Culture of Hoops

Throwbacks: Paying homage to the NBA’s worst jerseys

Much to my wife’s dismay, I am a self-confessed twilight Internet journeyman. Instead of going to bed at a normal hour like any normal being does, I travel far and wide in search of memes, trolls and articles containing useless information and videos that induce schadenfreude. Did you know there is a theory that suggests Daredevil and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were involved in the same nuclear accident? That’s exactly the type of crap I am searching for in the wee hours.

Some time ago, I encountered an article on Bleacher Report by Brendan Bowers detailing the 50 worst uniforms in NBA history. “Mr Bowers, nooooo!” I mentally exclaimed as not to wake my wife. With each consecutive click, my heart would sink as I found jerseys I had cherished as a teenager being openly slated in the public domain. This is my homage to some of the BEST jerseys the NBA has ever produced.

Imagine yourself as a VHS cassette and rewind to 1997, it takes a while I know. I was a greasy, acne-riddled, overweight teen who was obsessed with anything and everything American. This year brought my first ever date, a double date, on Valentine’s Day. What was supposed to be an afternoon of hand-holding and first kisses turned into a day I can still remember as clear as daylight. I had chosen to wear a Detroit Pistons Grant Hill home jersey (the one with the flaming horse on it, yeah a flaming horse, I didn’t see any soccer jerseys with a flaming horse), navy-style camouflage pants, Patrick Ewing sneakers and an Orlando Magic short-sleeved Starter jacket. I thought I looked incredible; my date thought otherwise. She spent an hour in the bathroom pretending to be sick and left. That day made me a laughing stock at school. Alas, I believe the girl had two kids shortly after leaving school and is now the size of a bus. I think we can call it a tie.

I’m pretty sure with the attire some athletes wear, or “swag” as the youngsters put it, I wouldn’t have been out of place in today’s world. Anyway, I digress.

Exhibit A: The Toronto Raptors, 1995-99. This featured a cartoon red raptor on the front with a beady eye fixed on the opposition as almost to say “Why yes, I’m a raptor, bring the noise, boys.” Do you know what complements a red cartoon raptor? Pinstripes. Big. Bold. Pinstripes.


Exhibit B: Phoenix Suns “PHX” road jerseys & late 90s sun/basketball design. My geographical knowledge of the United States is somewhat limited, but when one thinks of Arizona, allusions of desert and immense heat spring to mind, thus forming a perfect association with the team. I also love these jerseys as when “PHX” is spoken out loud a rather vile expletive can be formed.


Exhibit C: Utah Jazz 1997-2004. These are actually one of my favorite jerseys of all-time. Beautiful mountains being incorporated makes us forget Utah doesn’t allow any jazz music. (Sorry, BASEketball reference.) Does anyone else reminisce of John Stockton in purple short shorts? Those were the days.


Exhibit D: Seattle Supersonics 1995-2001. I remember seeing a home XXL Gary Payton Sonics jersey for sale in a thrift shop when I was younger and sulking because my mom wouldn’t buy it. Her reasoning was probably right seeing as I still don’t fill out a men’s large, but for me the green with maroon and yellow trim worked wonderfully well to associate the city of Seattle. Sure, the logo is whacky, but when it came to incorporating the Space Needle into the design it makes me hope that Seattle will come back to the league sooner rather than later.


Exhibit F: Denver Nuggets 1985-93. Where the Jazz had mountains the Nuggets had a metropolis sprawling against a rainbow. The fact that this jersey is available on NBA store to purchase suggests it still remains a fond fan favorite.


Exhibit G: Minnesota Timberwolves 2003-04. Trees on the trim and an R.L Stine-inspired logo made the Timberwolves stand alone in the field.


Has anyone noticed that better times came about whilst these jerseys were emblazoned? Damon Stoudamire with the Raptors; Hill and the Pistons; the Utah Jazz playoff team losing to Chicago in ’97 and ’98; Charles Barkley and the Suns; Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves (that actually makes a great band name); all of which contribute to some of the most memorable moments in recent NBA history, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Last summer, I chaperoned my younger brother and sister-in-law to the Maryland date of the Van’s Warped Tour. With pop punk and emo providing a vital yet slightly weepy soundtrack to my teen life and growing up in suburban England, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend such a festival. Whilst walking around, I noticed several bands had taken the opportunity to use these jerseys as pieces of merchandise, which felt like a rather novel idea to me.

I must admit I do agree with Mr. Bowers and his number one choice: the Warriors 2012-13 sleeved alternate, resembling more of an Ikea uniform than an NBA jersey. According to Darren Rovell at ESPN, as many as five teams may chose to wear a sleeved alternate jersey this upcoming season. Maybe I just uncovered a conspiracy theory concerning the NBA to consider placing advertisements on jerseys.

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