NBA teams routinely rebrand to better market themselves. The NBA’s a business, and teams have opportunities to sell more appeal if they re-brand themselves. Over the years, some teams have really nailed their jersey choices, while other teams have failed time and time again. Branding the team might not seem like a huge deal, but it really makes a major difference.
Fans won’t buy a jersey unless it looks good. Aside from the financial gains of choosing a great jersey design, there’s an identity approach to NBA teams choosing what type of team they will embrace. Clothes tell everything about someone’s personality, and sport uniforms aren’t any different. Marketing directors meet after hours and hours of research. What jersey best fits this team? What jersey best fits this city? Teams like the Lakers, Bulls and Celtics have had too much success to fathom in the NBA, which means those three teams, have a strong following. People buy jerseys, t-shirts and hats with their logos on it. It’s much harder to brand for a team that hasn’t had success at all, especially a team like Sacramento who has been around for a little while now but consistently rank towards the bottom in the NBA standings. It cannot be an easy job, deciding what uniforms bad teams should wear. That’s why, specifically with teams who haven’t been good in the past handful of years, teams take chances on some questionable jersey decisions. Some home jerseys work better than the away ones, while some away ones look sharper than home jerseys.
This exercise goes through the best and worst home and away NBA jerseys, so if one team has a fire home jersey, but a road jersey that couldn’t sell even if it was DeMarcus Cousins’, than that team doesn’t have the best NBA jerseys. This list only includes home and away jerseys. Some teams with terrible home and away jerseys sometimes wear dope alternates, but more times than not the team wears home and away.
15 Best - Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks rebranded recently. Milwaukee experienced new ownership and an influx of new talent. It’s easy to build a brand when Giannis Antetokounmpo plays for your team. Milwaukee’s home jerseys are super clean with BUCKS written across the chest. Hunter green outlines the white jersey, which helps the jersey look even better. As nice as the home jerseys, the away ones might be nicer. Instead of BUCKS, MILWAUKEE is written on the chest in white. The jersey’s hunter green and has a wine color boarding the jersey. Green isn’t for everyone, but the Bucks smartly use it in their jerseys. Before the Bucks had years with red jerseys, but Milwaukee was smart to stick with green and white this time around. It’s an all-around pleasant viewing experience whenever Milwaukee plays, no matter if home or away.
14 Worst - Dallas Mavericks
It’s not the Mavericks fault. Dallas has had some incredible moments this century, specifically beating LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki is a classy a player in NBA history. Their uniforms, however, have grown stale. Since winning the title, the Mavericks have been steady, but there’s nothing too exciting about them. Dallas has one of the best coaches in the NBA. They play smart and tough, and that’s an admirable way to build a team. But the Mavericks badly need a young star player to build around, and create a new identity. Some of the best jerseys in the past come from the Dallas Mavericks, but sadly the current jerseys rank near the bottom of NBA uniforms.
13 Best - Philadelphia 76ers
How does a team make a good jersey when they’re the worst team in basketball? Philadelphia had to re-brand a couple years ago, and they absolutely nailed it. Philadelphia’s a basketball city. The 76ers have had more successes than failures throughout the years. The new jerseys fit the classic 76ers to a tea. Both home and away have PHILA written across the front and stars on the sides. It’s a real sharp-looking jersey. Over the years, Philadelphia has had some really great jerseys, but in the mid to late 2000s the jerseys really stunk. In the post-Iverson era, Philly tried to stand out with some rash jersey choices, but smartly went back to the glory days of Philadelphia basketball. These jerseys are fresh.
12 Worst - Atlanta Hawks
Maybe these jerseys will age better, but for right now… blah. In 2015 Atlanta revealed new jerseys, featuring a neon-type color for every number on home, away and alternate jerseys. Each jersey features a triangle pattern, which was bold for the team to do since it’s a rare decision. The Hawks, fresh off a 60-win season, thought it was the right time to re-brand, especially with new ownership. But Atlanta didn’t do a great job of making jerseys. Having ATLANTA written across the chest for both home and away jerseys was a nice touch, but the color pattern looks brutal. Players can sell jerseys, or at least make jersey’s more appealing, but unfortunately for Atlanta their best player, Paul Millsap isn’t marketable, even though he’s really, really good at basketball.
