Jersey culture is huge in the NBA. So much so that the league on longer has just home and away uniforms, but uniform sets called things like “Association” and “Swingman.” Gone are the days of just a home and away jersey.
One of the things responsible for that is the resurgence of throwback jerseys and fortunately for all of us, often throwback jerseys are thrown into the rotation of jerseys NBA teams are wearing now.
We put together a list of the 30 best throwback jerseys in NBA history, one for each team. Take a look and see what you think. It’s a beautiful trip down memory lane.
There’s so much to like here with this 1990’s era Hawks jersey. Obviously, we have to start with the giant scowling hawk right in the middle. What an intimidating beast, with its talons gripping the basketball. That’s probably where Dikembe Mutombo got the inspiration for his famous finger wag, right?
Moving on past the bird of prey, the gradient colors on this jersey are really cool. The jersey starts out black at the shoulders, transitions to red in the midsection, and then back to dark red/black at the bottom. This is a cool jersey.
Ok, so this one is tough. The thing that makes us love the jerseys of the Boston Celtics is that they haven’t changed. One thing that is different from decades ago is putting names on the back of the jerseys. For instance: you’ll never see a Celtics jersey with Bill Russell’s name on the back.
Now, we can’t blame them for their lack of change. It’s a great look. One look at that jersey and you immediately think of all the history and names associated with it: Cousy, Russell, Auerbach, Bird. We could go on like this forever.
Wow, these ABA jerseys scream the 1970’s — and in a good way. We love the boldness of the red white and blue side panels adorned with stars from the armpits to the hem of the shorts. We aren’t sure what that has to do with the “Nets” nickname, but whatever.
One other unique feature of these uniforms is that because of the substantial side panel, the name and number print are off-centered on the shirt and nestled on the side opposite the star panel. This is neat, and something you don’t see often.
For much of their history, the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats/Hornets haven’t given people much to talk about their on-court performances. However, the same cannot be said about their uniforms. Aside from the dark days of Bobcats, the Hornets have had some of the best uniforms in the business.
Their teal pinstriped jerseys that were once rocked by Muggsy Bogues and Larry Johnson are the cream of the crop. We are so glad Nike is bringing those back, even on a limited basis.
The year is 1985. A 21-year-old Michael Jordan is competing in the Slam Dunk Contest in Indianapolis. What is he wearing? A red Bulls jersey with a cursive, scripted “Chicago” slanted up across the chest.
Not only was that the greatest dunk contest in history that featured future Hall of Famers Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, and Julius Erving, but Jordan was wearing the greatest Bulls jersey ever. Look at that thing. The diamond-shaped cut out on the shorts with the Bull logo; just great.
These Cavaliers jerseys should be the standard for all Cavs jerseys going forward. Yes, they are very 1990’s, and who knows what the light blue waves on the dark blue jerseys have to do with cavaliers, but we don’t care. They are awesome.
They could have just stopped with the two blues, and that would have been fine. But they threw in the orange accent color. That throws this good look over the edge into greatness. Here’s hoping throws this throwback into the rotation sometime soon.
Our favorite thing about these Dallas Mavericks jerseys is the logo. It’s a big blue “M” wearing a cowboy hat laid on top of a green basketball. What’s more Dallas than a big white cowboy hat? Nothing, that’s what.
We are also big fans of the lettering on the front of the jersey. It expresses a bold, southern elegance only Dallas, Texas could support. With that said, we don’t love the color scheme and much prefer the present blue and white the Mavs wear now. But think of this jersey in blue and white. Now we’re talking.
These Nuggets did so much right when they designed these uniforms. We love the skyline with the mountain ridge behind. This is imagery unique to Denver, the Mile High City.
Also, what a beautiful tapestry of colors used to highlight the sunset behind the mountains. Have you seen a bolder NBA jersey? Probably not. We are happy to see a modern version of this return to the rotation for Denver in their current set of jerseys.
These Detroit Pistons jerseys were a short-lived departure from the classic red, white and blue look the Pistons are known for. Despite their lack of longevity in use, these jerseys are great. We love the shift to the aggressive color scheme and the addition of the horse logo.
Everyone knows Detroit’s nickname comes from the city’s automotive history. What they’ve done with this horse logo is added a subtle automotive touch to this too with the addition of the horse, for horsepower. The mane on that horse, flames. Literally. How cool is that?
