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A Guide to This Season’s NBA Throwback Jerseys

Last Updated: October 25, 2022
As fans look forward to the upcoming NBA season, famed franchises are looking back by returning throwback jerseys of yesteryear.

If trends truly follow a 20-year cycle, we are in ripe territory for the return of the throwback jersey reign.

Hitting peak popularity in the early ’00s, retro uniforms from football, baseball, and basketball past once served as status symbols for artists in music videos, quickly canvassing pro sports action as an homage to past greats. At that time, the ‘old’ favorites usually hailed from the ’70s and occasionally the ’80s. Today, some of the most popular styles from the past now notate with the ’90s.

As the 2022-23 NBA Season approaches, an array of teams have unveiled Classic Edition uniforms inspired by franchise favorites from yesteryear.

Here’s everything we know about the history of each NBA throwback jersey, as well as the new narratives that will drive modern sales.

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Detroit Pistons

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 19: Grant Hill of the Detroit Pistons during the game against the Houston Rockets on February 19, 1999 at Compaq Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
via Pistons

Original Run: 1996 to 2003

Historical Storytelling: The teal tanks worn by the Detroit Pistons best represent the gap between the Bad Boys 1 and Bad Boys 2 eras. Endorsed on the court by Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse, the rebellious rebrand was part of the NBA at 50’s larger initiative to reach a younger audience.

Loudly, the Pistons turned up the volume on their original tones of royal and red by rebranding to teal and maroon. Additionally, black and yellow accents added a new edge. The chest graphic represented that of horsepower, playing off the Motor City industry with fire shooting out of the spokes.

New Narratives: Heading into the 2022-23 season, it’s been almost 20 years since the Pistons last wore these uniforms. Led by the likes of Cade Cunnigham and Jaden Ivey, the teal tanks are older than the team’s young core. Highlight play permitting, expect these throwbacks to be amongst the more popular new/old styles next season.

Phoenix Suns

1999: Guard Penny Hardaway of the Phoenix Suns during an NBA regular season game. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)
via Suns

Original Run: 1992 to 2000

Historical Storytelling: In 1992, the Phoenix Suns caught fire thanks to a trade for disgruntled All-Star Charles Barkley. Bringing in new uniforms for a new era, the Sunburst uniforms coincided with a trip to the 1993 NBA Finals and Sir Charles winning his first and only NBA MVP Award. After adding more grey to their new look uniforms in the early 2000s, the Sunburst jerseys have remained popular in Mitchell & Ness fashion but mostly in the vault where modern play is concerned. Ten years ago, Adidas laced the Suns in the black version of the Sunburst style, with Nike now returning the purple iteration.

New Narratives: Following a league-best regular season and league-worst postseason meltdown, the Phoenix Suns enter the 2022-23 campaign as contenders. Returning Chris Paul, Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Miles Bridges, the ’90s threads recall the only other Suns squad to ever make it to the NBA Finals. Expect both Booker and CP3 jerseys to see high fanfare inside and outside of Phoenix.

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Golden State Warriors

Tim Hardaway #10 of the Golden State Warriors dribbles the ball up court against the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
via Warriors

Original Run: 1988 to 1997

Historical Storytelling: Leaving behind the very literal Golden State jerseys that sported the silhouette of California aside a Western font, the slanted style seen from the late ’80s to late ’90s represents the team’s first run with Don Nelson on the sideline. Made famous by Run-TMC and worn by Chris Webber in his Rookie of the Year season, the royal and yellow threads set the tone for the current composition Steph’s squad wears now.

New Narratives: Even in an era where Chef Curry has donned 25 different style jerseys despite playing for only one franchise, the Run-TMC throwbacks will strike a nerve in The Bay while proving popular worldwide. Rarely does a defending champion have the ability to outfit their current crop of timeless talent in the same uniforms popularized by one of the franchise’s most beloved eras.

