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Thursday, June 23, 2016

So You Want To Do Some NBA Uniform Research...

Greetings NBA fans!

This entire blog is called “Heritage Uniforms and Jerseys – a celebration of historic NFL, MLB, NHL, NCAA football and CFL uniforms and stadiums/ballparks/arenas” - I'm sorry that I don't even mention the NBA in the title. This stems back to when I was a licensee of the various sports leagues (from 1997 - 2010) - it just seemed to me that the NBA was always about the here and now, not about looking back and celebrating their past. That isn't meant as a criticism, just how I felt.

That being said, we did produce one NBA uniform history poster - we were commissioned directly by the NBA's Washington Wizards in 2003-ish, and we came up with this beauty of a poster:

But back to the point of this posting - when it comes to NBA uniforms and jerseys, it seems to me that people have one of three primary reasons for visiting this site - all of which are at least somehow related to doing research:

1. Someone is trying to find out what a particular team’s jersey/uniform looked like in a particular year or era. This might go something like “I loved the Lakers in the early 70’s, what did their uniform look like?”

2. Someone is trying to find out what year a particular jersey is from. This might be someone who has found, or bought, or is thinking of buying a particular NBA team jersey (authentic or reproduction) and they want to know what year it’s from and in the case of reproduction jerseys, how accurate the reproduction is.

3. Someone is simply a huge fan of a particular NBA team and they’d like to see how the uniform, particularly the jersey, has evolved over the history of the franchise.

As fun as this site is,  it is simply not the best place to look for NBA uniform and jersey history, so let me try to point you where else to look.

Source of info #1: There is no great online resource (yet)

For people looking for history related to NFL uniforms and jerseys, there's the amazing Gridiron Uniform Database.

For people looking for history related to MLB uniforms and jerseys, there's the amazing Dressed To The Nines database.

For people looking for history related to NHL uniforms and jerseys, there's this great effort.

But when it comes to the NBA, no-one seems to have taken on the task of documenting the history of NBA jerseys on a year by year basis like has been done for the NFL and MLB and NHL.

Anyone out there got some time on their hands, love research and is pretty good at electronic graphic design? Then have I got a project for you - how about creating images like these for NBA teams from 1946 - present?

Note: It would appear that some of the team that did the amazing NFL Gridiron Uniform Database did in fact begin work on an equivalent NBA site - see this great start they made.  It would appear as though they (Rob Holecko [Rob is part of the NFL Gridiron Uniform Database braintrust], Tim O'Brien and Matt Beahan) began the NBA uniform database project and did some great work on the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, but for some reason they seem to have stopped very abruptly. I'm sure there's a story and I will share it with you if/when I learn it, but the point is that the NBA still lacks a great uniform database at the moment.

Source of info #2: A starting point...

Here are four different efforts to at least help people understand the history of NBAS uniforms and jerseys.

A. This is an interesting little slideshow (14 slides) on the history of NBA uniforms from 1950 - present.

B. The NBA itself has a nice little uniform history story that uses 18 images.

C. ESPN has chimed in with this 26 image timeline.

D. And the folks at Uproxx have done a nice little history as well.

But again, my point is that no-one has done for the NBA what has been done for the NFL, MLB and NHL.

Source of info #3: A Daily Gusher of Info

If you love sports uniforms and great attention to detail, then you need to be aware of Uniwatch.

Every day since May 2006 - and I do mean EVERY DAY - Uniwatch has featured a daily blog posting about sports uniforms. They aren’t always about NBA jerseys and uniforms, but as one of the premier sports leagues in North America, and a league with a lot of uniform changes each year, it certainly gets a lot of coverage over the course of a month. Uniwatch is the brainchild of Brooklyn NY based Paul Lukas  (more info here about Paul),  and if you read Uniwatch on a regular or semi-regular basis you’ll end up feeling like you know Paul – his likes and dislikes including meat, colors (especially the color purple) and things found in old desks.

Source of info #4: Auctions

Every so often people contact me because they have come into possession of a vintage NBA jersey (and/or shorts or a warmup jacket) and they are trying to determine if it’s authentic, when it may have been worn and/or what it might be worth – either for the purpose of selling, general curiosity or for insurance purposes. This is very hard for me to answer and I am not an expert in this field, so let me share where I’d turn if I was trying to get to the bottom of a great vintage jersey.

A. Lelands

Lelands is based in Long Island NY and one of the most respected Sports Auction Houses in the world. They have handled such landmark collections as The Mickey Mantle Auction of the Greer Johnson Collection ($1.3M), The Harry M. Stevens Auction ($1.8M), the famed Boston Garden Auction ($2M total sales) and a personal favorite of mine, the Jim Craig 1980 Miracle On Ice Collection. Every year Lelands sells $10+ million worth of vintage sports memorabilia and cards. That may or may not make them the biggest, but they are certainly one of the best.

The founder and owner of Lelands is Josh Leland Evans. He is a child of the antiques business though his parents Maxine and Stuart Evans, he started dealing in 1969 when he was eight years old. I like the fact that Mr. Evans comes from an antiques background and that he’s been in the sports memorabilia business for decades. If I had a great vintage NHL or pre-NHL jersey (or other piece of hockey equipment) and I was trying to get a handle on what it’s worth or if it’s the genuine article, one of my first stops would be Lelands.

130 Knickerbocker Ave, Suite E
Bohemia, NY 11716
Phone1: 631-244-0077
Phone2: 631-244-3604

B. An up and comer is:
Goldin Auctions
160 E. Ninth Ave, Suite C
Runnemede, NJ 08078
Attn: Ken Goldin
Ph: 856-767-8550 

C. Some other auction sites that deal, among things, with NBA jerseys are:

Some of these companies, particularly Grey Flannel Auctions, keep catalogues and online records of the prices realized in previous sales. This can be a very valuable resource for gauging the approximate value of vintage NBA jerseys if put up for auction.