Golden State Warriors
This is a look so great that it inspired the modern Warriors uniforms. First debuted in the 1966-67 season, “The City” uniforms are bold and feature an interesting front logo consisting of the Golden Gate Bridge and the jersey wearer’s number inside a circle.
Back then the Warriors were the San Francisco Warriors, and the decision to go with “The City” on the front may have stemmed from the fact that “San Francisco” was just too long to put on a basketball uniform.
For some reason, the Houston Rockets decided they needed to change things up after they won back-to-back titles in the mid-90’s. They went away from their celebrated red, yellow and white jerseys, and completely switched things up going with a new color scheme and design. They haven’t won a title since.
These are not our favorite pinstriped jerseys on this list, but they are still pretty great. This is a great example of the sum being greater than the parts because we aren’t sure we love the parts of the jersey individually but were sure do love them when they are all put together.
The Indiana Pacers don’t have a glorious history chock full of magical moments. But what they do have is 8.9 seconds where Reggie Miller scored 8 points to beat the Knicks in the playoffs, and a year prior when Miller flashed the choking sign at New York Knicks super-fan Spike Lee. Both of those moments occurred while the Pacers were wearing these uniforms.
Even beyond the sentimentality, these uniforms bring to Pacers fans, these are pretty good jerseys. The triangle panels on the sides bring a sharpness to set. We’re big fans.
Los Angeles Clippers
To find these beauties we had to go back to 1974 when the Clippers’ franchise was still the Buffalo Braves. We love the sky blue and white color scheme on these jerseys as well as the narrow striping on the shirt and shorts.
In an era where big and bold were king, the Braves went subtle and refined. Good for them. Maybe the present-day leadership of the Clippers should look to the past when they are redesigning their jerseys.
Los Angeles Lakers
It is a travesty that any jerseys manufacturer would mess with the Showtime-era jerseys of the Los Angeles Lakers. This uniform is perfect, and not just because of the nostalgia it evokes. We love the purple color, the shadowing on the numbers and the gold waistband that sticks out like a championship belt on a wrestler.
The Lakers’ current set of uniforms includes a purple uni, but it’s not nearly of the quality of these beauties. This uniform doesn’t need pinstripes or gimmicky font to look good, it already does look good.
It’s possible these throwback Vancouver Grizzlies jerseys from the mid-1990’s and early 2000’s are the boldest on this list. From the eye-catching teal color to the giant ball gripping bear and the scratched up Grizzlies font these are a sight to behold.
Oh and don’t forget about the intricate pattern on the trim of the shirt and pants. We aren’t sure what it is, but we love it. Now in Memphis, we’d love to see these jerseys make an appearance on Beale Street.
The Heat have only been in existence since 1988, so they don’t have too much uniform history to work with, but we’ve got a pretty good choice here. Alonzo Mourning rocked these all-red jerseys in the mid-90’s when he was the franchise’s best player.
We really like the flame coming off the “T” at the end of the word Heat. Another interesting detail about these jerseys is the big white outline on the numbers. It’s weird but fits in the era.
Milwaukee’s best jerseys take advantage of the impressiveness of a buck’s head. This shirt is no different. Look at that stoic and determined buck with the full rack adorning the front of this jersey. Even the color scheme on this uniform stands out. Who puts purple and green together? The Milwaukee Bucks, that’s who.
They make this distinctive color scheme work for them and for that we applaud them. We’d like to see this set thrown into the throwback rotation soon. Imagine the Greek Freak himself barreling down the lane in these jerseys. Awesome.
These are your father’s Minnesota Timberwolves jerseys, but likely also yours too because the franchise isn’t that old. However, these are still the standard-bearer for all T-Wolves jerseys. The black jerseys trimmed with green evergreen trees are epic and speak to the wilderness atmosphere the Timberwolves looked to cultivate.
Sorry Celtics fans, but Kevin Garnett was never more intimidating than when wearing the midnight black jerseys of the Timberwolves. These need to make a come back into the T-Wolves rotation.
New Orleans Pelicans
Poor Pelicans. They haven’t been around long enough to have a throwback jersey. However, we found this sweet Mardi Gras “fauxback” that we really like.
Despite these jerseys being worn in the Hornets days, these jerseys scream New Orleans. From the nickname “NOLA” on the front to the color scheme, this jersey is all New Orleans. There’s even piping along the side panels that resembles Mardi Gras beads. Classic New Orleans.