11 Best - Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte jerseys aren’t for everyone, but the color scheme work perfectly, in my opinion. The teal and purple mesh beautifully. The home jerseys, a solid white with a teal HORNETS written across the chest, also have purple numbers. It’s a daring decision, but one that works, especially given Charlotte’s nickname. The away jerseys might be more daring. The Hornets rock purple uniforms away from Charlotte with HORNETS written in teal across the chest. The jerseys work, and really embrace “Buzz City.” Charlotte re-branded in 2014 after strangely being named the Bobcats for years following their expansion. The Bobcats never worked in Charlotte. Maybe it would have been different if they had been better, because it never helps to brand a team if you don’t win games, but once the New Orleans changed names to the Pelicans, Charlotte made the right choose going back to their roots.
10 Worst - Orlando Magic
Orlando needs to re-brand badly. Orlando did release a new alternate jersey for this year, and it’s not terrible, but the standard jerseys remain unchanged. Orlando’s jerseys from the 90s were fantastic, and that’s probably because of Shaq and Penny Hardaway. Some of the cleanest throwback jerseys of all-time are those 1990s Orlando uniforms. But Orlando, being in Disney World, should currently have better jerseys. The jerseys just leave much to be desired. The potential is there, of course, given the unique name Orlando possesses, but they have to make it better whenever they decide to re-brand. The talent hasn't been in Orlando since Dwight Howard left. Serge Ibaka is probably Orlando's most marketable player, but he's not selling jerseys, especially as they currently look.
9 Best - Boston Celtics
Boston has been a fixture in the NBA since the beginning. Only the Lakers have more titles than Beantown. It's impossible to dislike the Celtics jerseys, unless you're a Laker fan. The white home jerseys have CELTICS written across the chest in green, while the green away uniforms have BOSTON written in white. It's classic. Boston doesn't have to market themselves because everyone knows what the team and city stands for. It makes the marketing team's job much easier, but that doesn't mean they have to get it right. Isaiah Thomas has been one of the NBA's most outstanding players, so NBA fans have flocked to grab Thomas's Boston jersey. But even before Thomas arrived and Rajon Rondo left, the Celtics sold jerseys, t-shirts and hats among the best in the league. Only eight teams sold more merchandise than Boston in 2014-2015.
8 Worst - Sacramento Kings
Sacramento hasn't made the playoffs in over a decade. The Kings appear to have a new head coach every year. The front office has had problems nearly every year. DeMarcus Cousins, however, remains one of the best 10 or so players in the world. But he's never played past mid-April. Similar to the Magic, the Kings had some great jerseys when the team was doing well in the early 2000s. But the jerseys looked fresh because of Jason Williams and Chris Webber. Players make the jerseys sometimes, and even though Cousins has been tearing up the league this season, the jersey doesn't look good in Sacramento. Both home and away jersey have KINGS written across the chest, which hasn't changed since the days of Vlade Divac tossing behind-the-back passes. The side of the jerseys also feature grey, which doesn't really work with the rest of the jersey.
7 Best - New York Knicks
New York hasn't been great over the years. It's been a while since they've challenged for championships. It might stay that way for a little while, but at least the Knicks look good on the court. Orange and Blue can be tricky. They go together, but sometimes it can feel forced. The white home uniforms are beautiful with NEW YORK written across the chest in solid orange but a blue boarder. It works perfect, honestly. The away blue ones look fantastic, too. It doesn't take a marketing genius to know how to profile the Knicks best players. Derrick Rose still gets love from fans all over the world even though he's not really good anymore. It happened during his end in Chicago, and so far this year in New York his jersey has sold fairly well. Last year Carmelo Anthony did not finish in the top 15 in jersey sales, but Kristaps Porzingis and Rose did.
