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Ranking the best mid-major uniforms of the 1990s, the greatest era of basketball fashion

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I finally put my eye for aesthetics to good use for the site.

AP Photo/Jim Rogash

This morning in our site’s Slack channel — err, I mean, our daily conference call where we all wear business suits and talk about professional things and definitely don’t yell at each other about whether you should wash your denim jeans — the topic of debate turned to the best NBA jerseys of the 1990s. Naturally, I won this debate by noting how the Utah Jazz donned some of the best uniforms in sports history at that time. [Ed Note: Actually, the Raptors’ jerseys were better]

Naturally, a dialogue about some of the best mid-major uniforms of all time ensued. However such a discussion must instantly be limited to the 1990s, the greatest decade for uniform design.

No. 1: Weber State Wildcats, Late ‘90s

Weber State Athletics

Given my track record of liking those old Jazz uniforms and these, I suppose I am just a sucker for (a) purple and (b) the state of Utah. These have to be my favorite college uniforms of the decade, and it’s really not close. From the elongated, scrunched-up font that “Weber State” is printed in to well-designed cuff and collar design, these uniforms were perfect. Even better is that these were the uniforms when the Wildcats took down North Carolina in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. It’s all further proof that Weber State knows how to utilize its purple/white/black color scheme better than any other school (hi, Northwestern).

No. 2: Loyola Marymount, 1990

lmu.edu

Okay, I think I might take back what I said about Weber State’s uniforms being my favorite. These are clearly contenders. The wordmark is beautifully wrapped around the numbers, which are perfectly defined and pop out at first glance. Perhaps the best thing about these jerseys is the waistband and collar, which expertly layer baby blue and carmine, a bold color combination that is the definition of pulchritudinous. Also, I didn’t include a picture of their away jerseys on here because I care about your bandwidth, but you should check those out as well. I think it would behoove LMU to bring these uniforms back.

No. 3: Evansville Purple Aces, The Sleeves

One of signature looks in college basketball has to be the sleeved jerseys that Evansville made part of its team’s identity. These were suggested to me by Dan Stack, who seemed to question their greatness. That was a mistake. After all, just listen to the Daily Orange’s Sandy Weintraub describe how integral this look was to the Purple Aces:

For the better part of 50 years, the men’s basketball team at Evansville became known for its trademark T-shirt-style uniforms introduced by McCutchan, a Hall of Fame coach, in 1947.

As someone who plays a lot of recreational basketball in loose-fitting t-shirts, there was something rather enjoyable about watching a team play while dressing exactly as I do.

No. 4: Santa Clara, Nash’s Equilibrium

Robert Borea/AP

Back when Santa Clara was busy taking down 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, they were sporting some of the best minimalist jerseys ever to grace a college court. With simple color designs and a waistband that was separated horizontally into yellow and white halves, the Broncos were beyond fashionable while taking on the role of David. And don’t even get me started on the interlocking “SC” on the left leg. This is stuff that I’d expect from Balenciaga, not a WCC basketball team.

No. 5: UMass Minutemen, “U”

AP Photo/Jim Rogash

These are on the list just for the wordmark on the front of the jerseys. While the collars and cuffs do feature some interesting maroon and black mixtures, it’s the lettering that gets me. There’s just something about the script “U” that looks like it was gleaned from an 18th century document being fused with the blocky and rigid “Mass” that makes this work. It is a recipe that sounds like a mess on paper, but comes together perfectly. This is art to me, my friends.

No. 6: Wagner Seahawks, 1998

ESPN

I apologize for the graphics being so terrible, but this is seriously the best I could do. I literally had to screenshot this myself from a 1998 broadcast of Wagner getting beat 111-46 by UConn (take a guess as to who sent me this link). Still, I’m putting Wagner on this best-of-the-best list based solely on those shorts, which were definitely the inspiration for The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge. Even cooler is that one leg features green stripes while the other is solid white — a bit of asymmetrical design that I’ll look past this time and this time only.

No. 7: Princeton, 1996

The Star-Ledger

Every person who takes the time to read this site is clearly familiar with Princeton’s shocking upset of UCLA, the defending champs, in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. Some might attribute that to Pete Carril’s methodical offense, tapes of which are still being prescribed by physicians as a cure for insomnia. However, I chalk up the win to Princeton’s classic jerseys that featured their beautiful black and orange color scheme combined with stripes astride from knee to hip. Princeton always has some of the country’s best jerseys, and these were no exception.

No. 8: Florida A&M, The Rattler

Manny Millan/SI

In the 1990s, the Miami Hurricanes may have had some neat uniforms, but they clearly weren’t the best Sunshine State team to dress in orange and green. The Florida A&M Rattlers absolutely rocked these, but the thing that makes them truly special is the rattlesnake placed around the left knee. As we all know about the infamous snakes, they are vicious creatures. The only fault with these uniforms is that FAMU didn’t just replace the entire front side of the jerseys with a jumbo rattler.

No. 9: Chattanooga Mocs, Sweet 16 Threads

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If more teams had the foresight to know that decorative cuffs and collars on 1990s uniforms would get them on a list written by a guy born in 1997, I think they would have gone all out. Chattanooga, on their run to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the year of my birth, did just that. Zigzags are amazing, especially when being overlaid on that classic dark teal jersey. Also, the delicious Moon Pies are made in Chattanooga. Points for that contextual note.

LAST PLACE: Gonzaga Bulldogs, Satin Disaster

These are probably the first uniforms to be on the list solely for me to make fun of. I mean, I really hate these. While Gonzaga may have been setting college basketball on fire in 1999 with their improbable run to the Elite Eight, they did so wearing uniforms made of cheap satin with a wordmark that is barely visible. And that is all nothing compared to those giant white knee cuffs that are approximately 4 inches long (according to my eye test). Thankfully, Gonzaga has redeemed itself by owning some of the country’s best uniforms nowadays. These satin stumbling blocks were anything but great.