Basketball jerseys have either progressed immeasurably since the earliest days of the league or regressed into over-designed tedium, depending on who’s being asked. While today’s modern jerseys have a flare and design expertise that older jerseys do not, the stark simplicity of classic jerseys still looks great. Jersey sales for old-school basketball players remain high, especially officially licensed sports apparel. However, there remains a strong demand for legendary basketball player jerseys on the resale market as well.
With that in mind, take a look at some of the coolest and most impressive old-school jerseys on some NBA legend players. Learn about what makes each player so important to the game and what makes each jersey iconic. Fans of old-time basketball players and those who love collecting legendary NBA player jerseys will love what Fanatics has to share here.
Bill Russell in His Classic Celtics Jersey
If there’s one constant in the NBA universe, it is perhaps the Celtics jersey. The team has impressively kept their jerseys mostly unchanged over the years, using the same colors, font, and lettering for more than 70 years. The fact that the team got this design right the first time is impressive, but there’s nothing quite like seeing a shot of Hall of Famer Bill Russell running up the court, shooting, or passing in this jersey. Russell was a key component of the Celtics’ dominance throughout the late ’50s and ’60s and was an impressive team player with amazing stats.
He averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists on 44% field goal shooting. As an 11-time NBA champion, Russell earned five MVP nods and helped the Celtics dominate the game in a way no other team has done before or since. The Celtics jersey he wore features the simple white and green colors still seen today, as well as the player number and team name on the chest. One major difference is that jerseys lacked the player’s name in Russell’s time.
Isiah Thomas in the Late-1980s Pistons Jersey
In the late 1980s, the Detroit Pistons were the team to beat, and their best player was easily point guard Isiah Thomas. Thomas averaged 19.23 points, 3.55 rebounds, and 9.26 assists for the Pistons and, alongside teammate Bill Laimbeer, was a potent scoring machine. The Pistons’ tough play style earned them the “Bad Boys” moniker, as they continually stymied the Bulls in early playoff rounds by using a unique defense that minimized Michael Jordan’s scoring prowess. Once the Bulls found a way around this defense using the triangle offense, they took over the Pistons’ dominance.
The Pistons’ jerseys during this time were elegant in their simplicity in a way that modern and flamboyant designs aren’t. The simple red-on-blue or red-on-white colors embraced the team’s roughneck style at the time. There was little fancy about how the Pistons played basketball during this time, and their jerseys betrayed their working-class style and playing ethos. Thomas’ No. 11 jersey remains particularly popular with old-school Detroit fans and still sells well on the sports collectibles market.
Michael Jordan in the Throwback 1985 Jersey
Back when Michael Jordan entered the league in 1984, anticipation was high. Jordan had dominated in his career at North Carolina, averaging 17.7 points per game, five rebounds, two assists, and a field-goal percentage of 54%. Even these impressive statistics couldn’t prepare the league for his NBA excellence. Averaging 30 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game on 49.7% field-goal shooting, 32.7% three-point accuracy, and 83.5% success at the free-throw line, Jordan was a point-making machine.
Before all the glitz, fame, and championships, though, Jordan perfected an amazing jersey look in 1985. The red jersey and shorts combo common with the Bulls included a black cursive “Chicago” highlighted with white above the team number. The double-white lines along the collar and cutoff shirt cuffs added a little extra color and created a fairly attractive overall look. Jordan might have never won a championship in this jersey, as the Bulls updated not long after, but seeing him in this old-school jersey is still amazing all these years later.
George Gervin in the Classic Spurs Jersey
Though not a regularly talked about player today, George Gervin is a popular favorite for San Antonio fans. Known as “The Iceman” for his low-key demeanor and clutch shooting as a shooting guard and small forward, Gervin was a 12-time all-star player, a four-time scoring champ, the 1979-80 AS MVP, an ABA All-Time Member for that league, and an NBA Hall of Fame player. He put up impressive numbers in his career, including 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on 50.4% field-goal, 27.1% three-point, and 84.1% free-throw shooting.
The Spurs jersey during this period reflected the simpler design aesthetics common among NBA teams then. They still wore the classic black used on modern Spurs jerseys and outlined the team name, player name, and number in white. This created a stark look, even for the times. However, a double-white-stripe design on the collar and cuffs added some flair to the jersey. While Spur uniforms may be far more intricate these days, a George Gervin jersey is a sight to behold and well worth the price of tracking one down for a purchase.
Reggie Miller in His Trademark Pacers Uniform
Basketball is life in Indiana, and few players get the respect of Reggie Miller. Arguably the greatest Pacer ever, Miller was a potent shooting guard known as the Mighty Mouth for his verbose ways on the court. While Miller never got a championship with the Pacers, he was a five-time all-star and a Hall of Fame member with 18.2 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game on 47.1% field-goal, 39.5% three-point, and 88.8% free-throw efficiency. Miller also proved to be tough as nails, as he played for the Pacers from 1987 to 2005 while averaging double-digit points yearly.
Indiana used a black-on-yellow design on their jersey, with solid colors for most of Miller’s career. Though later years added diagonal yellow and white lines, Miller played his classic years in a simple black-and-yellow marvel. With the player’s name and number on the back and the team name and number on the front, this jersey was simple, effective, and didn’t need any fancy designs. Memorabilia dealers still sell many Reggie Miller jerseys all over the world, though they’re mostly sold in Indiana.
Karl Malone and John Stockton in Utah Jazz Jerseys
Though the Bulls were the team most lost to in the 1990s, the Utah Jazz provided Chicago with plenty of competition. While they didn’t have it in them to beat the Bulls for the NBA Championships in 1997 and 1998, they were a dominant West Conference team anchored by point guard John Stockton and power forward Karl “The Mail Man” Malone. Malone averaged 25 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on 51.6% field-goal, 27.4% three-point, and 74.2% free-throw shooting. Stockton put up 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists per game on 5.15% field-goal, 38.4% three-point, and 82.6% free-throw shooting.
With Stockton just over 6 feet and Malone a towering 6-feet, 9-inches, they were the perfect scoring duo that the Jazz needed to compete. During their 1997 and 1998 championship losses, Stockton and Malone wore one of the most attractive modern-style throwback jerseys. The jersey’s blue and white colors were easy on the eyes, while the simple rising white mountains on the jersey front and short sides created an appealing, but not distracting, look. It remains more appealing than more modern styles, which sometimes come across as too cluttered for their own good.
Charles Barkley in His Classic Suns Uniform
Charles Barkley, nicknamed “Sir Charles,” is best known these days for his eccentric behavior and sometimes controversial opinions. Who can forget the 2007 All-Star Weekend when Barkley challenged 67-year-old ref Dick Bavetta to a foot race, only to celebrate his victory with a peck on the lips? These unforgettable moments unfortunately mask Barkley’s raw basketball talent in his prime. Barkley is the best rebounder under 6 feet, 6 inches with 11.7 rebounds per game. He also averaged 22.1 points per game and 3.9 assists, on 54.1% field-goal, 26.6% three-point, and 73.5% free-throw shooting.
During Barkley’s career, he earned an All-Rookie nod, reached the All-Star and All-NBA team 11 times, and was the 1992-93 MVP. He also wore one of the most elaborate NBA uniforms of the time. The Suns have never shied away from uniform extravagance, and in an era of relative restraint, their dark-blue background paired with orange cuffs and white letters was striking. However, the streaking basketball moving from right to left across the jersey still catches the eye. A Barkley Sun jersey from this time also reminds players of when Barkley’s bite was as big as his bark.
Start Collecting These Cool Throwback Jerseys
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