History of Basketball Uniforms
Since the sport was founded in 1892 by James Naismith at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, basketball uniforms have changed more than any other sport in history. In fact, a review of the history of basketball uniforms shows that players have worn everything from trousers to turtlenecks to the satin shorts that are familiar today.
Although players began landing a ball in an upside-down peach basket in 1891, official rules for the sport were not devised until 1892. For the first eight years the sport was played, baggy trousers and wool undershirts were what the players commonly wore, mostly because that was their attire each day. In the early 1920s, as the game grew more popular on college campuses, league officials decided to coordinate what players wore to avoid the ball being passed to a player of the opposing team.
Coordinated Uniforms: 1920-1940
The history of basketball uniforms shows more coordination among players between 1920 and 1940 as they began wearing mid-length shorts and jerseys made of wool. The shirts were fastened like a current-day body suit to keep them from becoming untucked. Spalding created some of the first padded shorts worn by basketball players during this era. Women and children were required to wear kneepads during basketball games.
Synthetic Fabrics: 1940-1960
With the advent of synthetic materials, the history of basketball uniforms took another turn as the hot, difficult-to-launder wool uniforms were replaced by thinner polyester and nylon versions. The pants grew shorter, becoming brief-style by the mid 1960s, while the shirts became track-style jerseys. During the 1950s, players wore belts with their satin shorts. The belts were eliminated in the 1960s, and elastic waistbands added.
Form Fitting: 1960-1988
As the freestyle era of the 1960s began, basketball uniforms took on another look, becoming tighter and more form fitting. Players wore longer, striped tube socks during games, and headbands became common in order to keep longer hairstyles out of the eyes of players. MacGregor Sand-Knit became the official NBA outfitter in 1982, providing a cotton/polyester blend uniform that was more comfortable. It was during this era that jerseys grew more colorful as well. By the mid 1970s, satin shorts were replaced by pinhole mesh material and jerseys became looser to allow for better player movement.
Michael Jordan Request: 1988-Present
In 1987, Michael Jordan requested that the sports manufacturer Champion, who made all NBA uniforms at the time, make his shorts in a longer version. He wanted something to hold onto when he bent over on the court, out of breath from playing. The following year, Champion created the uniform version that is used today. Adidas became the official NBA uniform provider in the mid 2000s, and in 2013, the Warriors became the first NBA team to wear jerseys with sleeves.