Top 25 Shorts Of All Time
Posted on March 17 2019
This blog is long overdue and one we've had in our back pocket for a few years now. Finally, Aaron and myself were able to sit down and compile a list of our Top 25 CBB Shorts of all time. And before I get bombarded with emails and social media posts about why 19nine hasn't re-made some of these shorts yet I'll answer it now, in the intro. We don't have licensing yet. Licensing is an inexact science. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you get it and then are told no on certain designs, logos, color combinations, etc. 19nine would be thrilled to work with any of the universities represented below and many more that aren't on this list. We will continue to work hard to get the licensing needed to bring you guys the shorts you want. Stick with us and stay tuned....
JB: So different. So good. Marquette has a long line of great uniforms thanks in large part to coaching legend Al McGuire. His love of fashion is pretty well documented and he retired from coaching to pursue a career in the uniform business. His crown jewel in my opinion are the 1969-1970 "Bumblebee" kit. Worn by the 1970 NIT Champions, the NCAA stepped in and outlawed them a couple seasons later. Ahead of their time!
AM: I feel a need to rant about the NCAA and Uniforms, in general, to start this off right. The NBA this year allowed shoes that don't match the uniform colors. Oh, the humanity! I bet actually no one even noticed except for the people who care about unique looking sneakers and they love it. Last year I recall the machinations over advertisements on NBA uniforms. I couldn't tell you who the sponsors are for 10 teams and I know the salary cap figures for half the teams. My point is there should be more creativity not less in uniforms. These Marquette uniforms along with the untucked uniforms are two of my favorites and they have both been banned.
JB: My selection of the '78 UK shorts is going to be ridiculed by fans looking for their denim or cat scratch uniforms of the 90s. While I love those (especially the Mashburn Final Four shorts) I love the classic look of the 1978 shorts. Clean, simple, traditional. You can't go wrong if you stick to the basics.
Plus you throw in one of the greatest performances in NCAA Tournament history and a National Championship on top of it? Greatness!
NORTH CAROLINA 1981-1982
THE TAR HEEL
JB: Let me just get this off my chest... the Tar Heel logo is the greatest logo in the history of college basketball. Yeah, I said it. I've never been a huge UNC fan but that logo and those colors are as good as it gets. You combine that with the greatest player of all time and you basically can't screw it up. Although I also love what Carolina has done from the 90s on (more on them later) with their shorts I'd love to see these retros worn more often.
AM: I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts and they added a new layer to the GOAT debate. Hold on to your seat. What if LeBron's son goes to Duke they become a LeBron uniform school. Imagine the first UNC vs. Duke game that year with LeBron on one sideline and MJ on the other. This has to happen. For my money, these are the greatest uniforms of all time. Not surprisingly they were worn by the greatest player of all time.
VILLANOVA 1985 & 1995
THE PERFECT GAME
AM:I know again with the animal shorts. The wildcat jumping through the V combines two things I love in shorts or uniforms. One an iconic animal mascot and second working the mascot into the lettering. If done well and these are perfectly executed it just can't be beaten. Their colors trend towards more traditional buttoned up but the slight offset of the lighter blue has always helps them stand out just enough.
ONE SOCK UP, ONE SOCK DOWN
JB: I've always been a huge fan of Villanova's uniforms, colors, and players. Loved the old Steve Lappas and Kerry Kittles teams. Loved Tim Thomas, Allen Ray, Randy Foye. They were always in my Final Four on my brackets long before they became the no brainer picks for everyone else.
These 1995 Apex Villanova shorts have surpassed the '85s in "Nova Grail" status for me. These shorts are so dope from the colors, to the WILDCATS logo on the side, to the fonts used on the numbers. '90s Perfection!
If 19nine ever gets the chance to re-create these you will be able to find me at Golfmoor Park this summer wearing a pair with one sock up to my knee and the other one down by my ankle. You better recognize...
JB: Another case of a great color combination, simple 80s template, and dope logo. Doesn't hurt that the team who wore them was a walking highlight reel. Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson and company took the Flyin' Illini all the way to the 1989 Final Four before losing to conference foe Michigan by 2. The shorts remain timeless to me because of the incorporation of Chief Illiniwek. Bold, strong, intimidating. Classic.
