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The best and worst NBA Christmas jerseys of all time

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From the sleeved jerseys of 2013 to the sleeker (and maybe more boring) cursive of last year, we remember a tradition that now is on hold.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It’s Christmas time again! Time for family and eggnog and fruit cake, and all of that. But most importantly, it’s time for your favorite NBA superstars to suit up and hit the court.

On each Christmas day since 2012, the NBA had commemorated the holiday with its own special edition jerseys. Some were bland, some were colorful, some had sleeves, and some were repetitive.

This year, for some reason, there won’t be special edition jerseys. Nike, who took over the league’s apparel deal, was caught unprepared and did not come out with anything. We instead expect that the teams will wear their normal jerseys, perhaps with a special edition patch.

This is unfortunate because special edition Christmas jerseys are a new tradition we loved.

In honor of this suspended tradition, we’ve rounded every prior Christmas jersey up just for you to see, along with takes to go with them.


2012: The full color jerseys

Michael Sykes: This was the inaugural Christmas jersey run for the league and you can tell. The league went with a safe and kind of uninspiring solid color look for the jerseys. The lettering on the chest had a white border with a transparent inside. The most unique thing about this was that every team wore dark colors — which is, like, “yawn.”

Harry Lyles Jr.: The NBA definitely went safe here. It was almost like it couldn’t decide whether it actually wanted Christmas jerseys, so the league just did slight color alternates. They look good, but didn’t really capture anything Christmas-y.

Zito: I appreciate these because I always imagine that’s how NBA players feel inside with the fact that they have to work on Christmas. I know some players love the games, but imagine being away from your family and having to tussle with other grown men instead of opening presents? You’d feel like an uninspired, solid color look with white bordered numbers.

Whitney: The original color rush.

2013: The sleeved jerseys

Sykes: I know some of you don’t like sleeved jerseys, but these are fire. The league slapped each team’s logo in the middle of a solid colored jersey sequence and added some sleeves. It’s not a huge departure from what they did the season prior, but it certainly turned my head at the time.

Whitney: I’m sorry, I secretly love these jerseys. I’m pretty sure Twitter called them pajamas during the entire Christmas Day slate, which was entirely fair. The red look from the Heat and the Bulls was definitely my favorite, followed by the all-blue Thunder jerseys.

Lyles: I’m also a fan of these. At first I wasn’t a fan of NBA teams wearing sleeved jerseys, but grew to appreciate it. These were another step in the NBA getting more comfortable with different uniforms for Christmas. I like the logo slapped in the middle of the jersey, and think the Thunder definitely had the best looking threads this particular year. Side note: it’s weird seeing Jimmy Butler with short hair.

Sykes: So weird.

Zito: LeBron tore off the sleeved jerseys, so we don’t fuck with them. You’re either on the right side of history or you’re going to the dark side in sleeved jerseys while saying the word “threads.”

Whitney: LeBron also came back from being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals against the 73-9 Warriors with the league’s first unanimous MVP in that same sleeved jersey.

2014: The first name jerseys

Sykes: These are my favorites. The jerseys are colorblocked the same way they typically are, but they shrunk the logos on these and moved the player’s names on the back of the jerseys underneath their number in their own special blocks. The best part? They used first names instead of last. How fun is that?

Lyles: I was a big fan of these. The first names on the back of the jerseys was a nice touch, and overall, I prefer names to be under the number anyway. I couldn’t tell you why.

Whitney: I really liked the first name under the number, but what else was the point of these? Not a snowflake or Christmas tree to be seen anywhere.

Sykes: You’re right, Whitney. But the first name thing is so good. I’d be here for these coming back around.

Zito: These are nice. I don’t know why players aren’t allowed to use their first names more often. No one knows LeBron as “James.” I guess Durant is one of those whose last name is the go-to, but I assume that’s only for the really boring players. First names should be the standard. Also, with the names under the numbers, these look like soccer jerseys from Liga MX.

2015: The festive font jerseys

Sykes: These were fine. Not great, though. Teams were still playing in their away colors with the team logo on the shorts. The nice touch here is the festive font for the lettering and numbers. The white solid stripe down the siding of the uniform is a nice touch, but nothing to write home about.

Lyles: These were the first that we saw the NBA really just throw out any concerns with logos and such, and while they aren’t the best looking, I was cool with it. Though the ones the Heat were rocking were kinda bad.

Sykes: I feel like most things the Heat rock are kind of bad, but that’s just me though ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. With that being said, I still have love for all the Miami Vice uniforms.

Zito: These are cool but boring in the sense that they’re again, uninspired. What is the risk in the NBA going out and being creative with Christmas jerseys? Create a unique look for what is a marquee day for the league. Going a bit crazy with it is fine, I think people enjoy the stuff. Just make something that’s not super safe.

Whitney: I appreciate the festive font here but I’m with Zito. Get crazy with these already. NBA fans need it.

2016: The repeat of the festive font jerseys

Sykes: OK. These are literally the same thing as the year before. The only thing missing is the solid white siding and the number on the back being bigger. This was Adidas’ last Christmas jersey before their deal with the NBA expired and the league switched over to Nike. So it looks like minimal effort went into this — as you can see.

Whitney: Adidas literally just gave up on these.

Lyles: Yeah ... what they said.

Zito: The Thunder jersey looks good with white letters. That’s all I got.

Sykes: That's probably too much credit, tbh.


What’ll be in store for 2017? Hopefully Nike will take a chance instead of regurgitating last year’s plain Adidas ones.


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