The King was letting his basketball do the talking.
Things were better in the 90s right? Everyone was supposedly getting richer and richer, we had a slightly less lecherous white man in the White House and The Simpsons team were churning out classic episode after classic episode.
The 90s were also the golden age of the NBA jersey. Never before or since have we seen such a dazzling array of sublime, ridiculous and down right insane designs. From the Nets’ velour spearmint look of the early 90s to Utah’s glorious purple rockies get up, worn to consecutive NBA finals, the NBA uniforms of the 90s are a window into a decade of glorious excess.
Here are some of the best.
Atlanta Hawks 1995-99
In the 90s the NBA went crazy for oversized logos. Nobody took this more to heart than the Atlanta Hawks who’s uniforms were dominated by an enormous red hawk clutching a golden basketball in it’s talons.
Imagine driving into the lane only to see Dikembe Mutombo, a screeching hawk emblazoned on his chest, swooping across to reject your shot or possibly tear your heart out.
This Hawks jersey ticks all the boxes for 90s excess. Ridiculously large logo, check. Stylised cartoon lettering, check. Garish colours which make your head hurt, check.
10 out of 10 for effort lads.
Charlotte Hornets 1986-96
Teal was king in the 90s. Never again will this colour see a renaissance on the same scale. The Hornets rocked this misunderstood shade of blue for a full decade to great effect.
Arguably Charlotte missed a trick by not having a monstrous hornet incorporated into the design a la Milwaukee or Atlanta, but you have to give credit to a jersey that made so many teenagers wear so much teal.
It is perhaps one of the greatest travesties in NBA history that we never got to see Kobe head to toe in teal after he was traded to Lakers on draft night.
Guess he looked fine in purple and gold.
Toronto Raptors 1995-99
If you were to name an NBA franchise the Raptors and not have a logo featuring a velociraptor bouncing a basketball you would need to take a long hard look in the mirror and reassess your priorities in life.
Fortunately, in 1995, the marketing team at the newly formed Toronto Raptors took the view that any small boy would. Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs!
The result was possibly the most insane logo in the history of professional sports. However, when that red raptor was combined with a deep purple backdrop those jerseys looked damn good and Vince Carter looked damn good dunking in them.
Utah Jazz 1996-2004
There is no team in sports with a more inappropriate name than the Utah Jazz. It is probably impossible to get further away from Jazz’s historical heartland than the mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City.
It is perhaps not surprising then that Utah’s finest jerseys have featured what Utah is famous for, i.e not jazz. Thankfully it’s not multiple brides either but instead the glorious Rocky Mountains.
The sight of John Stockton and Karl Malone running pick and rolls in those royal purple uniforms with majestic snow-capped rockies across their chests was one of the great sights of 90s basketball.
In my opinion one of the great injustices in basketball, nay life, is that John and Karl were defeated not once but twice by some guy called Michael Jordan wearing a painfully dull red strip.
If the 97 and 98 Finals had been decided on attire alone rather than skill with a basketball we might have a very different view of NBA history.
Maybe we look back on 90s jerseys with such fondness because they represent a very selective type of nostalgia where we focus on the great cultural icons of the era without any of the negative aspects of the decade. M
aybe it’s because jerseys in the 90s were genuinely more fun and iconic. Or maybe it’s just because we always think stuff that happened 20 years ago was somehow more culturally significant.
What is undeniable is that there are some awesome jerseys from the 90s that will be remembered fondly for many more decades to come.