• The 15 Hottest Rookie Year Jerseys in NBA History
  • Image via solecollector.com
  • The NBA is not always the most stylish place; for every fashion-conscious Russell Westbrook or Dwyane Wade, there are countless others who simply don’t get it and dress in truly confounding ways. This can apply to teams as a whole as well, as some heinous uniform combinations have become memorable for all the wrong reasons.

    The reverse is also true, however; some jerseys have gone on to become iconic, representing their era, the players who wore them and transcending the game to become an actual fashion statement over time. With the NBA Draft recently behind us, it’s almost time for a new class of rookies to come in and try to associate their names with some of the league’s iconic uniforms. A rookie comes into the league with a blank slate, and a great season in an iconic jersey can take a performance and make it memorable even decades later (just ask Shaquille O’Neal). Before these new players get a chance to put on their new shirts for the first time, we’re taking a look back and Most Stylish Rookie Year Jerseys in NBA History.

  • 1. Bryant Reeves, 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies

    The Vancouver Grizzlies may have had a short-lived existence before moving to Memphis, but they certainly made it memorable with their jersey choice. The huge lettering, teal color scheme, bizarre trim, and grizzly claw grabbing a basketball on the shorts made these one of the most memorable uniforms of the 1990s. And who better to rock it than “Big Country” Bryant Reeves? Selected at No. 6 overall in the 1995 draft, Reeves had a solid first season where he averaged 13.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team. Unfortunately, he got a little too “big” and ended up retiring from the league during the 2001-02 season due to back problems caused by his weight.

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  • 2. Rick Barry, 1965-66 San Francisco Warriors

    One of just a few Hall of Famers on this list, Rick Barry single-handedly reversed his team’s fortunes as a rookie. They went from 17 to 35 wins with their new player leading the way, and Barry took home Rookie of the Year honors thanks to his average of 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. The Warriors’ timeless “The City” jersey features the Golden Gate Bridge, and is one of the most iconic uniforms in league history. The perfect integration of the bridge into the logo makes it a much-sought after look even now, and the Warriors brought the Golden Gate back into their alternate look in 2013.

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  • 3. Marcus Camby, 1996-97 Toronto Raptors

    Selected second in the 1996 NBA Draft behind Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby has had a remarkably long career that got off to a great start with the Raptors. Rocking their signature “Dino” jersey in both white and a strong purple, Camby made the All-Rookie First Team on the strength of a career-best 14.8 PPG to go along with 6.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. Dinosaurs were very “in” at the time these jerseys came into existence, as Jurassic Park had come out just two years earlier and was still incredibly popular, and clearly they played a huge influence on these uniforms. They were even popular enough that Toronto is going to bring them back for a few games next season.

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  • 4. Alonzo Mourning, 1992-93 Charlotte Hornets

    When a rookie averages over 20 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks per game, that guy is usually considered one of the elite players in the league right away. After all, only three people have ever accomplished it since blocks were kept as a stat beginning in 1973-74. Those numbers didn’t even make Alonzo Mourning the 1993 Rookie of the Year, however, as he lost out on the award to Shaquille O’Neal (who also finished with a 20-10-3 average). Nevertheless, as he rocked the electric teal and purple pinstripes of the Charlotte Hornets, Mourning helped establish the team as a perennial contender and made their jersey a staple of every ‘90s kid’s personal collection. While they aren’t quite back next year, the new Hornets uniforms do at least pay homage to their magnificent predecessors.

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  • 5. Dikembe Mutombo, 1991-92 Denver Nuggets

    A rookie making the All-Star game is very rare indeed, but Dikembe Mutombo was a special kind of player coming out of Georgetown. Drafted No. 4 overall by the Nuggets, he quickly established himself as one of the preeminent interior defenders in the game, swatting three shots a game while also scoring over 16 points and grabbing 12.3 rebounds (one of only two rookies ever to put up those stats). He was able to accomplish all this playing in the final days of Nuggets’ infamous “skyline” jerseys, a magnificent creation that illuminated the Denver skyline in every color of the rainbow and placed the team name somewhere down near the bellybutton. It’s a look that regained popularity in recent years and was revived by the Nuggets in 2012-13.

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  • 6. Manute Bol, 1985-86 Washington Bullets

    By nature of playing in Washington DC, the Bullets made a point of it to include as much red, white, and blue into their uniforms. On 7’ 7” Manute Bol, the red and white stripes of the jersey really stood out, given how large they had to be to fit his massive frame. Bol entered the league as a second round pick (No. 31 overall) and was immediately effective as an interior defender. He blocked an NBA-best 5.0 shots per game, and his 397 total blocks are the second-most in a season in NBA history. While it would be disingenuous to credit the uniforms with making this happen, the fact that it occurred while wearing the iconic, patriotic Bullets jersey certainly helps make Bol’s season even more memorable.

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  • 7. Shaquille O’Neal, 1992-93 Orlando Magic

    As a rookie for the Orlando Magic, Shaquille O’Neal put forth one of the most dominant debut seasons in NBA history. His averages: 23.4 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 3.5 BPG. Wow. No rookie big man in the modern era has ever approached those numbers, and it very well may never happen again. Shaq’s jersey with the Magic that season has come to represent his dominance, and when people see it now they automatically link it with Shaq and Penny Hardaway and their all-too-brief run together in Orlando. The Magic have even brought back the pinstripes, a callback to the team’s signature look.

