Ranking the most iconic NBA jerseys of the 1990s
NBA uniforms were a different beast in the '90s
Along with all of you, I've been pretty captivated by "The Last Dance" over the past month or so. Spending so much time with Michael Jordan and the '90s Bulls has been an incredible ride that has brought back floods of nostalgia, especially seeing some of the footage and style captured from that era.
The documentary has also been a wonderful reminder of how fashion -- both on and off the court -- was very different back then. NBA uniforms were a different beast in the '90s, and seeing Jordan shred teams in wild '90s garb will never really get old.
It got me to thinking about the most iconic styles of the decade, so let's take a trip down memory lane to revisit the most iconic NBA uniforms to come out of the '90s. For the purpose of this exercise, we'll be looking at jerseys that originated from 1989-1999 -- so while the Bulls uniforms might be the iconic unis of the '90s (for obvious reasons) they don't qualify because that design was born in the mid-'80s.
Before we get to the top ten, let's hit some honorable mentions:
Detroit Pistons (1996-2001)
These unis aren't so much "good" as they are memorable. Detroit went full '90s with these teal jerseys, marking a stunning, DRASTIC departure from every other look the team had worn in franchise history. The color scheme and uniforms were pretty suspect but there's no question that these unis had a major impact.
From a personal perspective, the Grant Hill jersey was one of my favorite childhood jerseys and I wore it ALL. THE. TIME. Granted, I was a stupid child with zero taste, but still.
Atlanta Hawks (1995-1999)
Much like the Pistons jerseys, these Hawks unis came out of nowhere and weren't necessarily good, but they made an impression... that's for sure. If the NBA made "Turn Ahead The Clock" uniforms like MLB, I imagine they'd look a lot like these.
Indiana Pacers (1997-2005)
The Pacers have had a lot of variations of looks but the pinstriped late-90s/early-2000s jerseys are one of their best. While not overly exciting or eye-popping, they find that sweet spot between classic and modern.
Chicago Bulls black road alternate (1997-2012)
I truly think this is one of the best jerseys of the decade but I couldn't bring myself to include it in the regular list since it was just an alternate jersey. That being said, it's an incredible and iconic variation of the Bulls' primaries (which are also incredible) and it absolutely deserves some mention when it comes to the legendary NBA looks of the '90s. The pinstriped version, which preceded it but only lasted for one season, was also great.
Now that we are done with the honorable mentions, here's my top 10:
10. Utah Jazz (1996-2004)
There's absolutely no question that these Jazz uniforms are a downgrade from the set that preceded them (one of the best in the history of the league, in my opinion) but there's also no question that they're a defining look of the decade. They're outrageous, tacky and gaudy but we love them for it. To this day, there's a certain wave of excitement and nostalgia that comes over me every time I see these unis, especially out in the wild.
9. Seattle SuperSonics (1995-2001)
I'm partial to the lighter green and yellow styles of Sonics fashion but Seattle made this bold switch and it kind of worked. The darker green played nice with the dark red/yellow trim and the goofy/bold design style was pretty perfect for that era. Would I take them over the arch style? No, but I'd consider this rebrand a successful change of pace, especially for the time.
8. Houston Rockets (1995-2003)
I like the '90s Rockets logo more than the jerseys they could be found on, but there's no denying that the wacky pinstriped unis turned heads, for better or for worse. It was another one of those looks that was a completely drastic switch-up for the team but seemed appropriate for the era. The '90s were weird as hell, man.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (1996-2008)
While I love the Wolves' classic blue and green look that preceded these, the '90s Garnett/Sprewell era jerseys (especially the black ones) were perfectly badass and brought the appropriate amount of attitude. The forest trim is awesome. There's a reason this style stuck around for a long time.
6. San Antonio Spurs (1989-present)
The Spurs jerseys might have aged better than any other single fashion choice to come out of the late 80s/early '90s. Around a time when all these other teams were making wacky and outrageous moves in the uniform game, San Antonio settled into an understated but classy uniform (perfect for the Tim Duncan era) that would go on to last for three decades and counting. They deserve credit for the longevity.
5. Charlotte Hornets (1989-1996)
No color scheme defines the 90s more than teal and purple, and the Charlotte Hornets are a big reason why. No matter where you lived or what team you rooted for, there's a good chance you owned some sort of Hornets merchandise -- or at least knew someone who did. Those Starter jackets were EVERYWHERE. The uniforms themselves weren't anything super crazy or unique, but they were easy on the eyes and hard to escape.
4. Vancouver Grizzlies (1995-2000)
This Grizzlies' original jerseys and logo were so awesome. They were bold but not entirely outrageous. The colors were great. The trim was outstanding. I loved the oversized logo on the side of the shorts. I want to say they were perfect for the time, but they've actually aged pretty damn well. The Grizz brought them back for the franchise's 25th anniversary season this year and, yep, they still pop.
3. Toronto Raptors (1995-1998)
The original Raptors jersey is a treasure. Is it goofy and campy and a little insane? Yes, but it hits all the right notes. If you can throw an actual oversized cartoon dinosaur on the front of your jersey and make it work, you've achieved something truly spectacular... and the Raptors did it in their first try. They only lasted a few seasons, but these uniforms never should have left us.
2. Phoenix Suns (1992-2000)
Maybe this is a hot take (pun intended... maybe) but the '90s Suns "sunkist" jerseys might be THE most definitive NBA jersey of the era. They may not be the best, but their roots are the most obvious. The bold, in-your-face design and vibrant colors scream '90s in all the right ways. The Suns have tried to capture that magic with modified looks in the years since but they've never quite gotten there. This is the best look in the team's history and one of the better ones in league history.
1. Orlando Magic (1989-1998)
Whenever I think of '90s NBA jerseys, the Magic are always the first team that comes to mind. Not necessarily because their look was super indicative of the style themes from that decade, but rather because the jerseys they rolled out in the late '80s/early '90s are among the greatest in league history. Every version of the pinstriped Shaq/Penny-era Magic jerseys is simply perfect.
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