It’s NBA Jersey Week at SB Nation, and there is no way we can talk about the history of basketball jerseys and skip over the ‘90s. The ‘90s are when NBA teams started to get weird and traded in their traditional jersey looks for colorful, almost cartoonish, and sometimes downright ugly jerseys.
From Penny and Shaq in the pinstripes to Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp in a very forest green, I rounded up some of the best and worst of these jerseys. Then I got together when SB Nation’s finest, Zito Madu, Harry Lyles Jr, and Michael Sykes, and we gave our thoughts. Happy Jersey Week to you and yours.
Toronto Raptors: 1995-1999
Whitney: These were the jerseys the Raptors debuted when the franchise started in 1995. They literally debuted themselves to the world with a huge dinosaur on the chest that is dribbling a basketball and has Raptor shoes. Yet somehow, people still go nuts over these ... including myself.
Sykes: Those are the Air Dino 6’s, btw. I’m partially kidding, but I do feel like those sneakers should have a name. That’s what appeals to me most about the jersey. The color scheme is cool and it’s one of my favorite throwbacks, but the Raptor on the jersey is absolutely my favorite mascot of all time. It’s so ridiculous yet so amazing at the same time. Honestly? It might be the best thing Canada has ever given us.
Zito: I remember these being in NBA Jam, and because everything that was in NBA Jam is inarguably great (not really, but I need a way to defend these), so are these jerseys. It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense that a Raptor is dribbling a basketball, while not even wearing the jersey of the team, but rather, wearing a white one with the letter “R” on it. With his feet claws poking out of the shoes. We don’t talk about that. Just like we don’t talk about other perplexing things like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Street Sharks. The jerseys are great because they were in NBA Jam and because Vince Carter could still dunk without having to ice for hours afterward.
Harry: These jerseys bring back some of my earliest NBA memories, so whether or not they’re objectively good or bad, I like them. I always thought the color scheme the Raptors had was dope, but this really does work for me. One thing we don’t talk about often enough: The Raptor is palming the ball. But we’ll pretend like that’s not happening here.
Whitney: Dinosaurs play by a little different rules than everyone else.
Milwaukee Bucks: 1995-1999
Whitney: These were the Bucks’ road jerseys for four seasons. The team also missed the playoffs in three of those seasons. It may have been the era of Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson, but they aren’t exactly the glory days. I don’t hate these. I would probably support a Giannis-led Bucks team in them.
Harry: This is one of those things in life that’s kind of awkward and bad, which makes it somehow good? If the Bucks were to pull these out a couple of times a year, I wouldn’t mind it.
Zito: That Buck on the jersey looks like it should have appeared in Shadow’s vision in American Gods. Looks like an old god that visits you in times of distress to remind you that there are great things to come in your future. I believe that the Buck foretold of the coming of Giannis Antetokounmpo, so I will allow it.
Sykes: The only thing appealing about this jersey is the fact that it’s old. First of all, the deer just feels out of place here — it looks like the Bucks just found a stock photo of a deer and photoshopped it to the side of the jersey. Second, purple and green? Nah, fam. That’s hella ‘90s, and fashion in the ‘90s is way overrated. I’m a snob, yes. But that’s just ugly. Get it out of my sight.
Whitney: Sykes, ya know, I think that buck is actually stock ‘90s clipart now that you mention it.
Vancouver Grizzlies: 1995-2000
Whitney: These are so wild that they’re probably my favorite. Another jersey that was debuted with an expansion team, the Vancouver Grizzlies. I mean, the shorts had a huge grizzly bear on them. Of all the ‘90s jerseys for sale today, I think this is the one I would buy. The Vancouver Grizzlies were never that good on the court, but these jerseys were.
Harry: I’m with Whitney on these. All of the small design aspects on these are awesome. The Grizzly claw holding the basketball on the top of the shorts is one of my favorite alternate NBA logos, and I’m glad the current Grizzlies team still utilizes that. But if we’re talking overall color scheme and design, give me these.
Zito: These look like something you find in a fake African clothing store in the gentrified neighborhoods of Brooklyn, but I like it.
Sykes: Zito, for the win. There’s nothing more I can follow up here with. These are dope.
Orlando Magic: 1989-1998
Whitney: In an era of expansion teams, it also gave us these Orlando Magic uniforms. They continued wearing them all the way until 1998 after debuting in 1989. They had three pinstripe jerseys total — white, black, and blue. It was so simple yet so good. I had a blue Penny jersey and a pair of his shoes during this time, so I’m biased about how great these are. This picture is perfect too, with the NBA on NBC logo in the background. I’ll stop gushing now.
Zito: When I think of the Orlando Magic, which I try not to do often, I see them in these jerseys. They’re so simple and wonderful. I loved the star at the end of the shorts. I can’t really make any jokes about these; they’re nice.
