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The NBA is likely the most fashionable sports league in the world. From the bombastic styles of Dennis Rodman and Russell Westbrook to the understated looks of Tim Duncan, the intersection between the NBA and fashion has always been prominent.
Basketball players are the most visible players in the world with not more than a jersey, sneakers, and shorts for them to wear when they take the court. Their attitudes and style permeate off the court and draw some of the biggest celebrity fans from Jack Nicholson to Drake.
Most famously, the jerseys that teams don when they are on the court are likely the first thing that fans take note of when they are first drawn to the game. The kingly gold of the Los Angeles Lakers, the historical green and white of the Boston Celtics, even the purple and silver of the young Toronto Raptors all have their adoring fans based on jersey alone.
Jerseys have their own history, from tight tank tops and three-inch inseam shorts of the 1970s to the oversized everything of the 2000s, the NBA has acknowledged its impact on athletic fashion and continually aimed to grow their look.
With Nike taking over manufacturing duties and their implementation of more jerseys than ever per team, we take a look at some the best NBA jerseys of all-time. There are 30 teams in today’s NBA, so let’s start counting down the top 30 NBA jerseys of all-time!
If you want to see more cool jerseys, take a look at the Top 20 best Premier League Jerseys of All Time.
The Toronto Raptors win the 30th spot in this list, despite this jersey having been worn for only one season and after the All-Star break. These “Earned” jerseys, a red and white play on their Drake-partnered OVO jerseys, were worn during the crucial series where the Toronto Raptors made history by winning their first-ever NBA Championship. They were also the first non-American franchise to ever win the NBA Championship.
Notable Wearers: Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam
The Golden State Warriors were a laughingstock for most of the 2000s. Save for some small batches of success with the “We Believe” Warriors, Golden State only found their legs in the modern game with the breakout of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
With a modern take on the San Francisco Warriors’ “The City” jerseys, their modern iteration is synonymous with the era of the Splash Brothers.
Notable Wearers: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant
The Los Angeles Lakers were the sole franchise to not wear white at home for a number of years. However, wanting to be a part of tradition without ruining their own, the Lakers took to wearing a white colorway on Sundays. It is also what was worn during Kobe Bryant’s epic 81-point performance.
Notable Wearers: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol
The Brooklyn Nets had a massive task ahead of them when they took on the legacy of their predecessor the New Jersey Nets. With part-owner Jay-Z’s input, their move to a black and white colourway with a simple yet iconic font showed off the subtle swag of the neighborhood and ownership.
Notable Wearers: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant
The Memphis Grizzlies made a name for themselves in the mid-2000s due to their old yet effective style of play. These jerseys symbolized a team that kept old traditions alive, with bruising big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol epitomizing the “Grit-N-Grind” Grizzlies.
Notable Wearers: Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley
If you’re of a certain age you likely don’t remember the second Canadian franchise in the NBA, the Vancouver Grizzlies. Despite their lack of longevity as a franchise, their away jersey remains in the consciousness of the fans. With a unique teal colour scheme, a balloon font, and an artistic homage to Haida culture, the NBA world was glad to see their legacy the Memphis Grizzlies bring them back for their 25th anniversary.
Notable Wearers: Mike Bibby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ja Morant
The Minnesota Timberwolves were, for a long time, an afterthought in the NBA. A less than a notable team with little professional success was brought into the league’s consciousness with the introduction of the timeless Kevin Garnett. With a wolfish font and trees adorning the edging of the jersey, these unique kits were worn during the teams best times.
Notable Wearers: Kevin Garnett, Sam Mitchell, Latrell Sprewell
While these jerseys didn’t join the public consciousness until the last season of their use, there is little more iconic than Michael Jordan winning the dunk contest in this kit. With an understated number, “Chicago” in bold cursive, and a bold red, this look represents Jordan’s coming out party as a true star.
Notable Wearers: Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley, George Gervin
These jerseys didn’t last long in Sacramento, but it inspired the regal tradition of the Sacramento Kings’ purple jerseys. Coming off of a lockout season and teamed with one of the league’s most dangerous rosters, these jerseys represented one of the Western Conferences true powers.
Notable Wearers: Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic
In 1984 the Utah Jazz returned to their New Orleans roots by switching their road look back to purple from the green. It also coincided with the emergence of all-time greats Karl Malone and John Stockton. Such a crowd-pleaser, the Utah Jazz have worn a jersey inspired by this classic style in 2019.
