The 2016 Summer Olympics are set to kick off in just a few weeks and, despite some of the country’s best basketball talent opting out of this year’s games, the United States will still be pretty well-represented in Rio.
Since 1976, Team USA’s basketball squad has medaled in every Olympics, winning gold seven times and finishing with bronze twice. More often than not, they’ve looked pretty good doing it too, as they’ve been outfitted with some excellent jerseys as they represent the States in the international arena.
Nike has already unveiled the uniforms that the 2016 USA roster will wear, so we’ve decided to put them against the other threads that the Americans have sported over the past 40 years and see where they all stack up.
Here are the last 10 uniforms the men have sported at the Summer Olympics, ranked from worst to best.
10. 1996, Atlanta
The ’90s was a fantastic era full of of jerseys that could be classified as “so bad they’re actually good.” The Raptors’ dinosaur look, Phoenix’s Sunkist uniforms, the Rockets’ pinstripes, the Jazz’s mountain range, whatever the hell you want to call what the Vancouver Grizzlies wore. The list goes on and on.
That being said, what Team USA wore to their hometown Olympics in Atlanta was just plain ugly. The “Shooting Stars” jerseys featured a goofy, bizarre font for both the name/number. The “USA” on the front was slanted upwards, which created for some weird visual spacing, and had the cosmic trail of a basketball underneath it. It was jarringly different from anything the United States had ever worn before.
So, yeah, I don’t know why the hell these happened either. The ’90s were weird.
9. 2016, Rio
It’s tough to fully judge a uniform before actually seeing it in action on the floor, but the look that Nike unveiled for this year’s Games leaves a lot to be desired. It’s clean, but the focus was clearly more on the technology of the uniform than the design. There isn’t much going on at all here, and it’s just boring.
Not only is the barebones design a bit of a bummer for those who like to see the red, white and blue together, but the cut of the men’s jerseys are a little odd. The deep v-neck and thin shoulders combined with the lack of piping/striping makes the jersey look more like a track & field top than a basketball jersey.
8. 2008, Beijing
The 2008 Games brought a look that tried to mesh classic aspects of USA jerseys with a more modern design. The collar and under-arm pattern were unique and sharp. The “USA” on the front was cool in that it incorporated a star into the “A,” but the spacing between the letters was kind of awkward and almost looked like Nike forgot to stick periods on either side of the “S.”
Also, the names on the back of the uniforms were almost impossible to read from any sort of distance considering they were the same color as the jersey.
7. 2000, Sydney
These jerseys had a lot of the things that you want to see in a good Team USA jersey. The red, white and blue provided nice contrast in both the font and the piping, and the small logo above the nameplate on the back was a pretty nice touch. I think they could have benefited from a thinner stripe down the sides, and the width of the shoulder cut made the jersey look baggier and awkward on a lot of players.
6. 1976, Montreal
Though there’s nothing flashy or particularly spectacular about these jerseys, they’re a product of the era they came from. They provide a pretty awesome classic look that incorporates the country’s colors in fine form, and the striping is pretty excellent throughout.
5. 1988, Seoul
For better or for worse, the 1988 and 1984 jerseys were pretty much exactly the same. Every time I look at them, I can’t help but think they resemble wrestling unitards more so than basketball jerseys, which is probably due to the deep v-neck collar and thin shoulder straps.
4. 1984, Los Angeles
3. 2012, London
This look seems like a much better execution of what Nike tried to do with the 2008 uniforms. They’re clean and sleek; the sharp edges on the “USA” and the numbers give them a modern feel without trying to do too much.
It feels like the name and numbers on the back could have benefitted from some secondary color, but at least they were bold and easy to read. Also, the thick stripe atop the back is nice.
2. 1992, Barcelona
The excellent logo that was featured on the front of the “Dream Team” jerseys in 1992 was what really made them great. It’s a good thing, too, because you can’t have the greatest basketball team ever assembled wearing piece of crap threads.
While the Dream Team’s roster had some huge names, so did the jerseys. Just look how big the the typeface on the back is! It seems that Team USA wanted their opponents to easily be able to identify exactly which American players were destroying them as they jogged back on defense after every possession.
1. 2004, Athens
It seems wrong to anoint the top spot on this list to a jersey associated with a disappointing bronze medal, but that’s just how good the 2oo4 uniforms were. The design took a lot of what was great about the 2000 jerseys (the bold, blocky lettering, the colors, and the patches) and eliminated the negatives — such as the thick plain stripe down the side and the super wide shoulders.
The result looked amazing, especially on the white jerseys and the red alternates.
The collar, which features a single star below the neck, is pretty awesome. The colors work really well off each other throughout the entire jersey, especially with the unique pattern down the sides of the jersey and shorts.
Though it may not be as traditional as some of the other great looks the country has used throughout the past 40 years, these ones pop the most. Reebok certainly made their one and only Olympic effort count.