The 1980s was a very different brand for basketball than it is today. There was a much more physical style of play, and the three-point line was not the focal point of offense. The look of basketball in the 1980s was very different, starting with the uniforms. Many of those throwback jerseys we see today were prevalent in the league 40 years ago. We took a walk down memory lane and picked the 10 best NBA costumes from the ’80s.
No. 10: Sacramento Kings
I love the blue powder. The player’s name on the back below the shirt number offers a unique touch. These Kings jerseys had great potential to make it much higher on the list, but the “Kings” written on the front is sheer idiocy. Combining the ’90s Kings line with powder blue would have been a powerful combination, but this style was still good enough to sneak onto our list of the 10 best NBA uniforms from the ’80s.
No. 9: Los Angeles Lakers
There’s nothing cool about a Lakers uniform that has been the same for years. Sometimes, the simpler, the better. The Lakers and their rivals, the Boston Celtics, have been wearing traditional uniforms for decades, as have the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.
Of these four franchises, only the Lakers’ traditional purple and gold combination makes our list. The purple letter jumps off the yellow background and vice versa. When you’ve been as successful as the Lakers and Celtics over the years, why would you change anything?
No. 8: Milwaukee Bucks
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer today’s version. Love the “fear of deer” theme, the oversized t-shirt and the outfit between the antlers. The Bucks early 80’s look is pretty stylish too. There’s just something about the different shades of green mixed with orange that makes this outfit pop.
No. 7: Golden State Warriors
Danny Tanner brought the Golden State Warriors to life as the dad on Full House with his Warriors wardrobe. Stephen Curry made the Warriors a dynasty with his four championships. Through it all, the Warriors have been pretty consistent with their attire, with the huge circle up front and California pride in the middle. They’d be right in the mix today if we made a list of current NBA jerseys.
No. 6: Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t overly fancy, but the black-red-white combination is a winner. Highlights small team name. All three jerseys – red, white and black – jump out at you. There was no logo on these jerseys, showing that another simple jersey, even without proper capitalization, could still work.
No. 5: Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz has had multiple color schemes over the years, but the dominant purple look is the one that screams jazz to me. Unlike the Trail Blazers, the logo plays a prominent role on the front of the uniform. It’s a great logo too, combining basketball and a musical beat that makes it all come together.
No. 4: Seattle SuperSonics
This is also simple. I may miss this jersey since the team is no more, but I’ve always been a big fan of the Sonics green and gold. No fancy font, no eye-catching logo, but there will always be a place in my heart for the Sonics and their sorely missed costumes.
No. 3: Washington Bullets
Like the SuperSonics, the Washington Bullets are no longer a thing. The Bullets became the Wizards in 1997, and it was a very cool logo that made this jersey stand out.
The red, white, and blue combination is distinctive, but the two L’s in the team’s name are made to look like weapons shooting a basketball. It’s a classic shirt that makes our top three.
No. 2: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers brought their logo to the front of their jerseys in the 1980s and were a huge hit. The “V” in their acronym “Cavs” was made to look like a basketball hoop with a ball rolling through it. The blue and orange combination really stands out, making this shirt one of the top two of the ’80s.
No. 1: Denver Nuggets
This may be a love-it-or-hate-it shirt, but I love them. The Denver Nuggets brought their uniforms to life during the 1981-82 season with a bright, rainbow-colored Denver skyline. Under the rainbow, “Nuggets” is written in an eye-catching font.
Some might say the shirt is too busy, and I respect that. I see it as the best uniform of the 1980s, and the Nuggets made nine straight playoff appearances while wearing it.