and life has improved for the Buccaneers and their fans. In 1997, the team finally made the old uniforms walk the plank. Tampa Bay then unveiled a bold look of red and pewter with black, orange and white accents. I never realized pewter could be so refreshing.

    In 2002, then head coach Jon Gruden led a Tampa Bay team that specialized in hard-nosed defense to a Super Bowl victory over the Oakland Raiders. Since then, the franchise has struggled a bit to sustain their newfound success.

    Still, the future is bright for Tampa Bay, even if it's pewter.

23. UCLA Bruins

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    Winning 10 national titles as coach of the Bruins, John Wooden made UCLA basketball a household name. From Lew Alcindor to Bill Walton and on down the line, the "Wizard of Westwood" coached some of the game's greatest players. They were also some of the best dressed.

    Apparently, playing in sunny California for the most historic program in college basketball history isn't enough for Bruins players. They have to look better than their opponents, as well. What can you say? Image is everything in California. And when it comes to uniforms, the Bruins are basically the Beatles.

24. Atlanta Falcons

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    Unlike a lot of teams in this list, the Atlanta Falcons don't have a storied past or illustrious history. What they do have is the current best record in football and some quality threads.

    The red helmet with the black falcon presents a great contrast to the black jerseys and white pants. Put it all together and you have a classic look fit for a king—or a falcon.

    Regardless of whether this team leads them to their second Super Bowl appearance and first title, life could be worse. The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars have never even played in a Super Bowl.

    Technically, the uniforms pictured above are throw backs. The Atlanta Falcons re-introduced them in recent years as an alternate look. They should never have changed. And if "Matty Ice" can get the Falcons to the Super Bowl, I hope they put their best look forward.

25. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    The cradle of basketball is found on a 12-mile stretch of road between Duke University and the University of North Carolina. Tobacco Road is known as the holy grail (or trail) of college basketball.

    North Carolina is a place where legends are made. Dean Smith is one, Michael Jordan, another. From the graceful play of James Worthy all the way to the gritty toughness of Tyler Hansborough, Tar Heel players have worn light blue and white through the decades. No self-respecting North Carolina fan calls it light blue, however, and using the term "Carolina Blue" is the only way into Tar Heel circles.

    Although Duke is the defending NCAA champion, North Carolina has won six national championships. The Tar Heels have unparalleled passion, history and some of the best uniforms to ever grace the hard wood.