NBA Throwback jerseys have almost become something of a collectible for fans.
Whether showing off at a game or a music festival, most throwbacks tend to have a certain flair and uniqueness that distinguishes them from the more modest looks of today’s game, which feature advertisements from companies like Bumble on the crest.
But what are some of the more classic looks in NBA history?
“We Believe” Warriors
Of course, the “We Believe” era refers most specifically to the 2006-07 Warriors, who stunned the NBA world when they became the first eight seed to knock out the No. 1 seed (Dallas Mavericks) in a seven-game series.
Those teams had a certain swagger about them, perhaps most defined by point guard Baron Davis’ detonation on former Utah Jazz swingman Andre Kirilenko in the Western Conference semifinals.
Davis was the star of that team, averaging 20.1 points, 8.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals. But that squad could flat-out score. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington were getting buckets after they came over from the Indiana Pacers, and Jason Richardson was up to his high-flying antics. Meanwhile, Monta Ellis was rapidly developing as a lethal backcourt option in just his second season.
Jackson and Matt Barnes almost always refer back to their “We Believe” days as some of their fondest recollections of life in the NBA.
Most importantly, that era gave fans in the Bay Area a platform and a reputation as some of the most rambunctious in basketball. This would eventually set the stage for the Warriors dynasty in the 2010s.
Orlando Magic (Shaq and Penny Era)
It can sometimes be easy to forget the Orlando Magic are still one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
Their first season came at the turn of a new decade in the 1990s, an expansion team just trying to increase the popularity of the sport in the state of Florida after the Miami Heat came into the league just one year prior (also fun fact: the Heat used to be in the Western Conference).
The first few years were wrought with losing. They won just 18 games in their first season and just 70 combined in their first three seasons. However, their fortunes seemed to change forever in the summer of 1992, when they had the good fortune of drafting LSU center Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaq immediately galvanized the franchise, helping the Magic win 41 games in his first year. One year later, they orchestrated a deal on draft night to acquire Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
Suddenly, the Magic had become one of the predominant title contenders in the Eastern Conference. They made it to the NBA Finals in 1994-95, where they were ultimately swept by a veteran Houston Rockets team (though each game was pretty hotly contested). The following year, they won 60 games and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.
Things fell apart pretty quickly thereafter. The Magic somehow refused to pay O’Neal what he wanted in free agency, and he departed for L.A. in the summer of 1996. Hardaway’s injuries eventually decimated his career.
Still, that classic pinstripe look is the definitive outfit of one of the greatest eras in Magic history, and they continue to be regarded as one of the most talented rosters never to win a title in the 1990s. Their NBA throwback jersey remains popular with fans.
Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the 2018-19 Raptors will forever be the most beloved team in Canada after winning the first championship in franchise history last season.
But the Raptors of the late 90s and early 2000s were pretty fun, and they had great attire. Even if former Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce feels differently.
The Raptors are also one of the younger teams in the league, sprouting into existence in 1995. Shortly thereafter, they would bring a high-flying rookie from the University of North Carolina who would come to be one of the definitive superstars of the early 2000s.
Vince Carter and co. wore some classics back in the day. Those uniforms featured a massive Raptor on the front, with bold print and pinstripes to boot.
Like the Magic, perhaps the Raptors could have extended their window had they not orchestrated a sign-and-trade to send Tracy McGrady to the Magic in the summer of 2000.
Still, it is not uncommon to see the youngsters rocking the old VC look, back when he was putting Dikembe Mutombo on posters and throwing down wrong-way 360s in dazzling fashion.
Milwaukee Bucks (original “Fear the Deer”)
Much like Pierce has disdain for the old Raptors uniforms, some might argue this Bucks look is actually one of the more lackluster NBA throwback jerseys in league history.
But there is something so cool about that alternate green look with the “Bucks” name in purple print and a giant, imposing Deer across the midsection. The stock white and purple uniforms were actually fairly classic looks as well.
Similarly to some of these other uniforms, this look also harkens back to some of the best Bucks teams before Giannis Antetokounmpo emerged as one of the more eminent superstars of the modern era.
