From Short Shorts to Short Sleeves: A Look at NBA Uniforms

By Sarah Breuner

Mar 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Kent Bazemore (20) looks to pass the ball during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Oracle Arena. Chicago won 113-95. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is looking to add in more uniforms with short sleeves for up to five teams next season in an effort to both improve uniforms for the players and sell more jerseys to fans.

While the Golden State Warriors were the first current team to wear jerseys with short sleeves this past February, Adidas and the NBA have offered every team the option to add in a sleeved jersey, the NBA’s executive vice president of global merchandising, Sal LaRocca, said. Sleeved uniforms were first seen in the late 1950s but did not last long.  Since then, tank top and sleeveless styles have been the sole options for teams.

So how have these jerseys changed over the years, and what were the most effective and memorable looks?

When the NBA was first founded in the 1940s, tank top jerseys and short satin shorts topped off with a belt ruled the court, not to mention the high socks as well.  The ’50s were the beginning of the elastic waistband that replaced the belt, making the satin short more lightweight and comfortable.  The Atlanta Hawks uniforms introduced the NBA logo on shorts along with a more modern team name and number, when franchise first moved to Atlanta from St. Louis in the ’60s.

Things got a bit more current in the ’70s when teams ditched satin shorts for pin-hole polyester mesh.  As Champion became the league’s outfitter in the ‘80s, the company standardized the fit of all uniforms as well as making the lengths of the shorts proportional to the players’ sizes.  By the 1990s, players’ shorts were closer to their current length, taking the spotlight off of the thighs as in the ’70s.

Regardless of whether players are wearing short shorts or knee-length shorts, short sleeves or no sleeves, performance always comes before style for NBA uniforms.

Here is a peak at the potential short-sleeved jersey for the Phoenix Suns: