The concept of the “alternate” jersey is still a fairly young one, but it has become big business in pro sports. While the MLB, NHL, and even the NFL have jumped feet first into the trend, no league has utilized it more than the NBA.
At the, forgive the pun, turnover rate of alternate jerseys in the league, each team will probably wear 10 different styles a season soon. Outside of the standard home and away jerseys, teams have worn holiday themed, military themed, international themed, throwbacks, sleeved, even environmental themed jerseys, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This season Nike and the NBA introduced the “City Edition” alternate jerseys, and honestly… I kinda wanna own every single one of them, so I can’t even fault the league for going overboard.
Here’s the thing – when you introduce so many different styles year in and year out, you’re gonna miss on a lot of them. Some are going to be liked, some are going to be hated, and some are going to be flat out forgotten about.
So without further ado, here are some forgotten jerseys, some jerseys that shouldn’t be forgotten and some that fans wish they could forget.
21 Detroit Pistons
I hope I don’t sound hyperbolic when I say, “this is one of the worst jerseys of all time,” but this… this is one of the worst jerseys of all time. I’m sure you remember that bad turquoise (I think?) jersey the Pistons wore during the Grant Hill era, but what about the red alternates? The horse logo combined with the color scheme really was a big swing and a miss. Outside of this little detour, the Pistons franchise have been pretty conservative with their stylistic choices over the years, so maybe we can just forget these ever existed if we try.
20 New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets
Let’s face it, the Nets have had some boring jerseys since moving across state lines in 2012. I’m sure plenty of people appreciate the simplicity of the black and white, but I personally think they’re instantly forgettable. With that said, they’re a vast improvement over what the New Jersey Nets wore in their heyday. I can’t recall a single aesthetically pleasing Nets jersey, but the worst of the worst had to be the jerseys from the Jason Kidd era. While the grey and blue official jerseys were bad, I was just reminded that the alternate red jerseys may have been even worse. The Nets definitely did not need that… new jersey. Sorry.
19 Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets
At this point I wouldn’t be shocked if most people outside of Charlotte forgot the Bobcats were even a thing. Here’s an example of the NBA’s “Go Green” campaign. The Bobcats wore these in 2009-10, and while it’s a completely forgettable jersey, it may have been the nicest one they ever wore. In their decade of existence, I can’t recall a single nice Bobcats jersey. With all due respect to the WNBA, the Bobcats always felt and looked like a WNBA team and had a strange color scheme. While the “green week” jersey was generic, it was at least decent looking.
18 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are a franchise who have basically always had one of the worst jerseys in the league. In 2008-09 the Cavs wore this “Cavfanatic” uniform, which was dedicated to an online community of Cavaliers supporters. You never see this jersey in pictures. I forgot it even existed, and it’s a shame because it’s pretty damn dope. It’s a play on a Hardwood Classic jersey from the team’s past with a different color scheme and I really dig the light blue. I wonder how many of these got burnt to a crisp when LeBron took his talents to South Beach.
17 Dallas Mavericks
I hope you’ve forgotten these. If you have, I apologize for burning them back into your conscious. The “trash bag” Mavs uniform from 2003-04 was much maligned at the time, and I honestly think it’s one of the all-time worst NBA jerseys. The shiny look never really took off in the NBA, thankfully. Some teams dabbled in it, but it never looked right. These looked like something you’d find on a discount rack at Foot Locker, and for some reason they always seemed baggier than usual. If that wasn’t bad enough, grey was just never a good color for the Mavs either. Just try to forget this jersey going forward.
16 Denver Nuggets
Not all forgotten jerseys are bad-looking… well, at least in my opinion. These throwback homages that the Nuggets wore for a few seasons seem to be pretty hit or miss on the internet. I think they’re kinda brilliant. They were a nice riff on the iconic Denver skyline jerseys without being a total copy. Sure, you lose the rainbow, but I actually didn’t mind the yellow heavy color scheme. The Nuggets are a franchise that always takes chances with their jerseys and I almost always appreciate what they put out. They’re calling back to the skyline look with their city jerseys this season, and it’s brilliant.