D. If you are fairly certain that you know what you own, a much simpler route for finding out what your NBA jersey is worth is good old Ebay. You could search Ebay’s archives of items that have been sold or posted for sale over the years, or you could actually put your item up for sale. One idea would be to put your item up for sale with a quite high reserve price – that way you wouldn’t risk selling it for a price lower than you expected it was worth, while at the same time learning what a going price seems to be. To me it’s an incredibly efficient way of determining the current value, and very hard to argue with the result even if you might be somewhat unpleasantly surprised.

Source of info #5: Official NBA Jersey/Uniform Supplier History

Sometimes it’s helpful/useful for people to know who the “official” manufacturer of NBA jerseys was in a given year/era in terms of being able to determine what season their jersey is from.

Wikipedia only has this little story on basketball uniforms, but it doesn’t touch on the history of the uniform manufacturer.

That being said, below please find in italics a great stab at the history of NBA jersey/uniform manufacturers - this information comes largely from an amazing blog owned/written by an unnamed person who calls himself "Champion Blogger" - Champion referring to the Champion apparel company.

Official Jersey Supplier History:

1982ish - 1989  Sand-Knit (Medalist Sand-Knit until 1984 and then MacGregor Sand-Knit starting in 1985)
1990 - 1997 Champion
1997 - 2002 Nike and Starter (became Puma in 1999) and Champion
2002 - 2004 Nike and Reebok
2004 - 2006 Reebok
2006 - Present Adidas  $36m/year for 11 years (Keep in mind that Adidas bought Reebok in 2005)

On March 16 2015 we learned that Adidas and the NBA will be severing their ties after the 2016-17 season (the league’s new outfitter is expected to be announced next month).

Slightly more detail:
1982ish - 1989  Sand-Knit (Medalist Sand-Knit until 1984 and then MacGregor Sand-Knit starting in 1985)
1990 - 1997 Champion
1997 - 2002 Nike and Starter (became Puma in 1999) and Champion
Champion: Atlanta, Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Utah and Vancouver. Champion produced replica jerseys for all 29 teams.
Nike: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Portland, San Antonio, Toronto and Washington.
Starter: Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New York and Sacramento. Starter went bankrupt in 1999 so they ended up only producing authentic jerseys for 1997-1998 and 1998-1999. Starter was bought out in 1999 by a consortium of five companies, which included Puma. Puma would take over outfitting Starter’s licensed NBA teams for the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons.
2002 - 2004 Nike and Reebok
The five year contracts that Champion, Nike and Puma (Starter) signed with the NBA starting in the 1997-1998 season were due to expire at the conclusion of the 2001-2002 season. Prior to expiration, Nike signed a two year extension with the NBA to continue outfitting their 10 teams through the 2003-2004 season. Champion and Puma (Starter) never had a chance to extend because prior to the 2001-2002 season Reebok signed a 10 year licensing deal with the NBA. As part of the deal, Reebok would take over outfitting 11 NBA teams for the 2001-2002 season (this includes all nine of Puma’s teams plus two of Champion’s teams). So for the 2001-2002 season, Reebok outfitted 11 teams, Champion outfitted 8 teams, and Nike outfitted 10 teams. 
2004 - 2006 Reebok
2006 - Present Adidas 
Adidas bought Reebok in early 2006, and signed an eleven year exclusive deal for an average of $36m per year (11 year deal worth $400 million)

Once again, the "Champion Blogger" site is a treasure trove of information on NBA jerseys made by Champion - please check it out.

Source of info #6: Logos

- Sometimes the key to identifying an NBA jersey is to know what logo was in use in a particular season. An amazing source of information in this regard is Chris Creamer's Sports Logos - the NBA section of this incredible site can be found here.

Sports Logos has been painstakingly researched and maintained since 1997 by Chris Creamer, who is from the Greater Toronto (Canada) area. It is a remarkable effort and does a great job showing each NBA team’s primary, secondary/alternative logos and does a great job identifying the years various logos were used. Chris’ site also has some information on NBA uniform history.

I also find it amazing how Chris has been able to get the cooperation of most of the leagues, the NBA included – that is not an easy task and it is a testament to his hard work and dedication to doing a great, encyclopedic job. As Chris says right on his site “This site is maintained for research and historical purposes only, do not abuse it.”

The aforementioned Paul Lucas (see #3 above) wrote a nice profile piece on Chris in 2013 – find it here.

Many thanks for reading and please offer any feedback either in the Comments section below or directly to me at .

Thanks and happy researching!



  1. Hello There,

    I would have to say Yes, Assumed i was in the 80's and had an access to today's technology, training etc. There are no question they would be able to play today. Not to mention they were athletic and had the height. If we go way back to 50 years and had to play a game today. Then maybe not, However, It isn't fair to compare the timeline as they are playing with completely different rules. Although give them years and they would adjust like Captain America in the Avengers; What do you think?


  2. Great article. Who took over producing uniforms for the following teams, (Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Utah), for the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons, Nike or Reebok?

  3. Amazing information. Thank you very much from Spain. One doubt: I have not clear the 2001-2002 season: Who were the suppliers of shirts??? Nike, Champion and Reebook? Thanks

  4. The most striking thing about NBA sports pullovers is the plan. A large portion of them are planned with the club name and hues and the player's name and number.NBA Playoffs

  5. Thanks for the blog post! I am one of the big sports memorabilia fan & was looking for a website to provide me the
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Thank you for taking the time to add a comment - all input is welcome, especially the constructive kind! All the best - Scott