An Appreciation For The NBA Uniforms Everyone Thinks Are Horrible

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For being such a fashion-forward league, full of stylish icons and Amish men in capri pants, the NBA sure does churn out some ugly jerseys. In fairness, all sports leagues have their share of trashbag uniforms (looking right at you, Diamondbacks), but NBA jerseys are routinely, almost-annually the subject of rankings and slideshow roasts, because just when we think that every team is looking good, the Christmas uniforms and sleeved pajama tops remind us that it’s, at best, a work in progress.

(People seriously still hate the sleeved jerseys so much, especially LeBron James.)

When it comes to the ugliest of the truly fugly NBA jerseys, each round-up features the usual suspects. For example, people really hate the 2006-07 Washington Wizards black and gold alternatives. Why? I’m not sure, other than the jerseys make them look like they’re playing a pick-up game at Medieval Times, or they’re the bad guy team in Like Mike 3.

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Going all the way back to the ‘70s, the Atlanta Hawks were possibly the granddaddies of so-called hideous uniforms, as Pete Maravich and Co. rocked this spectacular blue and green look that, for some dumb reason, people think qualifies as one of the all-time ugliest uniforms. Truth be told, this uniform is pretty dope, as the kids who egg my house on Halloween for giving out nickels would say, and the Hawks should embrace it and bring it back annually.

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Maybe we don’t pay enough attention to the Hawks (hey, they’re pretty F-ing good this season!), but fans should be rocking this style at every game. Dwight Howard could lead the resurrection by wearing short shorts, roller skates, and a big afro wig while making armpit farts on the jumbotron. It’s a cash cow idea!

But no jerseys, or even era, get shredded and eviscerated in the ugly rankings as much as the uniforms of the late ‘90s. Sure, they’re very funny looking compared to today’s uniforms (which, again, aren’t all perfect … *ahem* Pelicans), but they’re still a ton of fun. Even the debut look for the Vancouver Grizzlies was oozing with personality, so to call any of them ugly is mean and takes away from one of the more creative eras for NBA marketing gurus.

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It’s like they were wearing a Saturday morning Disney cartoon on their chests. But, like, the Gummi Bears were drinking HGH-fueled magical grape drank that gave them rabies and replaced their Canadian manners with American sports rage. “Grrrr, we’ve got the ferocity of bears mixed with the creative charm of a high school loner’s sketch book!”

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While it lacks the subtle coolness of the aforementioned ‘70s jersey, the Hawks’ late-90s cartoon bird was only lacking actual plumage. The players should have worn actual hawk talons on necklaces, too. Sure, PETA would’ve thrown a sh*t fit every week, but screw it, this was the ‘90s. If we’re scoring these jerseys in points, this one would just barely miss being perfect. The Hawks lose points for not having Koko B. Ware as he team’s official hype man for every game they wore these uniforms.

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Is that a flaming chess piece? No, but even if it was, it’s way cooler than the boring nonsense Detroit players wear today. The only thing wrong with this Pistons jersey is the shade of blue – it should be darker and more menacing, like a freaking horse that is on FIRE – but it also emphasizes a much more important factor in a lot of this era’s jerseys: Font.

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What you don’t see on Governor The Body’s jersey is that the uniform’s shorts had a huge wolf face on the side, so they were vicious and fierce. Opponents might have been scared that Kevin Garnett’s shorts would bite them. But, again, pay attention to the font. So edgy and sharp. Like a wolf’s fangs. It might have been better if Minnesota had just gone with WOLVES so they could use bigger letters like some of the other teams who wanted their jerseys to assault fans’ eyes.

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Before they were the defending NBA champions who would blow a 3-1 lead in their bid to repeat, the Warriors were kinda like the Clippers, but maybe a little better. They certainly had a better jersey, and this one might be the most underrated of the bunch. Nobody ever talks about how sleek and cool the Rocketeer logo was, or how this jersey logo packed a serious punch for a team that didn’t deserve to look that good.

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The worst part of the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City, aside from the crushing blow to the souls of Seattle sports fans and the economic impact it had on the city, was that it took these awesome jerseys away from us, sine we’ll never see them as throwbacks, at least until the NBA crushes another city’s fans by moving their franchise to Seattle. (Brace yourselves, Magic fans.)

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Speaking of the Magic, people who praise the jerseys of the late ‘90s almost always cite the Orlando pinstripes as one of the best of the decade (if not the best), and Shaq and Penny certainly looked cool in those black uniforms. But this Rockets uniform might be better. It’s cartoonish, yes, but it just looks cool on The Dream. Then again, anything looks cool next to …

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They’re not all winners. It’s like the team’s marketing director passed out after shotgunning Busch Light, and the box full of crushed cans was the last thing he saw as he rushed out the door for his meeting. That’s not to say it’s terrible. Fans might have loved the Bob Ross-esque serenity of the mountains, mixed with the era’s edginess, but again – beer can.

But it’s unfair to judge any uniforms next to the late-‘90s GOAT …

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This one has been named the worst NBA jersey of all-time by plenty of sites, and that’s just wrong. The Raptors’ Barney-on-steroids design is a work of art (as evidenced by its Mitchell and Ness price tag) that should be hanging in every museum across the planet. When aliens discover the wasteland that was Earth 5,000 years from now, we should be so lucky they find a 1998 Toronto Raptors jersey as the only item to define our human existence.

They’ll think we were so damn cool.