JB: A dunking tiger?!?!?! I could stop there and feel pretty good about my argument for the '91 LSU shorts making our list. Then you throw in purple and yellow, Dale Brown, Shaq and did I mention a tiger dunking a f%#!ing basketball?!?!?!
AM: For me these are all about the purple and gold. Some things don't have to be overly complicated. Some colors just look good together. Some colors are standout in a way that makes the players wearing them command a presence. When you see Shaq strutting around in these we could've known then he'd play for The Lakers someday.
MEMPHIS STATE 1991-1992
JB: Penny, Penny, and more Penny! A silky smooth, 6'8 point guard leading his hometown team back on the national stage all while being a walking highlight reel. Memphis had it all. A great logo, mascot, player, coach, and an arena nicknamed "The Tomb of Doom"!!!
The uniforms were basically unchanged from the '80s that saw Memphis State make a Final Four and become a major player on the national stage. For me the crucial design element was the decision to not make the Tiger blend in to the color blocking of the school. Having it keep the colors of an actual Tiger was brilliant. It pops surround by white, blue, and silver. Just a classic '80s-'90s style pair of shorts.
AM: I'm a sucker for a great animal logo. Memphis State Tigers uniforms and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway are a one, two combo like Beale Street Blues or Penny and Shaq later in the 90s. I love blue in uniform as well.
THE FAB FIVE
JB: Public Service Announcement: PLEASE STOP EMAILING US ABOUT MAKING FAB 5 SHORTS!!! Only kidding, sort of. These are by far our most requested shorts and if we ever get Michigan licensing I will do everything in my power to bring you all 3 colorways worn by the Fab 5 in their two years together at Michigan. You have my word. These shorts, those socks, and them dudes were the start of a cultural revolution that just so happened to play out on the basketball floor.
AM: If you've ever watched the TV Show Silicon Valley they have a satirical joke in every app's pitch to venture capitalists. They talk about how they are literally going to change the world. I feel like basketball uniforms, shoes, etc have fallen prey to this mentality as well. These Michigan uniforms are the exception to that silly statement. They went beyond the court and helped to spark a change a real change in culture.
JB: Why '93-94 and not '91-'92? Let me explain. '93-94 is when Nike came into the picture for not only Duke but a handful of other programs around the country. They took the classic look of the championship years Duke shorts and refined them just a bit. Added piping across the thigh, crisper bold blue stripe down the side, with a clean Duke logo with the basketball and net on the inside of the D on the bottom. Sleek. Just like their leader Grant Hill, one of the best college basketball players to ever lace them up. These also had a D in the middle of the waistband. I'm a huge fan of waistband graphics. Added point!
AM: These are clossic block color, right spacing on the lettering, simple in the best way. They remind me a lot of the '78 UK uniforms above, or the classic Celtics green and white. I like the Nike logo rather than the swoosh here. Great shoes in this pic too!
40 MINUTES OF HELL
JB: APEX is back on the list! This time with Nolan Richardson's national champion Arkansas Razorbacks team. Arkansas took the baton from the Fab 5 for baggiest shorts in the game and helped usher in the era of capri pants being worn on the court. Love the Razorback logo coming through the A and the wavy stripes on the side. It helped that the dudes wearing them were ballers. 40 minutes of Hell! But those shorts are heaven on Earth.
AM: While Michigan undeniably brought the baggy shorts to the peak. The best thing about college sports or the purest feeling teams come when the players, the uniforms, the coach, the fans all seem to fall into synchronicity. The Razorbacks with Scotty Thurman and Corliss Williamson were the quintessential college teammates. Everything about them and that team makes these uniforms timeless.
ST. JOHN'S 1994-1995
THE PHENOM & THE COVER
JB: APEX killed it with these. Perfect timing with Felipe coming in, the NYC skyline on the shorts, and then the cover of all covers.
