Why NBA throwback jerseys are a case of “Back to the Future”

nba throwback jersey uniforms

NBA Throwback Jerseys

In recent years, the NBA has really begun to influence off-court style and culture. The influence comes from the focus on players and the way they dress before and after the games. On the other hand, on-court style was usually limited to shoes and accessories (like headbands, sleeves and socks). For some reason or another, Jerseys have always been popular, but were limited to in terms of when and where you could wear them. There seems to be a shift in the last several years as alternate designed uniforms have been introduced by Nike, and Adidas before them.

Throwbacks Jerseys Aren’t Just About Being a Fan

The NBA jerseys that seem to have the most crossover appeal are throwback jerseys, or uniforms that are from a different NBA era. These retro/vintage jerseys can be from just a decade or from a generation ago. Mitchell & Ness, one of the official partners of the NBA, helped to bring back throwbacks with their “Hardwood Classics line of jerseys, hats, and other gear. Not only do they feature retroactive designs of current franchises, but throwbacks also include franchises that are no longer found in the city or state they originated or no longer active such as the Vancouver Grizzles, Minneapolis Lakers, Buffalo Braves, Fort Wayne Pistons, and Seattle Supersonics.

It’s true that the throwbacks worn by fans generally follow the teams and players they love in the current era, but because throwbacks’ designs are radically different than the current jersey styles and because they’re from a different era, you’ll catch a Los Angeles Laker fan wearing a Larry Bird jersey while playing ball in Laguna Beach. It’s more a respect for the player itself, or they simply love the jersey’s style. Or a New York Knicks fan wearing a Brooklyn Nets jersey while NJ sports betting in the state of their previous incarnation (New Jersey, it’s complicated).

When it comes to throwback and vintage jerseys, there are leanings toward a fan’s favorite team, but the line has blurred between fandom and fashion.

The 1990s

Sometimes jerseys are universally accepted out of the gate (like the Miami Heat’s “Miami Vice” City Uniforms), while other on-court jerseys aren’t always recognized for their style and design in the era they were introduced in. Throwback jerseys from the 1990’s era are a prime example of this.

The mid to late-1990;s ushered in a lot of bold choices (and franchise names… the Toronto Raptors) that put the team mascots front and center. They were criticized from nearly all fronts back in the day and taken for granted by the fans of that era. Even a decade later, they were still seen by many as gaudy, cartoonish, wild, unpolished, and too much technicolor. Fast forward 20 years of later, those same uniforms are not only considered in style, but rank among the best NBA jerseys in the history of the league.

From a huge deer on the Milwaukee Bucks’ jerseys, pinstripe jerseys for the Shaquille O’Neal era Orlando Magic and Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers, to a neon blue Detroit Pistons uniform with horsepower, the 90s also had unofficial names for many of the jerseys that came out during that time.

Team Introduced Jersey Description
Atlanta Hawks 1990s Flying Hawk jersey
Chicago Bulls 1990s Black pinstripe jersey
Detroit Pistons 1990s Teal horse jerseys
Houston Rockets 1990s Pinstripe rocket jersey
Indiana Pacers 1990s Pacers pinstripe jersey
Milwaukee Bucks 1990s Deer throwback jersey
Minnesota Timberwolves 1990s Black and green "pine tree" jerseys
Toronto Raptors 1990s Purple dinosaur jerseys
Utah Jazz 1990s Purple mountain jerseys

The 1990’s really upped the color choices from the relatively-boring uniform choices of the 1980s. Odds are if you had a mascot that was a tangible person, place or thing, it was proudly emblazoned across the front of the jersey.