Notable Wearers: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Mark Eaton
The Portland Trail Blazers only found championship success in the 1970s led by Bill Walton. However, their introduction of the iconic diagonal stripes maintains to this day. While there have been some changes to the font on their chest, the classic Blazers stripe remains iconic to this day.
Notable Wearers: Clyde Drexler, Arvydas Sabonis, Brandon Roy, Damian Lillard
The Phoenix Suns chose a colour palette that represented its unique Arizona atmosphere. Purple, orange, and black can be a tough combination to pull off, but with MVP Charles Barkley in the kits, it turned out to be an easy sell. A small easter egg, the “Suns” logo emblazoned on the chest was able to be read upside down, in order to represent the sunrise and set.
Notable Wearers: Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson
The Charlotte Hornets aren’t the most popular NBA franchise, but their combination of exciting play and unique players sold this fantastic teal kit. Not a colour usually associated with the state or a hornet, the bold colours worn by their muscle-bound frontcourt is probably the best thing in the franchise’s history.
Notable Wearers: Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues
With the emergence of a young Reggie Miller came one of the most unique stories of an NBA jerseys introduction. Via a tip from an intern, former Olympian Florence Joyner was chosen to rebrand the Pacers. Inspired by the racing culture in Indiana, the uniquely angular “Flo-Jo” jerseys are truly iconic.
Notable Wearers: Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Detlef Schrempf
These jerseys came and went with NBA legend Dominique Wilkins. Known for his rim-rocking dunks and two-way ability on the court, these jerseys became synonymous with Wilkins. Highlighting the “HAWKS” logo on the chest with a white swoop backing it ensured you knew who you were supporting.
Notable Wearers: Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Doc Rivers
Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich famously said, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion!” Great words from a great coach from a great team. The Houston Rockets won back-to-back championships in these jerseys, owing to some legendary players.
One of the basketballs most iconic moves “The Dream Shake” was made famous by all-time great Hakeem Olajuwon. After defeating some of the NBA’s greatest, the Rockets made these jerseys forever associated with championship success.
Notable Wearers: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Moses Malone
The Philadelphia 76ers are a storied franchise, but their play and look during the 2000s endeared a number of fans. Their jerseys, their away jerseys, in particular, were uniquely bright. Quite literally, the fabric had a unique shine to it that separated it from any other in league history.
With the incredible play of Allen Iverson, who inspired a number of players to this day, this jersey turned what was a design risk into one of the most memorable in the history of the league.
Notable Wearers: Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, Andre Iguodala
The Detroit Pistons may not be in the leagues sexiest city, but that didn’t matter to the Isiah Thomas-led Bad Boy Pistons. A no-nonsense blue and red colorway for a blue-collar town, the Pistons appealed to those who didn’t want them stuck up the legacy of the Celtics or Lakers.
These are the jerseys that come to mind when someone mentions the Bad Boys. In these kits, the Pistons single-handedly laid a beatdown on the entire NBA to the point that fouling rules had to be reviewed. That’s a legacy if there is one.
Notable Wearers: Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman
The New York Knicks might be starved for success as a franchise, but their classic look is one of the most iconic in the league’s history. With only a small break in style during the early 80s, the Knicks wore their blue and orange kit for almost three decades.
One of the leagues most visible markets, the New York Knicks’ jerseys benefit from more exposure than most. Nevertheless, iconic players and performances only boost the status of this jersey. Were the Knicks more successful, these likely would’ve cracked the top ten.
Notable Wearers: Patrick Ewing, Clyde Frazier, Earl Monroe
In a way, the San Antonio Spurs’ jerseys represent the Spurs’ management, coaching, and playstyle better than any other team. Taking some inspiration from their home city with a spur replacing the “U” in their chest logo, their jersey doesn’t have much to it.
The San Antonio Spurs’ black and white uniforms are plain, to the point, and has no frills. Simple stripes adorn the edges with the only visual interest coming from its silver outlines. Much like longtime head coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs jerseys are functional and representative of a conservative and pragmatic approach to style and basketball.
Notable Wearers: Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
The Miami Heat has always been a “destination” franchise. Despite having more than a few championships to their name, the Heat have generally been a bridesmaid franchise circled on the calendar for vacation rather than a tough game.
Their Vice City jerseys have fully embraced the culture of Miami. Taking inspiration from their neon skyline, electric color palette, and unique bravery to wear pink not seen across the NBA, these Vice City jerseys areas “Miami” as it gets. Its marriage between city-culture and on-court style is what makes it the tenth greatest NBA jersey of all-time.
Notable Wearers: Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Udonis Haslem
While Jack Sikma is a pioneer, Seattle’s dynamic duo of The Glove and the Rain Man really made the Sonics jerseys stay in the public consciousness. Considering the franchise is now defunct, these jerseys can only live on in our memories.
Notable Wearers: Jack Sikma, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp
While the Washington Bullets are now known as the Washington Wizards, the Wizards’ current uniform is a homage to the success of their ’74-’87 predecessors. While current NBA rules prevent teams from reusing old jersey designs as their primary kits, it sends quite the message that the jerseys are as similar as they are.
With only a single championship to their city’s name in 1978, their half-striped, half-solid jerseys represent success. The All-American theme along with their home in the country’s capital certainly adds to the prestige.
Notable Wearers: Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Bob Dandridge
The Denver Nuggets made a bold statement when they redesigned their jerseys in the mid-80s. Sticking with the white and blue colorway, the Nuggets decided to relocate their front number to the chest in order to make room for a vibrant city skyline and rainbow.
Intended to represent their thriving and diverse city, the Nuggets thrilled fans as the statistically fastest team in the league during the 1980s. With incredible players like Alex English and Michael Adams flying up and down the court, it was a dazzling showcase of talent and colours.
Notable Wearers: Alex English, Michael Adams, Danny Schayes, Fat Lever
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
The Toronto Raptors’ debut jerseys during the 1995 season were incredibly polarizing. At the time it was a bold choice by early franchise management, hoping to cater to the younger audience through its association with Jurassic Park, rather than die-hard NBA fans.
While they received mostly negative reviews in the 1990s, prompting a style change at the start of the 1999-2000 season, no NBA jersey has aged more gracefully. Despite its early mockery, its Hardwood Classics edition, particularly Vince Carter’s, has been one of the leagues top-sellers since 2010.
Notable Wearers: Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan, Pascal Siakam
It’s been a long time since the Orlando Magic have been a relevant NBA franchise. However, during one of their most successful stints, they wore an iconic blue and pinstripe colourway made famous by one of the most dominant players in the league’s history.
Electric blue, with silver pinstripes, and a complementing silver star that replaced the “A” in their chest logo, the Magic had one of the few successful stripe-based jerseys. Being worn during the heyday of Shaq and Penny wasn’t a bad advertisement either.
Notable Wearers: Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson
The New Jersey Nets may have moved to Brooklyn after almost 40 years, but their jerseys are still some of the most iconic in the history of the league. Due in no small part to the NBA’s first great star, Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
Erving dazzled audiences in the 70s with his high-flying antics, superstar presence, and iconic afro haircut. They never won a championship in New Jersey, but the sheer patriotism and style of their kits have maintained for generations.
Notable Wearers: Julius Erving, Bernard King, Billy Paltz
Most NBA teams experience a redesign every few seasons. The Boston Celtics on the other hand, have relied on their legendary success and maintained their classic uniforms for 42 years. Even then, the Celtics’ change in style was incredibly subtle.
In order to better represent the city, the Celtics merely changed the name on their chest from “Celtics” to “Boston”. With 17 NBA Championships to their name, the Boston Celtics have some right to a bit of jersey superstition.
Notable Wearers: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
Sometimes in NBA history, a jersey can outlive the majority of players that wear it. The Chicago Bulls jersey has largely remained unchanged since the arrival of a single player, Michael Jordan. The legacy of success that Jordan left with the Bulls is the main reason their jerseys remain, even today.
The team has seen some ups and downs since Jordan left the franchise, but with the global reach that Jordan had during his prime days as a Bull, these jerseys may be one of, if not the NBA’s most famous.
Notable Wearers: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman
There are few jerseys in professional sports that maintain true legendary status. You could think of the New York Yankees, the Oakland Raiders, even the Boston Celtics. But when it comes to fame, prestige, and longevity, the prize goes to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Their purple and gold style colorway is truly iconic. Made famous by the Showtime Lakers, lead by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy, the Lakers kept the league relevant during a time when its future was up for debate. Its wearers are some of the greatest to ever play. From Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant, to LeBron James, the Lakers’ home jersey is a symbol of success.
Despite some low moments, LA’s golden jerseys represent the richness of their history. They are the greatest jersey in NBA history.
Notable Wearers: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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