For years, Yuletide uniforms were a staple of the NBA’s Christmas Day action. We rank the best designs to hit the hardwood.
For decades, this holiday hoops spectacular has been a marquee event for the league — a golden opportunity for viewership and branding that highlights next-in-line talent on a day when most major sports are off.
Over the course of the 2010s, the league leaned into the festivities and extra eyeballs by breaking out Christmas Day uniforms for teams lacing up on Dec. 25. Some were gaudy, some were sleek, but almost all are missed.
While NBA teams in action on Christmas Day 2021 will don their new Nike City Edition jerseys, there’s still rampant fanfare suggesting that the thematic tanks tied to Noel should, in fact, return.
With that in mind, we’ve ranked the best Yuletide uniforms of Christmas past.
6. Silver Bells & Short Sleeves (2013)
In 2013, the NBA and Adidas unveiled short-sleeve jerseys with the Golden State Warriors as the guinea pigs.
Leaning into the aesthetic ideal that fans would flock to uniforms cut more like soccer kits while creating more real estate for eventual advertising, short sleeves were short-lived as the style was scrapped in 2017 when Nike took over.
While fanfare around sleeved jerseys was colder than Toronto in February, the 2013 Christmas makeups made some noise. Baring silver bell team tagging across the chest and number notation on the left sleeve, the likes of LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Chris Paul carved up stat sheets in this one-off moment.
5. The Subtle Snowflake (2008-11)
Prior to the NBA’s full-fledged introduction of Christmas jerseys, the league kept it simple with a slight celebratory touch to the team uniforms by adding snowflake detailing around the Jerry West silhouette. Unlike an actual snowflake, two jerseys were often alike. For years, the Kobe-led Lakers played in their standard home white uniforms with silver snowflake embroidery surrounding the league logo.
The frosty finish never made it to a widespread retail release, but it did add a bit of branding to the holiday slate of games.
4. Chromatic Christmas (2012)
Before the NFL went all-in on Color Rush, the NBA went totally tonal on Christmas Day.
In 2012, the debut holiday uniforms played off monochromatic makeups, seeing only the Lakers don the home white.
Shimmer finishes and minimal contrast proved memorable and likable, carving the lane for Adidas to release Christmas uniforms for the remainder of their NBA contract.
3. Team Tones & Cursive (2016)
Christmas Day 2016 was defined by an NBA Finals rematch of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. It was celebrated with holiday uniforms that played up each team’s tones and reimagined their font through cursive script.
A wider sleeve and v-neck highlighted select installments, with a scarlet seal on the back paying homage to Christmas cards.
While all styles stood out, no one did it better than the Boston Celtics, by way of Isaiah Thomas taking the green jerseys to another level with a festive red headband.
(Naturally, IT went for a game-high 27 as Boston beat Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.)
2. Mini Logo & First Names (2014)
Over the course of the 1999-00 college basketball season, Nike-sponsored schools like North Carolina and Michigan looked to usher in a new millennium by replacing standard script signage on the chest with that of team logo branding. The design language was short-lived, best celebrated on-court by Wolverines freshman Jamal Crawford and in a music video featuring Mya and Jay-Z.
Years later, the NBA and Adidas recalled the Y2K styling by way of the 2014 Christmas uniforms. Logos led the front of each jersey while first names adorned the back as a nod to gift tags.
1. Cursive & Cream (2015)
Dripping with eggnog nuance and calligraphy team tagging, the 2015 NBA Christmas Day jerseys go down as the best collection to coincide with the holiday.
The 2015 takes leaned into a classic aesthetic that appeared almost vintage thanks to cream hues and cursive font. Better than the 2016 sequel, the original launch had more heart and uniformity by blending in ivory accents on each kit for a look that leveraged the holiday and the league over individual team identity.
Celebratory socks proved the icing on the cake for the best Christmas collection of on-court apparel we’ve seen from the NBA thus far.