It has been one heck of a season for the NBA this year -- on and off the court. Records were broken, bears were poked, upsets were made, and a Joker was crowned champion. But, with the 2022-2023 season all set and done, it’s up to us now to find ways to make our lives interesting as our favorite basketball league heads to the offseason.
We were tasked to rank the 10 best jerseys from the 21st century which, by all accounts, wasn’t easy. From 2001 to 2023, the NBA saw its fair share of instant classics and modern marvels.
But which ones really turned heads and made the biggest cultural impact?
JerseyBirds Top 10 NBA Jerseys of the 21st Century
Just to be clear, and to be fair, we’re only counting modern designs, classic/retro editions, and city edition jerseys from the 21st century only. We all know classic jerseys like the Boston and Lakers away jerseys are in a league of their own.
By now, you probably have some jerseys in mind already (and probably some team-biased choices), so let’s find out whether they made the list or not.
10 - 2002 Houston Rockets Away Jersey
via Space City Scoop
Starting us off is an instant classic that was worn by certified legends of the game. The 2000s Houston Rockets Away jersey featured the team’s old logo on top of a retro pinstripe navy blue base. The jersey was featured in the late 90s and reached the early 2000s. The days of pinstripe jerseys are long gone, but this jersey was one of the last good ones to feature that style. This design went hard back in the day, especially when it was worn by the likes of Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Tracy Mcgrady, and Yao Ming.
9 - 2021 Phoenix Suns The Valley
Here’s a new one! Ever since the introduction of the city edition jerseys, the creativity and impact of NBA uniforms skyrocketed. Some city jerseys hit the mark, while others were simply meh -- Phoenix Suns’ The Valley jersey got it right. The typeface on a gradient valley on a black base was too good to miss this list. Not to mention, this jersey will forever be connected to the Suns’ current renaissance.
8 - 2001 Minnesota Timberwolves Alternate Jersey
Kevin Garnett -- need I say more? If we were to pick a team with the best jersey game in the history of the NBA, the Timberwolves would be a serious contender. The green borders on the black base was unique in a good way, and the “Timberwolves” written in that sharp and edgy font will never be forgotten.
The Wolves brought back this jersey in 2018 as a classic edition jersey then Derrick Rose proceeded to drop the most emotional 50-point game in history wearing them -- as if the jersey wasn’t legendary enough at that point.
7 - 2019 Denver Nuggets City Edition
Here’s another gem in the city edition category. The Nuggets were known for their vibrant display of color back in the 80s before switching to their current primary colors of navy blue, white, and gold today. However, in 2019, the team decided to bring back The Rainbow in the form of their city jersey and it worked wonders. The classic design fused with their current strong font on top of a black base -- what a treat!
6- Golden State We Believe Jerseys
via Slam Online
A legendary jersey forever linked to a legendary season. When everyone else wrote them off, the Warriors with a cast of Baron Davis and company believed. It was them, the oracle faithful, and their electrifying jerseys against the world. Everything from the combination of colors to the side designs and font made the jersey so energetic and fitting of the team’s playing style. The design’s so good, we couldn’t pick between their home, away, or alternate colorways.
In 2019, the Warriors -- now a dynasty -- wore the legendary jersey during their last game at the oracle arena to pay homage to that legendary run in 2007.
5 - 2018 Minnesota Timberwolves Purple Rain Jersey
via Hoops Habit
“Art is about building a new foundation, not just laying something on top of what’s already there.” - Prince
In 2018, the Timberwolves paid homage to one of America’s greatest and Minnesota’s proudest. The Purple Rain jersey was the Wolves' city edition jersey during that season and we love everything about it. Using a gray base, the designers were able to flesh out the purples more and using the same font as the one that Prince used for his album was, quite literally, a stroke of genius.
4 - 2017 Miami Heat Vice City Edition Jersey
via Sports Illustrated
Honestly, this was one of the first jerseys that came into our minds when we were given the impossible task of ranking the best 21st century NBA jerseys. The Miami Heat 2017 Vice City jersey is the epitome of the NBA city edition series. We’d like to think that when the NBA’s marketing guys came up with the idea of city jerseys, this Heat jersey was what they had in mind. The Heat designers were asked to create a uniform that would represent their city so they turned “Vice City” into a jersey and it couldn’t be any easier. The results were perfect.
3 - 2019 Memphis Grizzlies Classic Edition
Some might say this is cheating, but we’re sticking to it. The 2019 Memphis Grizzlies Classic Edition jersey relaunched the original Vancouver Grizzlies uniform from the 90s in all its teal glory. It’s a special jersey that will surely grab the attention of anyone from any era.
2 - 2001 Philadelphia 76ers Away Jersey
via Philadelphia Inquirer
It’s literally just the old 76ers logo on a black jersey, but it’s somehow one of the best jerseys in the history of the NBA. Is it because of that majestic logo and how oversized it is on the jersey? Is it because of AI? Is it because of that iconic 2001 finals against Kobe and the Lakers? Whatever, the reason is, we’re behind it. This jersey is a gift to the basketball community and the streets will never forget it.
1 - 2014 Toronto Raptors Barney Jersey Throwback
via The Globe and Mail
Do we really have to explain this choice? Ask anyone to rank their top jerseys of all time and they’ll probably have this list somewhere in there! And boy were we glad that the 2014 Raptors wore this again, which allowed us to count the jersey here.
The 2014 Toronto Raptors classic edition jersey brought back one of the most memorable jerseys of all time. Dubbed as the Barney jersey, this jersey originally made roars in the mid-90s because of its unique color. The familial pair of Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter would later on propel this jersey to legendary status.
Toronto’s current logo is a thing of a beauty, but their classic logo was a different beast that should be inducted to the Naismith Memorial. Mix that with the outrageous back design and the pinstripes, and you got yourself the best jersey of the 21st century.
We know that there are tons of jerseys that deserve to be in this list, but here are our picks. Did your favorite make it or not? Talk to us in the comments section!