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  • 8. Priest Lauderdale, 1996-97 Atlanta Hawks

    The career of Priest Lauderdale was not exactly memorable. At 7’ 4” and weighing in at 325 pounds, Lauderdale cut a huge figure despite not being especially highly-touted. The Hawks grabbed him at No. 28 in the 1996 NBA Draft, and when he hit the floor in the Hawks’ tremendously loud jersey, he truly looked intimidating. The narrow eyes of the Hawk are quite menacing, and while it may not have outright threatened opponents it at least would have gotten in their heads a little bit. It didn’t do much for Lauderdale, though, who saw action in just 35 games and averaged 3.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per contest.

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  • 9. Glenn Robinson, 1994-95 Milwaukee Bucks

    Glenn Robinson came into the league with very high expectations. He was the No. 1 overall pick, and had been a dominant on every single level. After the Bucks and he engaged in a contentious contract negotiation that saw the “Big Dog” land a record 10-year, $68 million deal, he finally took the court sporting the signature “big deer” jersey the Bucks were known to break out from time to time in the mid-90s. The huge design of the animal makes it look like the jersey could belong to another sport, but it also makes it stand out in a positive way as being distinctly Milwaukee’s. It certainly worked well for Robinson; he averaged 21.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie team.

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  • 10. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 1997-98 Cleveland Cavaliers

    Yes, there was a time when “Big Z” didn’t look like an old man. Ilgauskas came into the league as a rookie for the 1997-98 season having missed the entire 1996-97 season due to a foot injury (the same exact injury as Joel Embiid now has), and when he did finally debut he was a revelation on the floor. He averaged 13.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in the Cavs’ black-and-teal or white-and-teal uniforms. Given the era, the relatively simple design of the jerseys was a refreshing change that modernized the team’s look while also keeping the Cavaliers’ primary colors intact. While they may now be associated mostly with scarlet and gold, that was not always the case; previously, their main colors had been blue, white, and orange.

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  • 11. Steve Francis, 1999-2000 Houston Rockets

    The Houston Rockets used to have one of the most plain, boring jerseys in the league. But they radically mixed things up just in time for the arrival of Steve Francis, adding thick pinstripes and an actual rocket orbiting a huge basketball on the front. If the goal was for a space-age design, they nailed it. Francis arrived in town via the No. 2 pick in the 1999 Draft and immediately made a huge impact, scoring 18.0 points, grabbing 5.3 rebounds, and dishing out 6.3 assists per game, and winning co-Rookie of the Year honors along with Elton Brand.

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  • 12. Clarence Weatherspoon, 1992-93 Philadelphia 76ers

    People forget now, but there’s a reason that Clarence Weatherspoon was known as “Baby Barkley” during the early days of his career. He was brought in with the No. 9 overall pick to replace his namesake and had a very successful debut campaign, as he averaged 15.6 points per game and led the team 7.2 rebounds a night, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team. He did it, of course, sporting the 76ers’ “red, white, and blue stars” uniform, which took the classic Sixers look and added a little of our signature American flair to it. If you’re a city that is basically the birthplace of liberty, you can’t be afraid to show off a little bit; this uniform certainly accomplishes that.

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  • 13. Bill Walton, 1974-75 Portland Trail Blazers

    One of the greatest college players of all-time, Bill Walton landed in Portland by way of the No. 1 pick in the 1974 Draft. As would be a theme throughout his career, the free-spirited center would see his rookie campaign cut short by injuries, as he would be limited to 35 games played in that first season. When he was on the court, though, he got to wear the Blazers’ simple red road jersey with the totally unconventional vertical lettering that still is a unique look today. Even their home whites were strong, as unlike most jerseys the design could basically be put into use tomorrow by an NBA team and nobody would see the look as dated.

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  • 14. Wesley Person, 1994-95 Phoenix Suns

    By the time he wrapped up his 11-season NBA career, Wesley Person had played for seven NBA teams and one year even got traded twice in the same season. Despite all the moving around (and many uniforms he wore), Person never had a better jersey than he had his rookie season when he rocked the black jersey of the Phoenix Suns. The huge flaming basketball fit perfectly with his outstanding long-range game, as he shot .436 from beyond the arc as a rookie and made the 1995 All-Rookie Second Team. They have even broken them out on occasion in recent years, because it’s a look that never gets old.

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  • 15. Jerome Williams, 1996-97 Detroit Pistons

    Jerome Williams was never a game-changing star, but he was an effective reserve who played his role perfectly. As a rookie wearing the teal of the Detroit Pistons, that meant mostly sitting on the bench; Williams averaged just 5.4 minutes of action per game and scored just 1.5 points per night, hardly an All-Rookie level performance. The vibrant, loud teal certainly stood in stark contrast to the much more subtle red, white, and blue color scheme the Pistons had previously worn, and the large horse/motor creature featured in the middle continues to make it one of the most talked about logo changes ever.

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