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs’ George Gervin #44 stands next to James Silas #13 on the court during a timeout against the Washington Bullets at Capital Centre circa 1978 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
via Spurs

Original Run: 1973 to 1982

Historical Storytelling: Celebrating 50 years of Spurs history, the San Antonio team is leaning into their storied past by bringing back threads endorsed by George “Iceman” Gervin. While the team has remained reserved to black-based uniforms over the course of their half-century run, this black-on-black throwback is unique as it gets when considering the conservative palette.

New Narratives: This season, the Spurs are as young as they’ve ever been. Led by the likes of Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Josh Primo, the team looks to develop under Coach Popovich with its sights set on landing a top lottery pick. Outside of on-court movement, the team will have plenty to celebrate this season thanks to games set in Mexico City and Austin, as well as a chance to set the attendance record at the Alamodome.

Brooklyn Nets

New York Nets’ forward Julius Erving #32 shoots from the free throw line during a game at Nassau Coliseum circa the 1970’s in Long Island, New York. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
via Nets

Original Run: 1972 to 1981

Historical Storytelling: The classic Stars and Stripes uniform dates all the way back to the ABA and the days of Julius “Dr. J” Irving. Fifty years old in origin, the Americana look laced the franchise as they transitioned into the NBA, returning to glory over the course of the ’80s. Additionally, the jersey appeared on the cover of the uber-popular NBA Street Vol. 2 video game, with the New Jersey Nets wearing said style in retro fashion during the height of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.

New Narratives: This season, the Brooklyn Nets are returning one of the more star-studded rosters in the NBA. Previously, past homages to New Jersey have been well received on court and popular at retail by way of the tie-dye Nets look likened to Drazen Petrovic and Derrick Coleman. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving back in BK, there will be plenty of buzz around these throwback threads.

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Los Angeles Lakers

Portrait of the Minneapolis Lakers ca. 1950. Left to right ate Slater Martin, Don Carlson, Herman Schaefer, Vern Mikkelson, George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Arnie Ferrin, and Tony Jaros. (Photo by © Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
via Lakers

Original Run: 1949-1958*

Historical Storytelling: Celebrating 75 years as a franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers are bringing back the home jerseys tied to their early days in Minneapolis. While the powder blue MPLS tanks have returned on numerous occasions, as have the star-stamped tops from the same era, the yellow-trimmed home tops were worn in various forms during the days of George Mikan.

New Narratives: Even amidst missing the playoffs, LeBron James and his No. 6 Lakers jersey led the league in sales in 2022. Heading into the 2022-23 season looking for revenge, the throwback ‘Bron look will remain popular at retail while the play of his peers will dictate all additional energy.

Washington Wizards

Michael Jordan #23 of the Washington Wizards plays against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 25, 2003 at the MCI Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
via Wizards

Original Run: 1997 to 2011

Historical Storytelling: In the late ’90s, the Washington Bullets rebranded to the Wizards in an effort to make the franchise and their accompanying apparel more family-friendly. Led by the likes of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Rasheed Wallace, the team showed real flashes early on before breaking up the young core and eventually handing over the reins to a retired Michael Jordan. Over the course of MJ’s comeback all the way through the prime of Gilbert Arenas to the drafting of John Wall, the threads remained a constant.

New Narratives: Heading into the 2022-23 NBA Season, expectations are low for the Washington Wizards, though the team still packs potential and talent. Led by Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma, fans have throwback uniforms to look forward to as the squad’s young draftees continue to find consistency and health.

Miami Heat

MIAMI, FL – CIRCA 1989: Rony Seikaly #4 of the Miami Heat looks on against the Denver Nuggets during an NBA basketball game circa 1989 at the Miami Arena in Miami Florida. Seikaly played for the Heat from 1988-94. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
via Heat

Original Run: 1988 to 1999

Historical Storytelling: Entering the NBA as an expansion team in 1988, the Miami Heat rose from lottery landers to Eastern Conference contenders over the course of a decade. Bringing in Pat Riley to take charge and create a culture, the team’s original threads remained a constant for just over a decade before switching to the style they still wear today. At home, everyone from Rony Seikaly to Alonzo Mourning made the fuego font their own in the late ’80s and ’90s with the same style returning in throwback form on the backs of Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Williams in the ’00s and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the early ’10s.