In fact, the Bucks came within a single game (and a few controversial calls and suspensions) of reaching the NBA Finals during the 2000-01 season. That team featured a young Ray Allen, back when he was just as imposing as a athletic slasher before turning into one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.
But the player who might be more synonymous with these jerseys is Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson.
Robinson was an absolute beast at the turn of the millennium. In fact, he was practically a perennial 20-point scorer before knee injuries eventually cut his career short at just 32 years old.
But from Allen to Robinson and a veteran Sam Cassell, these teams are sometimes overlooked in the annals of NBA history. The jerseys, though, should not be forgotten.
1990s Phoenix Suns
The Suns currently have somewhat of a modified look of their old uniforms, but nothing can come close to the threads they rocked in the 1990s.
The most iconic element of these uniforms was the “blazing sun” logo that essentially featured a basketball on fire. The home uniforms were white with block lettering in blue, while the road jerseys were the inverse.
Moreover, those Suns team in the mid-90s were simply gritty. They featured a version of Charles Barkley who would win the NBA MVP Award in 1993, when the Suns made it all the way to the NBA Finals before falling to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
But even aside from Barkley, the Suns had veterans like Danny Ainge and rising stars such as Kevin Johnson (one of the more underrated guards of the era). Dan Majerle was one of the foremost snipers of the decade, including a 6-of-8 performance from beyond the arc in an epic, triple-overtime win over the Bulls in Game 3 of those 1993 Finals. Plus, the Suns were led by the feisty Paul Westphal.
There are certainly reasons to abhor this look, like when they added black alternates back when Jason Kidd dyed his hair blonde. But ultimately, these are classic throwback threads.
Heck, even the home floor was legendary!
Detroit Pistons (Grant Hill era)
Unlike other teams on this list, the Pistons throwbacks are reminiscent of a rather forlorn period in team history.
Gone were the days of the “Bad Boys” and the winning midway through the 1990s, with Isiah Thomas at the end of his career.
However, there were reasons to be optimistic. Pistons rookie Grant Hill was cementing himself as one of the best players in the NBA.
In his prime, Hill was a vastly upgraded version of Scottie Pippen, a point forward who could act as a scorer and playmaker while defending at a high level. He made the All-Star team in each of his four seasons in the NBA, including a 1996-97 season where he averaged 21.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.8 steals while making First Team All-NBA.
Hill did his best work rocking some wild uniforms. Those Pistons teams alternated between teal, red and black looks. The lettering extended the “S” in “Pistons” to look like exhaust pipes, with a flaming horse just over the top to emphasize horsepower.
The Pistons were pretty bad in those days, but they still had one of the best looks in the NBA.
John Stockton and Karl Malone probably deserved to win an NBA title before they retired. They had multiple opportunities at the end of the 1990s, but–as is the case with other squads on this list–they could not get past Jordan and the Bulls.
However, the “Classic Mountain” uniforms were so good that Utah brought them back this year.
The blue and white looks were fairly basic, and the mountain range logo itself was so basic, yet it perfectly encapsulated those Jazz teams.
Utah were a team predicated on the veteran leadership of Stockton and Malone, who dominated opposing teams in the pick-and-roll and used their savvy to get the better of defenses. Moreover, veterans like Jeff Hornacek and Antoine Carr added to the aura of those teams, with Jerry Sloan manning the bench.
Simple, but awesome.
These are probably my favorite threads in NBA history. I won a Steve Francis Rockets throwback, and it is still among my favorite jerseys in my collection.
The Rockets of old used to feature an actual rocket ship orbiting a giant basketball, with “Rockets” in bold lettering across the front. They rocked white and navy backgrounds with pinstripes, and though these threads followed their consecutive championships in 1994 and 1995, they were still worn by a host of all-time greats.
Plus, they had continuity. Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Barkley all donned these uniforms in the lat 1990s, with the likes of Francis and Yao Ming also sporting the look in the early 2000s.
There is an added element of uniqueness to these threads because they also featured numbers in the top left corner of the jersey, rather than in the center or bottom right
The font and style of the uniforms make this one a classic, and the conceptual element of the rocket ship taking off around the logo is the icing on the cake.