New York Knicks
Throughout the years, the New York Knicks have stayed pretty consistent with their uniforms. The exception to this is during the mid-1990’s when they added black trim to their blue road jerseys. These jerseys are remembered fondly by Knick fans as the team wore these during one of their most successful periods.
Former Knicks who rocked these include, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Allan Houston and chief Larry Dolan instigator, Charles Oakley. While they never won a title in these jerseys, the team sure was fun to watch.
Oklahoma City Thunder
While we are glad that OKC has its own team, we are still heartbroken Seattle lost theirs. So in their honor, we’d like to promote these excellent Sonics’ jerseys from the 1990’s. The green and yellow work well together, and we love the arched name on the chest.
It may be too much for the residents of the Emerald City to bear but we would love to see the Thunder trot out these jerseys for a throwback tribute night. Hey, now that all their stars are gone, it may be the best thing we see from OKC all season.
These are without a doubt some of the coolest uniforms on this list. Let’s start with the black jersey with white pinstripes. It takes some serious guts to put your new team in pinstripes but that’s exactly what the Magic did.
Another great feature of the uniforms is the use of the star in place of the “A” on both the home and away uniforms. This keeps the local Disney culture alive and well with Orlando’s professional team. This set of uniforms are so classic that they are the basis for the present set of jerseys, that still feature pinstripes.
Is it even possible to imagine a time when Allen Iverson wasn’t wearing cornrows? Well, here you have it. The mid-1990’s, wearing all red Sixers uniforms, there he is without them. This uniform is so bright it appears to glow, and it appears it just has one big patch covering the front for the name Sixers.
What is especially great about these uniforms is the retro, yet current 76ers logo on the shorts. We were so glad when Philly decided to bring that logo back as their main logo. It’s classic.
To borrow an expression from the kids, these jerseys are fire. Literally. Because there’s a burning sun/basketball screaming across the front of the shirt. The colors used for these jerseys are what make them so great though.
These uniforms have a great mix of purple, blue, red and orange all set on a backdrop of black. It just makes everything pop. It’s no wonder these have inspired a modern version in the Sun’s regular rotation.
Portland Trail Blazers
We love the Trail Blazers’ classic look. The red and white sash across the black jersey is classic and timeless, which is why they still use it today. A small but important detail to these uniforms is that the name “blazers” is lowercase.
We don’t have an explanation for this, but we thought it was interesting. We also enjoy the coordination of the shirt sash meeting up with the shorts stripes in an identically. Also, the Blazers “blaze” logo is really neat and never needs updating.
These old Kansas City Kings jerseys are clean and elegant. You could even say they are fit for a king. The script “Kings” across the front is classy and smooth, just like the play of Hall of Famer Nate “Tiny” Archibald.
We like that Kings have continued to use the basketball with a crown logo, albeit with a different color scheme. It’s a great logo, and it would have been a shame for them to waste it.
San Antonio Spurs
In a way, today’s San Antonio Spurs jerseys aren’t much different from the jerseys 40 years ago. Both jerseys are black and grey and have the cowboy boot spur logo on the shorts. Sure, the font has been updated and the cut of the uniforms has changed, but other than that a classic look has stayed the same.
It makes sense for a franchise like the Spurs where change is not often seen. Gregg Popovich continues to call the plays, and even in retirement, Tim Duncan is still on the bench.
Sorry to everyone else, but these are the best. We cannot get enough of these purple pinstriped dinosaur jerseys. Again, these jerseys are purple with pinstripes and feature a raptor playing basketball. There isn’t a way to make these better.
The Raptors are doing some pretty great things with their uniforms lately, but we would love for these to be in the regular rotation again. They bring back the nostalgia of early Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.
These Jazz uniforms are great. First of all, we love that they are the same color as Riptide Rush Gatorade. Secondly, check out that awesome mountain scene. It makes it hard to think about mountains without also thinking of “Stockton to Malone.” OK, maybe not.
We are also big fans of the Western font used to write “Jazz” across the front. It does a good job of reminding you where the Jazz play because Salt Lake City is not a town renowned for their Jazz scene.
Yes, the Wizards have some other more flashy throwbacks from the Bullets era that we could highlight, but we chose these because of their understated and subtle touches of excellence.
These fine fabrics come to us from the late 60’s when the team was still in Baltimore. Look closely at the “L’s” in the name. They are designed to be hands, either shooting the basketball of contesting a tip-off. Subtle yet intentional. Very cool. Also, notice how the name “bullets” is in all lowercase. We told you, subtle and understated.