Harry: These are also a favorite of mine. If I had the powers to make it happen, I’d make it so the Magic had to wear these today. The pinstripes, the number, the black, white, and blue just meshes together perfectly. I was also a fan of Penny Hardaway growing up so I’m a little biased, but there’s no denying these were perfect back then and would work just as well now.
Sykes: All right, I’ll be that guy. These jerseys stink. Way too many stripes for my taste. I do enjoy the color scheme of black, white and blue, but I just could’ve gone without the white stripes throughout the uniform. It ruins what is otherwise a brilliant design. Simple is good, and these stripes are just extra. Still, shoutout to Penny for the foamposites though — a D.C. fashion staple. So what if we’re wack?
Detroit Pistons: 1995-2001
Whitney: The teal era as it has been referred to. It brings back a lot of Grant Hill memories, but that may be the only good thing about them. They definitely fit the cartoon theme running through the league at that time, but they took it too far.
Harry: These remind me of how great Grant Hill could have been without injuries. Otherwise, yeah, don’t really dig these.
Zito: Grant Hill deserved better.
Whitney: We finally agree on something.
Sykes: Y’all tripping. These are clean. First off, the fact that Grant Hill wore these is always a plus to me. Plus, the Pistons are using an actual demon horse for this, which is totally badass. Automatic points for me. I love the teal here, and it doesn’t really match with the flame orange and black. But it reminds me of an old-school Camaro color or something.
Phoenix Suns: 1992-2000
Whitney: The sunburst jerseys. Another jersey that fans wish was the current look. The Suns wore the Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley. Jason Kidd even wore this jersey. The purple is good, but I’m a bigger fan of the black alternate. They scream ‘90s NBA nostalgia to me.
Zito: I know there’s a lot of nostalgia around these jerseys, but no. These aren’t good. Is the basketball a comet? Can’t be. It has to be a sun. Then why are there tails of a comet? I can’t ignore this in the same way that I can ignore a Raptor dribbling a basketball. A man must have his limits.
Whitney: They’re not that bad, Zito.
Harry: The nostalgia certainly is real when I see these jerseys. They might not make sense like Zito mentions, but damn it, they remind me of my early NBA fandom and watching Charles Barkley play basketball.
Sykes: I am a man with no limits. These are fire. No one will tell me otherwise.
Seattle Supersonics: 1995-2002
Whitney: The Sonics went darker with their color scheme and by dark I mean an intense forest green. They also added their own cartoon flair with the big Sonics font across the front. It proved to work for nostalgia and hipsters, I guess, as these Sonics went to the 1996 NBA Finals. But these are bad.
Zito: Seattle had a basketball team?
Whitney: That’s a little rude.
Harry: I try to pretend like these never happened but they did. Every franchise typically has one or two bad uniforms in their past, so I won’t drag these as much as I might want to. Those teams did leave lasting memories, though.
Sykes: The nostalgia play is definitely a big factor with these, but I’m definitely good with passing on them. That being said, I’d still gladly wear an OG Gary Payton ‘96 Sonics jersey with pride. Shoutout to The Glove.
Charlotte Hornets Pinstripes: 1988-2001
Whitney: When the Hornets joined the NBA in 1988, they came out with these, wearing them all the way into 2001. A true jersey that spanned the entire ‘90s era. For me, this color scheme screams ‘90s. It also helps this was the Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson era, which is historic on its own.
Zito: It’s like they looked at what Orlando did and thought, “Yes, the pinstripes are cool, how do we ruin it? Ah yes, make it look like mold.”
Harry: When I think of NBA basketball in the ‘90s, this is one of the first jerseys that comes to mind, along with those Hornet teams. I’ve always been a fan of these, and while the stripes aren’t as clean or traditional, it fit. In fact, I’m kinda feenin’ to get a Larry Johnson throwback now.
Sykes: I’m good on these. They look like something they’d pass out for a rec league scrimmage. I really hate the different colors of the pinstripes, too. It’s really like they combined the Magic jerseys with the Bucks jerseys and decided it was a great idea.
Indiana Pacers 1990-1997
Whitney: The Flo Jos! These jerseys weren’t exactly popular when they came out. Many didn’t understand why the Pacers had Florence Griffith Joyner design them. But today, they’re definitely one of the most popular throwbacks out there. The Pacers should just switch to these full time.
Zito: It might just be a sign of our tendency to look at things from the past through rose-tinted glasses that people want these back. Because people shouldn’t want these back.
Harry: I think these are another great example of jerseys that are fine to break out once or twice a year. Let’s leave it at that.
Sykes: Big facts.
Whitney: Didn’t expect y’all to trash the FloJos like that. Questioning why I even asked you three to join me in this now.
The '90s Pacers jersey are some of the NBA's best
The '90s Pacers jerseys are some of the NBA's best, and they were designed by one of the GREATEST American athletes ever.Posted by SB Nation on Tuesday, 3 October 2017