NBA Uniforms: Throwbacks Are Sweet, But They Never Should Exist

The Indiana Pacers’ release of Hickory High special-edition uniforms on Tuesday — to be worn in select home games for the upcoming NBA season — has people talking about sports uniforms.

Ask 10 people in a room about uniforms, and you’ll likely get 8.11 different opinions — maybe any two people will agree, but don’t expect any more than that. Taste is so particular to individuals that it eludes a broad consensus in most cases. Internally at Crossover Chronicles, there was no clean consensus on the “Hickory Pacers” uniforms. One person’s admiration of Indiana’s acknowledgment of its rich basketball heritage is another person’s “that 1950s stuff is so garish and outdated.”

So it goes.

It’s not wrong, and it’s not a character defect if your taste differs from another’s, but it’s fascinating how uniforms leave human persons with so many sharply contrasting impressions of what looks good on a basketball player’s body in an arena.

It’s always seemed kind of silly to do a series of uniform posts just for the sake of doing so. Happily, then, the Pacers have given us a legitimate reason to engage in this discussion during the summer of quiet before the late-September buzz of activity which heralds the arrival of a new NBA season.


Today’s specific focus on the uniform front is to give you, the reader, a chance to compare and contrast — and decide for yourself — between looks that would generally be referred to as “classic” or “throwback” and, on the other hand, “modern.”





Allen Iverson shoots





Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports











Some of you might go for the retros, some for the moderns, creating the stylistic debates that are nothing more than part of being human. We’re all different, and certain colors or lines draw our attention in ways that just don’t apply to the next-door neighbor or the person in another big market. One generation might prefer the slicker, newer presentation, the other a less cluttered appearance. This happens, and it will continue to happen.

For me, though, the idea of a real contest between old and new in the realm of NBA threads breaks down at some point. That point is specifically when the subject of uniforms turns to the two most successful franchises in the history of the NBA.

For the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, the retro uniform is not a real thing — because the old uniform was never truly discarded. It remains in its basic form (perhaps with the slightest of alterations in terms of the outer trimming, nothing more), and is as classic now as it was then.

Only the quality of basketball has deteriorated for the Lakers and Celtics, not the quality of the clothes the players wear on game nights:



Larry Bird 1985 NBA Playoffs


Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics

It’s a question I have asked myself in other sports as well:

Why do people think change is a good thing when a good thing already exists?

Did the New York Yankees change their classic pinstripe unis?

Do the Dallas Cowboys need to change their helmets or their home uniforms?

How about the Montreal Canadiens and their red sweaters?

There are no throwback uniforms for the Yankees, Cowboys and Habs, just as there aren’t throwback uniforms for the Lakers and Celtics. Greatness, once established, never goes out of style. At least, it never should.

Yet, here we are.

The Indiana Pacers’ uniforms, like them or not, appeal to the delicate but potent feeling known as nostalgia. There’s a reason we get nostalgic, yearning for a past that once was but can never fully be again… unless, that is, you never change your gosh-darn NBA uniforms in the first place.


About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |