Basketball Team Gear: A History of Basketball Uniforms

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If you ever wondered how basketball uniforms became what they are today, you have a beautiful and curious mind. The uniform was at first a sort of knee-length padded pants. There were also shorter pants and knee-length tights, but these changed over the years.

The basketball uniform has witnessed much evolution, just like technology, since the game started in the 1890s. Basketball started in 1892, thanks to James Naismith of Springfield College in Massachusetts. It was an indoor wintertime sport, and every player used their regular school uniforms. Note that these were baggy uniforms.

When more schools and universities recognized and adopted the sport and sports clubs were created, a board overseeing the sport created new rules. By the way, the NBA finals odds are already available at many sportsbooks ahead of the finals in June.


1892 to 1920s

In the early 1900s, basketball was popular in the US and Canada, and the uniforms were woolen jerseys, quarter-length sleeves, and knee-length shorts. The A.G. Spalding and Brothers designed it. By 1903, they designed suction basketball shoes to prevent slips while playing on the hard basketball court.

Before World War 1, there were many athletic competitions, and basketball gained legitimacy in these events, especially the 1904 Summer Olympics. Later, athletes had dyed wool and cotton for their knickers and shirts. This design would later change in the 1920s.


The 1920s to 1940s

At this point, basketball had become competitive. The players had mid-length pants and sleeved jerseys to provide easy locomotion on the court. Athletes tied the jersey under the crotch to keep them smart and undisturbed. While both men and women wore socks reaching their knees, men’s jerseys were tucked in, and women wore knee-length bloomers, short-sleeved shirts, and knee pads.

This was more like a bodysuit for men until it gave way to synthetic fabrics later in the century.


The 1940s to 1960s

Before the 1940s, basketball uniforms were made from elastic wool and cotton as natural fabrics. Thinner polyester and nylon versions of wool uniforms were adopted when the sport became more competitive. Pants became shorter, and sometimes, they looked like briefs. However, in the 1950s, basketball players wore belts with their satin shorts on the basketball court.

The belts were ruled out in the 1960s, and elastic waistbands replaced them. Since wool gets soaked with sweat easily, there was a need for an alternative. Wet wool caused irritation, itching in sensitive areas, and general discomfort. Sometimes, from enormous sweat, the athlete was weighed down.

Thus, while their uniforms were body-hugging sleeves blended with synthetics, they later had to be ruled out. Remember that the National Basketball League (NBA) was founded in 1949 as a merger of The Basketball Association of America (BAA) of 1946 and the National Basketball League (NBL) of 1937.

As earlier stated, the sport was becoming reputed in North America. There were both professional and amateur teams, which existed to date. Further changes were needed when the jerseys got heavier and the discomfort was apparent.

The built-in belt could not help since the board changed the rule to favor the elastic waistband.


The 1960s to the 1990s

The 1960s started with short shorts and body-hugging jerseys. They had sewn-on elastic bands, and different manufacturers introduced different colors and designs.

The early to mid-1980s featured a variety of colors, thanks to the rivalry between Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. College basketball became more popular, more stars emerged from the game, some of which were Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. The latter would later influence the uniform.

In the early 1980s, Michael Jordan wore a pair of black and red Nike sneakers and what followed was an NBA ban because he violated the “uniformity of uniform” rule. He was fined $5,000, but the rule was later changed.

In 1987, Jordan told Champion, the sports uniform manufacturer, to make his shorts longer. He cited that he wants to hold on to fabric when he bends down on the court while catching breath or taking a short break amid playing. 

The following year, the manufacturer made the uniform which exists to date. In the 2000s, Adidas got the contract as the official manufacturer of NBA uniforms. 

In 2013, the Warriors influenced the design and style of basketball uniforms again. They were the first to wear jerseys with sleeves.


The 2000s to Date

Since the 2000s, sublimated uniforms have been popular.

The goal was to create something attractive to both fans and non-fans of basketball. The shorts got longer; jerseys got looser, thanks to hip-hop culture. There was also the evolution of armbands, wristbands, knee bands, and headbands.

Today, the basketball uniform is not just for players or their fans. It has transcended into American pop culture. You see it in Hollywood movies, and it is sometimes a fashion statement. This has promoted the popularity and widespread acceptance of the sport globally.

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