New Narratives: Since switching to Nike in 2017, the NBA’s most talked about uniforms have often belonged to Miami by way of their bold Vice styles. Much more classic and in line with the white-out outfits worn by fans at FTX Arena, home throwbacks tied to Jimmy Bulter, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo will all appeal as the season kicks off.

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Milwaukee Bucks

8 Apr 2001: Ray Allen #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball and looks on during the game against the Seattle SuperSonics at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. (photo by Otto Greule Jr /Allsport)
via Bucks

Original Run: 1993 to 2006

Historical Storytelling: Over the course of their 54 years as a franchise, the Milwaukee Bucks have changed tones and mascots for runs that often last over a decade. The purple rebrand of the early ’90s left cartoon graphics and gradient green paneling in favor of silver accents and more mature deer. From Glen “Big Dog” Robinson to Ray Allen to Michael Redd, the purple uniforms represent an era of playoff teams that never quite got over the top but were loaded with talent.

New Narratives: With health permitting, the 2022-23 Bucks will be amongst the best teams in the NBA. Throwback threads will provide plenty of nostalgia and nuance as the team’s top stars today, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, wear the same numbers as Allen and Redd during their days wearing the same tanks.

Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz John Stockton (12) in action vs Chicago Bulls Ron Harper (9) at United Center. Game 1. Chicago, IL 6/1/1997 (Photo by Manny Millan /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
Collin Sexton #2 of the Utah Jazz in action during a game against the Denver Nuggets at Vivint Arena on October 19, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Original Run: 1996 to 2004

Historical Storytelling: Much like the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, the Utah Jazz rebranded in the mid-90s to new team tones and jerseys set off by bold, sublimated graphics. Worn by John Stockton and Karl Malone in each of Utah’s two NBA Finals appearances against the Bulls, the mountain tops took a new meaning when worn against basketball’s biggest dynasty.

New Narratives: In 2022, the Utah Jazz are angling more for the NBA Draft Lottery than the NBA Finals. Oddly enough, the once-loathed purple uniforms have become more popular as time has passed. Led by the likes of Jordan Clarkston and Collin Sexton in regard to youthful cool, these throwbacks that came back recently during Donovan Mitchell’s run will once again reign.

Houston Rockets

Basketball: San Diego Rockets Calvin Murphy (23) in action vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland, OH 10/28/1970 (Photo by George Long/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
San Diego Rockets Elvin Hayes (11) in action against Seattle SuperSonics at San Diego Sports Arena. San Diego, CA 9/30/1968 (Photo by George Long /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
via Rockets

Original Run: 1967 to 1971

Historical Storytelling: Prior to touching down in The Lone Star State, the Rockets franchise called sunny San Diego home. Hosting the likes of Pat Riley, Calvin Murphy, and Elvin Hayes on their roster, the Cali squad sported green and yellow threads before moving to Space City and adding red to their palette. While this throwback style is not quite a one-to-one homage, it does remix the original jerseys in sentiment and spirit.

New Narratives: With satin stripes on the shorts and young talent on the roster, there will be plenty of excitement over this year’s Houston Rockets Classic Edition uniforms. Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, and Kevin Porter Jr. are all high on upside and highlights, with the Texas hot spot storied in their love of throwback jerseys dating back to the days of Lil’ Flip.

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About The Author
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook is a Staff Writer covering culture, sports, and fashion for Boardroom. Prior to signing on, Ian spent a decade at Nice Kicks as a writer and editor. Over the course of his career, he's been published by the likes of Complex, Jordan Brand, GOAT, Cali BBQ Media, SoleSavy, and 19Nine. Ian spends all his free time hooping and he's heard on multiple occasions that Drake and Nas have read his work, so that's pretty tight.