6 Worst - Washington Wizards
Do better, Washington. The Wizards name needs major work, but that doesn't prevent them for making better jerseys. John Wall ranks near the top of every point guard list, but Washington's jerseys are just plain-old bad. He deserves better. The Wizard fans deserve better. The Wizards have several combinations of the same colors in their jerseys. Washington has plenty of red, white and blue, and that's a fine color scheme, but it feels too much at times. Take the road jersey, as an example. The top shoulder has blue, the middle has red with Washington written across the chest in white and then directly under there's a few-inch strip of white followed by more red. It just doesn't look good at all. Even if Washington doesn't change its name, at least the Wizards could have nicer jerseys.
5 Best - Golden State Warriors
The best team in basketball should have some of the best uniforms in basketball. Golden State could wear trash bags every game and those would still sell. The marketing team has an easy job in Golden State, but they really did a great job on the Warrior uniforms. The Warriors have plenty of jersey options, but let's focus on their home and away uniforms. Given the name Golden State, it's nice the Warrior jersey have a bridge in them. Most teams do not include images on their jerseys, so it's refreshing that Golden State does. It's really nice the jerseys have Golden State Warriors written on them because most teams either use their city or nickname, but not both together. The blue and gold is gorgeous, also. It's just a really well-done jersey, and it helps that Stephen Curry has won back-to-back MVPs, and that Kevin Durant signed there this summer.
4 Worst - Detroit Pistons
Back in the day, Detroit had some of the best jerseys in the business. The Pistons utilized teal and maroon like it was nobody's business. Detroit's away jerseys are blue with DETROIT written across the chest in red. Detroit hasn't really changed much since the Pistons won the NBA Finals over a decade ago. They haven't had much success on the court since then, either. The white jerseys have PISTONS written across the chest in red, and although it's a clean look, it doesn't get the job done as the outline goes from blue up top to red on the side. The Pistons do, however, have great Motor City alternate jerseys. The problem remains in Detroit's typical jerseys. The Pistons need a change as soon as possible. The uniform has grown stale.
3 Best - Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers historically have had great jerseys. The jerseys really embrace the city of Portland and the Blazers team. The RIP city alternates are great, but the white home jerseys and black road jerseys are equally as great. Let's start with the white home jerseys, featuring BLAZERS written across the chest in black. The font demonstrate flames off of a every letter. It's a really cool detail to include in the jerseys. Red outlines the jersey, and then red, black and grey stripes wrap around the jersey, slanting down from left to right. The away jerseys have a similar feel to them, but black instead. Without Seattle to compete against, the Blazers own the Pacific Northwest. Oregon has one professional team in the four major sports, and the state really rallies around the Blazers. What a great nickname and what beautiful jerseys.
2 Worst - Los Angeles Clippers
Just awful. The Clippers changed logos and jerseys a couple seasons ago, and they are the worst jerseys in the NBA. And it's not even debatable. The home jerseys are white with CLIPPERS written in black. A solid blue line underlines CLIPPERS, and then under that line is a slightly curved red line. The away jerseys are a mess, too. There's a basketball on the front with the Clipper logo in the middle of it. There's a blue partially dotted line under the ball, and then a curved red line under that. The Clippers play little brother to the Lakers. They share a stadium, and even though that might change in the coming years, they will always be inferior to the mighty Lakers. That's fine because the Clippers have built a successful team since Blake Griffin arrived. The Clippers still do well in terms of selling merchandise, but goodness they could do even better if the logo and uniform were better.
1 Best - Los Angeles Lakers
It's fitting the best team in NBA history have the best jerseys. Purple and gold feels so right on the Lakers, even if the team has been miserable for the last several seasons. Some of the very best players in NBA history rocked the Laker purple and gold. The home jerseys are so great. The solid white with LAKERS written in purple and a gold trimming works perfectly. The side of the jersey has gold and purple as well. It's a clean, classic look, but it fits the gold standard of hoops incredibly. The gold road jerseys might seem too bright for some, but it works because it's the Lakers. It doesn't matter Kobe Bryant isn't there anymore. The Lakers would have to be bad for a very, very long time for the Los Angeles appeal to go away, and the jerseys are a major reason behind that.