Basketball is (maybe, hopefully) on the horizon. To help reintegrate us to a life of Giannis hammer dunks, James Harden dribbling for 24 seconds, and 76ers fans yelling at you for some reason, we’re rolling out top-five rankings in 20 different categories. All rankings were voted on by The Ringer staff unless noted.
5. Portland Trail Blazers
Most of the league’s longest-running designs stick to a clean, streamlined aesthetic, but the Trail Blazers went bold right off the bat, slapping giant slanted stripes across their tum tums in the ‘70s, and created a classic. The font above the stripes (or “Blaze”) has changed several times, and silver was added to the mix in recent years, but the template has never been disturbed, because it shouldn’t be. Some of the alternates are solid—at least when they stick to throwbacks and stay away from the grayscale—but Portland is the only team on this list that doesn’t need them to make the top five.
4. Toronto Raptors
There’s a theme to these next three selections: The pop-ass ‘90s are back. The Raptors revived the Vince Carter-era jerseys with the anthropomorphic dinosaur dribbling a basketball as an alternate, in honor of their 25th season, and they are incredible. There’s even a throwback court design with raptor tracks running through the middle, which is also incredible.
The base uniforms they introduced in 2015 are also good—even if the team itself doesn’t necessarily agree. The design they switched to at the turn of the century was fine at first, but the Raps slowly phased out the purple and worked in a variety of clownish alternatives—an all-green St. Patrick’s Day getup and, most memorably, an awful camo uniform. There was also a cheap-looking 3-D baseline logo on the court. Altogether, it was the perfect environment for a barrage of Andrea Bargnani missed jumpers. But the refresh blends the sort of clean, streamlined look seen on some of the league’s more classic sets, with enough flourishes that nod to their history and culture (the north-pointing arrows on the side, the maple leaf on the waist band). They even managed to pull off a Drake-inspired alternate version that isn’t terrible.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Teal is underrated. Pair it with another loud color and the font you used to write your favorite nu metal band on your middle school Trapper Keeper and you’ve got yourself a pretty amazing throwback. The vibrancy is a great fit for a team that can do things like this:
Unfortunately, none of that oomph made it to the Grizzlies’ regulars. The color scheme works in a vacuum, but the shade of light blue is too soft to pop on a television broadcast (see below for how it should be done), and worse, Memphis toned down the use of yellow from the glory days of Grit ‘N’ Grind. The collar and trim design from the Vancouver days still shows up, in a revamped form, on the light blue alts, but it’s been completely abandoned in the home and away sets. The result is a pretty simple design that loses all of its subtle hints from a bird’s eye view—for instance, the cookie sandwich font, with dark blue bracketing a thin line of light blue, is interesting, but it disappears when you zoom out because it’s not bold enough.
2. Utah Jazz
I do not endorse this selection. The Karl Malone-era throwback with the big ol’ snowy mountain peaks is objectively great, especially when worn on the adjoining alternate court. But keeping the name “Jazz” away from a New Orleans-based franchise is bad enough; ripping off Mardi Gras colors for the standard home and aways is a goddamn travesty. Worse, the regular jerseys are boring as hell, with side-piping nubs that look like a generic college template. And though the sunburst alternates provide a nice departure from the usual set, there is literally another franchise called the Suns that bases its entire aesthetic around a sunburst.
1. Miami Heat
It’s clear that the kids love color, but the Heat’s take on bright hues elevates the form. Miami’s vice series—which came in white, black, and pink before turning to powder blue this season—is loud enough to pop on any NBA court, which is a big part of the appeal. But in the hands of another team in another city, neon comes off as schtick (see: any college football program over the past five years); with the Heat, it captures the spirit of the surrounding culture. The best jerseys marry a good design with elements that nod to a team’s city and history (think the Warriors’ Bay Bridge centerpiece), and the vice uniform looks like a drive down South Beach on a Friday night. Miami’s regular jersey rotation has become a modern-day classic in its own right—the design is clean and lively, and it’s now associated with one of the most thrilling eras in basketball history—but any sports team that can pull off hot pink is in a tier by itself.
Others receiving multiple votes: Nuggets, Celtics, 76ers, Lakers, Bulls, Nets, Bucks, Warriors