A Comprehensive History Of NBA Uniforms

09.23.10 8 years ago 20 Comments

With the NBA Revolution 30 fully underway, we thought now was as good a time as any to take a look back at the history of NBA uniforms. As we told you yesterday, the new jerseys are the lightest and most technologically advanced NBA uniform ever, and our friends at the NBA and adidas put together a timeline for us to demonstrate how far we’ve come.

From the League’s inception through the 1970s, NBA uniforms were made of polyester, cotton, and satin. Despite the fact that games were often played in hot auditoriums, satin shorts and heavy polyester jerseys were the league standard uniforms. Breathable materials had not yet been developed. The main concern for most teams was the durability of the uniforms throughout multiple seasons. Unlike in today’s game, in which teams have multiple sets of uniforms that they wear each season, the teams in the early days of the NBA only had a couple of uniforms to last them through the entire season – or longer. Local vendors manufactured each NBA team’s uniforms. NBA shorts had belts and were modeled after the style of baseball and football pants. In the 1960s, teams began adding players’ names to jerseys and using a common vendor to produce uniforms, guaranteeing a more consistent look.

The early 1980s saw a major leap in the technology of NBA jerseys. MacGregor Sand-Knit became the exclusive outfitter during this period, introducing a new cotton/polyester blend, which allowed for better moisture management and the phasing out of non-breathable satin shorts. Manufacturers introduced an open-holed uniform material to allow for breathability. Players during this period were offered only standard sizes.

During the late 1980s/early 1990s, jerseys became one of the most popular items among fans, which helped the NBA and its teams become iconic global brands in popular culture. During the mid/late 1980s, the League’s uniform partners began offering custom uniform options to fit their needs on the court. Uniforms became looser and shorts longer to meet player preference. Beginning in 1989, when Champion became the league’s exclusive outfitter, NBA teams began moving beyond basic uniform designs and introduced more elaborate graphics and printing. The Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets introduced pinstripes to their uniforms and the Philadelphia 76ers added swirling stars. In 1986, the League introduced the iconic NBA logo to uniforms. Champion became the exclusive outfitter in 1989.

Major innovations to NBA uniforms occurred during the 1990s. Nike and Starter joined Champion as manufacturers of NBA jerseys in 1997. The companies developed new fabric technology that improved moisture management and reduced the overall weight of the jersey by removing layers of tackle twill lettering and logos. Other innovations included wide-shoulder jerseys and the evolution of softer- feeling fabrics to improve player comfort. Eventually, Reebok took over as the official outfitter and expanded fabric options and design applications, offering teams multiple fabrications for their uniforms.

Over the last decade, NBA uniform partners have introduced more moisture-wicking technology, along with fabrics that improve breathability and overall player comfort. In 2006, adidas took over as official outfitter as the trend of multiple uniform versions among teams reached its height. The proliferation of undergarments and padded and compression base layer products also became popular during this time. The NBA and its teams began to explore themed jerseys outside of the home, road, and alternates, including St. Patrick’s Day, Racecar, Mardi Gras, Hardwood Classics and Latin Nights.

In 2010, adidas introduced NBA Revolution 30 – the lightest and most technogically advanced NBA uniform made – for all 30 NBA teams. Since NBA teams had uniforms made of different fabrics with varying degrees of moisture management capabilities, adidas developed a uniform that would create consistency throughout the league and ensure optimal performance on the court. The jerseys are lighter than previous NBA jerseys, absorb moisture quicker, dry faster, and have more breathability, setting a standard for all future NBA uniforms.

What do you think? What was your favorite era?

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