Retro basketball jerseys had color combinations, short shorts, and vintage logos that now look super cool once again. With modern college and professional teams leaning into retro looks, the classic styles are more relevant than ever.
In this post, we’re going to check out some of the coolest retro basketball jerseys in the history of college and the NBA. If you want to snag some great college gear to support your team off the court, check out our awesome deals on team t-shirts for a wide variety of college teams.
Retro Basketball Clothing from College
Best Vintage College Jerseys
Look at pictures of the best college basketball players of all time, and you’ll see some awesome jerseys. So many retro jerseys from the history of college basketball still hold up today. Unlike the pros, which sometimes prominently feature a mascot on the jersey, college jerseys are more likely to remain a bit more simple with the logos--which frees them up to get wild with the colors and designs.
Michigan’s 1989 jerseys did something that few jerseys do. As a throwback to old books that had the first letter stylized while the other letters are in normal font, Michigan had jerseys with a bright yellow “M” followed by simple lettering for the rest of the “Michigan” word. The jersey is baseline white with black and yellow stripes, coming together as a perfect harbinger for the designs that would dominate college ball in the 90s.
UMass’ 1996 jerseys would follow the same first letter trend, putting up a swirling U before the simple Mass. These are the jerseys that John Calipari lead with Marcus Camby on the court.
Ohio State has some sweet gray uniforms which were standard in the 1992 season, but now only breaks them out on special occasions. The Ohio State retro gray uniforms have a space-gray color, like you might find on a Mac, and come with bright red letters and decals.
The 1965 UCLA team won the championship in a timeless white and gold jersey. Seriously, of all the jerseys on this list, you’re probably least likely to be able to figure out the era that these jerseys are from. The 1965 team would look comfortable in a 90s game, a 2020 game, or a 70s game. It just goes to show that when you put together great design, it transcends the era. Great design is always great design.
When you go to a college basketball game, you’ll need the right kind of gameday attire. But when you’re on the court, the right kind of gameday attire is essential as well. In the age of social media and highly-visual college decision making, teams have had to bring their A-game in the jersey department just to keep up with all of the competition. Not everyone has the uniforms that Oregon boasts, but each team is making their own awesome designs.
The Kansas 2016 throwbacks to the 1950s for Black History Month are alright, in the blue. But in the cream--they are some of the coolest modern remixes of classic jerseys that you’ll find. The cream color dominates the jersey, paired with a bold red and blue stripe. The result is something that looks like an old-time ice cream shop, or the sounds of a jukebox and a dance floor. It’s a gorgeous jersey.
Of course, some color combinations are now just associated with college basketball. The powder blue and white of North Carolina is famous, and it’s been around for over 60 years. Another blue team, Kentucky has worn a ton of different shades of blue in the Final Four alone.
Retro Basketball Clothing from the NBA
Vintage NBA Clothing by the Decades
We’ve already covered the best and worst jerseys of college basketball, but the pros have featured different era’s of awesome sportswear as well.
The 60s Celtics jerseys are something special, made iconic by Bill Russle. The shorts are short, the tanks are loose, and the colors are clean lines of white and green. There’s something about an old basketball jersey that has clean cut lines and simple design. It’s a great look, and it still holds up today.
The 70s Nets wore the same short shorts and simple tanks that the 60s saw, but the colors and styles became a little bit bolder. Julius Erving and his mid-70s Nets wore a white jersey primary, with one side decked out in red stripes and blue stars. The American flag-style jerseys deconstruct the simple lines of the American flag, making it louder and more complex.
The 80s Bulls were more than a great team. They had iconic cursive “Chicago” writing spread across the chest. Bold red colors were sparked with quiet white lines, creating a bold combination that looked great in white, black, and red.
Early 90s uniforms were on the move toward the late 90s designs, but hadn’t arrived yet. The early nineties are epitomized, perhaps, by the teal blue of the Charlotte Hornets. The shorts have gotten a bit longer and the colors are a bit more primary and bold.
Mid 90s uniforms are block letters, block numbers, and slightly-off colors. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers show this better than anyone. The Pacers combine a classic blue and yellow sports color combination, but the yellow is mustard and the blue is a little bit gray. The Heat, meanwhile, put up massive white block letters on a deep red. The shorts have a bold heat logo. The Bucks should also be mentioned, going with a truly-90s green and purple design with a massive buck on one side.
The 2000s Pistons uniforms probably best show how jerseys moved from 90s designs into the 21st century. The colors are novel, a shiny red that hints at maroon and burnt orange. The jerseys are loaded with logos, from the giant Pistons text, to the horse, to the smaller logos on the shorts. Shorts are longer, just above the knees.
The late 90s early 00s Grizzlies jerseys are a bold teal, with a huge Grizzlies sprawled across the chest and the biggest bear logo on the shorts of any shorts logo.
Of course, we have reason to believe that the best designs are still to come. It was only in 2018 that the NBA decided to allow players to wear any kind of designs on sneakers that they want to. The new footwear rules will certainly spark some new, iconic looks and color combinations.
Throwback NBA Basketball Shorts
NBA shorts vary from shorts that are super short to shorts that go well over the knee. As fashion changes and street basketball, worldwide basketball, and professional basketball create a massive basketball culture--shorts change. Some eras have seen shorts that are tight-fitting and short, while other eras have featured flowing, baggier shorts.
The 1990s Denver team has one of the coolest NBA throwback jerseys. The bold multi-color design with the Denver mountains is set on a deep, royal blue. The shorts are notable for the rainbow stripes on the sides and the thick yellow waistband.
The late 90s Rockets and the early 00s Lakers are great examples of the longer shorts trends, with jersey styles that are now iconic and names that have transcended individual players and teams.
The 80s Lakers also have famous shorts, wonderfully short fabric with purple and yellow markings. Their away shorts, mostly purple with a little bit of yellow, are a great throwback.