Some excellent uniforms have graced the NBA over the course of basketball history. While franchises like the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Lakers haven’t changed the look of their jerseys much over the last few decades — benefitting from a consistent look in a large market — others have done well attracting fans with outrageous and creative uniforms. New uniforms can be somewhat hit or miss, but when they’re good, they’re very good. Here are the 10 best uniforms in NBA history.
1. Charlotte Hornets, 1988–2002
These were the original uniforms of the Charlotte Hornets and they went largely unchanged for the entire existence of the franchise, prior to the team moving to New Orleans. The uniforms, along with the unique floor design on the court and the nickname of the arena — The Hive — created a sense of hometown pride in the team. This, plus the fact that such great players as Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Dell Curry, and Glen Rice all wore the uniform.
2. Toronto Raptors, 1995–99
When the Toronto Raptors joined the NBA in 1995, they arrived with unique purple uniforms sporting the picture of a cartoon dinosaur on the front. It was perfect timing, playing off of the popularity of the Jurassic Park franchise. They only wore the uniforms for the first few years of franchise history before transitioning to something a bit more simplistic, but they were around long enough for good players such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Damon Stoudamire.
3. Golden State Warriors, 1997–2003
Back in 1997, the Golden State Warriors moved former star forward Chris Mullin to the Indiana Pacers in an attempt to rebuild. They also unveiled new, more exciting uniforms with “Warriors” spelled out with a snazzy lightning bolt over the top. It was a nice change from the old, boring uniforms that were just plain blue and white with yellow trim on the lettering. They only wore the uniforms for a few years, but such basketball magnates as Muggsy Bogues, John Starks, Antawn Jamison, and Baron Davis wore them.
4. Denver Nuggets, 1982–93
One of the more interesting, unique uniforms in the history of the NBA is the one that Denver Nuggets wore in the ’80s and early ’90s. They featured the silhouette of Denver’s skyline on the front with the Rocky Mountains in the background. The uniforms themselves were blue, with rainbow stripes on the shorts and over the middle of the jersey. Nuggets greats such as Alex English, Fat Lever, Danny Schayes, and Michael Adams donned them.
5. Indiana Pacers, 1997–2005
The Indiana Pacers missed the playoffs in 1996–97. Going into the next season they’d improved their roster and brought in basketball legend Larry Bird as their head coach. So they went ahead and updated their duds, from a dark blue uniform with a white and yellow racing stripe down the right side to a navy blue uniform with yellow pinstripes. The Pacers wore these jerseys on their only trip to the NBA finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999–00. Key players who wore them include Reggie Miller, Rick Smits, Jalen Rose, Ron Artest, and Danny Granger.
6. Vancouver Grizzlies, 1995–2001
When the NBA expanded and added the Toronto Raptors in 1995, the Vancouver Grizzlies came into the league along with them. While the Raptors have gained popularity and hung around, the Grizzlies weren’t so lucky — only lasting six seasons before relocating to Memphis. But they had awesome, teal uniforms with an interesting trim around the arms and neck. When the team moved, they changed to something more traditional. But nothing compares to those Vancouver uniforms worn by Bryant Reeves, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Mike Bibby.
7. Orlando Magic, 1989–98
It’s curious why the Orlando Magic ever stopped wearing their uniforms from the early years of the franchise. They were white for the home uniforms and blue or black for the road jerseys, with pinstripes and the word “Orlando” spelled out on the front with a star replacing the “a” in the middle of the word. Those uniforms were a thing of beauty, but the franchise eventually replaced them after seeing the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, and Mark Price wear them.
8. Phoenix Suns, 1992–2000
When the Phoenix Suns acquired forward Charles Barkley from the Philadelphia 76ers, they became true contenders in the Western Conference. They also changed to a much cooler uniform, from a dark purple with the word “Phoenix” showcased in orange to a slightly lighter purple, with an orange basketball with sun–like rays shooting across the front. They were classic jerseys, and some of the very best ever worn. Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion all wore them.
9. Utah Jazz, 1996–2004
Heading into the 1996–97 season, the Utah Jazz ditched their old dark purple uniforms with yellow lettering — and the cool musical note in place of the “J” in Jazz — for even cooler jerseys. They went with more of a royal blue with white, snowcapped mountains and the word “Jazz” displayed like a sled going down the front of the mountain. They wore the uniforms all the way through the end of the era, seeing Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, and Andre Kirilenko were the jersey.
10. Seattle Supersonics, 1995–2001
Although they’re sadly no longer a franchise, the Seattle Supersonics had one of the coolest uniforms of all time. In the mid-1990s, when the Sonics were one of the best teams in the NBA, they departed from their traditional green uniforms in favor of a darker green. The word “Sonics” was written across the front, slightly tilted, in dark red and white lettering that appeared in such a way to make it look 3D. Those jerseys were worn through a highly competitive era in Sonics history, seeing Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Hersey Hawkins, Vin Baker, and Rashard Lewis all wear one.