15 Golden State Warriors
The Warriors wore these orange alternates for five seasons and I’m just gonna admit it, I forgot them. I guess I just didn’t pay much mind to the pre-dynasty, Baron Davis/Monta Ellis era of Golden State basketball. I’m torn on whether or not I like these. When I think of the Warriors, I think blue and yellow, so the orange is throwing me off. All things considered, the orange isn’t too bad. I’ve seen plenty worse. It’s a shame I forgot about this jersey despite having the “And 1” looking dude with the lightning bolt logo of that era permanently stamped in my brain.
14 Memphis Grizzlies
Let’s go international, shall we? During the 2007-08 season a few teams went over to Spain for the NBA Europe Live Tour. Some teams made minor alterations to their uniforms, but the Grizzlies ended up looking the worst. They added the colors of Spain’s flag to their road jerseys, and it just didn’t look right. It was a cool idea and a nice gesture, but the yellow and red mixed with the navy and powder blue of their jerseys was an eyesore. They only wore these a couple times, so they’re easily forgotten. Plus, it’s the Grizzlies… I bet you forget they’re still in the league sometimes.
13 Toronto Raptors
On the other hand, we have the Raptors, who wore this Italian inspired jersey during the 2007-08 season. The Raps wore them to Italy, but also during an NBA game later that year. These were a lot cleaner looking than the Grizzlies’ attempt. Instead of blasting their jersey with Italy’s colors, they just added two sleek little stripes of red and green down the side. The jersey wasn’t a massive change, and may be a little boring overall, but it did have a – dare I say – Italian elegance to it. Remember this was one season removed from Toronto taking Italian “star,” Andrea Bargnani first overall in the draft, so I bet they did well sales-wise.
12 Milwaukee Bucks
There was nothing to fear about this deer. Man, the '90s had some bad jerseys. These cheap, almost screen print looking Bucks jerseys were some of the worst of that era for sure. Putting the team logo on jerseys like that just never looked right and while it may have been cool to some at the time, that aesthetic has aged terribly. For some reason they threw back to these a few times in the 2000s too. These alternates were a pretty radical departure from the Bucks home and away jerseys of that era, so I can imagine some people having memories of them, but it’s probably best we let those memories die.
11 Philadelphia 76ers
If you thought the buck looked bad, here’s another classic example of the '90s. These were technically road jerseys, so they were worn way more often than most jerseys mentioned, but they are just too ridiculous to leave out. I hope people have forgotten these, but I suspect you have a bunch of old Charles Barkley cards that won’t let you. The white home jerseys were only slightly better. Slightly. Even the authentic ones that the pros wore looked like the cheap Champion replicas we all had as kids. The shooting star motif is easily one of the ugliest design choices in NBA history.
10 Orlando Magic
OK, so I’m cheating again with these Magic road jerseys, but they only wore them a couple seasons, so I suspect they’re not all that memorable. They don’t look too out of the ordinary until you get close and notice the star pattern all over the jerseys (AGAIN with the stars!) There were already two stars in the Magic logo printed across the front, why would they need to do a tacky “all over” star design? These looked like cheap knockoffs that were sold exclusively in Magic Kingdom gift shops or something. I like to think the Magic had enough nice uniforms over the years to wipe this one from your memory.
9 Sacramento Kings
You ever see pics of those “undecided” fans who show up at a big rivalry game with a jersey from each team sewn together? The Kings apparently decided to do that… with themselves. For two seasons – and later as a throwback – the Kings wore these. Not only were the jerseys split between black and purple, they weren’t even split evenly. I’m sure Sac-Town fans with O.C.D. hated that. The design down the side was also a ridiculous touch making this one of the weirdest jerseys of the era. Honestly, these are so bad-looking that I think I kinda like 'em. I guess they knew what they were doing.
8 Sacramento Kings Pt. 2
My apologies to the Kings for the second inclusion, but they just had too many doozies to choose from. In the 2000s a few teams decided gold jerseys would be a good look. When I say “gold” I don’t mean the yellow color people often cite as gold, I’m talking full blown Larry O’Brien Trophy gold. Amusingly, no team who ever came close to holding said trophy wore these fashion faux-pas. I get this was probably a play on some kind of royalty gimmick, but these jerseys were weak! Sacramento rocked these alts for two years before retiring them, which was two seasons too many.
7 Washington Wizards
Let’s stay on the gold train for one more entry. These wild Wizards jerseys are so bizarre, they actually sum up the Gilbert Arenas era in Washington pretty perfectly. While they only lasted a couple years, they were smack dab in Arenas’s heyday, and it was only fitting that they retired the look right before he left town. These jerseys were like an amalgamation of the Magic and Kings entries with the weird gold sheen, plus unnecessary stars in random places. The black shorts offset the tanks a little, but there was little anything could have done to help these.
6 Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder
Sorry to remind you Washington residents about the team that got away, but does anyone remember when the Sonics became the Pacers? I sure didn’t. I do remember the Sonics rocking some weird red alternates in the late nineties, but after a short third jersey break, they came back with these bad boys in the 2004-05 season. They were basically an inverse of the last road jerseys in Sonics history, and as you can see, only a few franchises can really pull yellow off as the primary color. It’s still strange to see K.D. in any Sonics jersey, let alone this yellow mistake. Maybe they should have tried gold.
5 New York Knicks
These hit a little close to home for me, but I think most people tend to forget the “let’s randomly add black to our jerseys” era of Knicks basketball. Quite frankly, at this point I think most people have just forgotten the Knicks were ever a competitive basketball team. The Knicks decided to just slap black on their standards in the late '90s, and I loathed everything about it. This was a time in pro sports where a lot of teams did this, and you’d be hard pressed to find one that really pulled it off well. All that said, the Knicks have had fairly boring uniforms their entire existence, so at least they tried something.
4 Utah Jazz
Utah seems to have had a bit of an identity crisis since the Malone and Stockton era. The Jazz basically change their look and color scheme every few years, so you may not have remembered these fresh powder blue alternates they wore in the mid to late 2000s. While I’m not a fan of the Jazz font without the musical note “J,” I am a sucker for powder blue. I do think the changeover to green alternates was a successful one, but these deserve some praise as well. Still, no matter what color they land on, I’ll always associate the Jazz with purple.
3 Phoenix Suns
We’ve reached the T-shirt Jersey portion of the article. These never made sense. There’s no doubt they were a pain in the neck to play in – LeBron himself told us that, despite inexplicably winning a title wearing one – but I’ll admit, a lot of them were still pretty nice. These Suns jerseys were anything but nice. They basically looked like the designer stopped midway. There’s just something completely off here. I’m no expert, but I can’t help but feel like there needed to be some colored piping somewhere on these things. The Suns wore these for two seasons before moving on to a nicer upgrade.
2 Chicago Bulls
Look, those Suns jerseys are bad, but at least they make sense color-wise. There’s one gimmick in pro sports that always kinda bugged me, and that’s Chicago’s insistence on rocking the green jerseys. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a good environmental meaning behind it these days, but the Bulls have always worn green for St. Patrick’s Day. Do you recall the Celt… excuse me, the Bulls wearing these green t-shirts? Those were from 2014, but they just don’t look right. The Chicago bulls are red. They’ve always been red, and they should always be red. In fairness, they’re kinda nice… unlike what they wore a year earlier.
1 Bonus - Christmas Day 2013
I was going to single out the Bulls in this entry, but figured I should just go after the entire league for these. On Christmas Day 2013, the NBA pushed their hardest to make sleeved jerseys a mainstay. The thing is, these jerseys will probably go down as the worst of their kind, and probably the most forgettable. There’s just something about a big centralized logo on a basketball jersey that cheapens the look. No team looked nice that day. It’s a good thing the NBA finally realized no one wanted to play basketball in cheap baseball batting practice style jerseys. I highly doubt there were many of these wrapped under the tree that year.