AM: Unitl LBJ no high school player captured my attention like Felipe Lopez. SLAM was the only reliable information on HS basketball outside of Indiana and they along with SI captured the zeitgeist that surrounded NYC hoops at that moment. Felipe and Stephon Marbury were the two names that stood out the most. Lopez was the one that I gravitated towards the most. When he went to SJU he seemed predestined to take them back to the promised land. That never materialized but him, that SI cover, and those shorts will live on forever.
'CUSE IS IN THE HOUSE!
JB: I have a feeling we are going to hear from 'Cuse fans about not picking the '87 shorts or the '03 Melo shorts but hear me out on the '96 pair. They're better. The S wrapped around the basketball, the piping feeding into the side leg graphic space, amazing color combinations and another S on the waistband.... instant classic. Throw in a National Championship Game appearance, Uptempos, John Wallace, and a rap? Sign me up for all of that shit!
CINCINNATI 1996 & 2000
FORTSON & FLINT
JB: G.O.A.T! Nike continued to kill it in the mid 90s with these Cincinnati shorts. Such a dope design. So clean with the black, red and white. That Bearcat "C" logo was fierce as were the Cincinnati teams who wore them.
The thick black line (white on the away black shorts) went all the way around the back before slanting down to the thigh and blending with the striped piping on the rest of the shorts.
This was peak Nike CBB uniform timeline before killing all creativity and going to the "System of Dress" in the mid 2000s. When we were making the list we couldn't believe how many mid 90s designs were popping up. So unique, so specific to their schools, so different than what everyone else was wearing. I know people are going to kill me for not going '96 Iverson Georgetown's here but these Cincy shorts have been my favorites since I was 14. It's not changing anytime soon.
AM: Kenyon and this team were beasts during their run. It made sense that they were one of the first Jordan Brand schools. Jordan always had a polished persona but we now know more about the depths of his competitive nature. The pathological manner with which he approached the game. In short, he had an edge. These Cincy teams absolutely had an edge to them from Huggins to Martin and everyone in between. Talking about these uniforms also reminded me that I had asked for a got a Cincy warm up shirt for Christmas that I wore much of my senior year of high school. I had to laugh after sharing this factoid with JB he produced a college of shirts that is destined for Season 8 of Slobby's World. These uniforms themselves have the iconic jumpman but the blocking down the sides are what make them really stand out for me . The Cincinnati logo is an all timer as well.
JB: The birth of a legend. I vaguely remember the story of Iverson arriving at Georgetown and the rumors swirling about an on campus summer game where he was brought in to the arena in a truck incognito and the crowd erupting as he emerged to dominate. That's the type of shit legends do. Iverson may very well be the coolest motherf*^cker to ever play college basketball. Some of that has to do with those bad ass Georgetown uniforms and Concord 11s.
AM: Iverson was a rule breaker and trendsetter. He seemed like an outsider to college basketball. I remember seeing him live and it was the moment that I realized my basketball career would not extend to high-level college athletics. His speed was incredible. Pairing these uniforms with the Jordan 11s were like photoshynthesis taking rays of light and turning them into entertainment and excitement.
SIMON (and BIBBY) SAYS...CHAMPIONSHIP
JB: This Arizona team had the "it" factor. Dope unis, iconic players, legendary head coach, and Foamposites!!! Man those Foams were different for the time and Mike Bibby and company helped those things sell as much as Penny did. Back to the shorts. Two different logos on the legs going down the side... check! Power A inside a basketball, dope.... check! Extra thick white piping with a thin navy stripe through the middle...check! A unique look befitting of a National Championship... check!
AM: I love these uniforms. I loved the crazy shoes they wore. I hated this team. Even seeing the picture Josh posted I had a gut level reaction of ugh. Mike Bibby, Miles Simon just never sat right with me. I think because I really wanted that UNC team with Vince Carter to win. The modern equivalent might be someone like Purdue taking down Zion and Duke.
JB: Earlier I said that UNC's Tar Heel logo is the best ever. 1-B would have to be Kansas' Jayhawk. It isn't so great that I would make it take up nearly the entire floor at Phog Allen but it's pretty sweet to be able to use on uniforms/apparel.
Kansas has a long line of great shorts. The Danny Manning 1988 shorts come to mind with the sublte but cool K on the side but for my money I'm taking the shorts they wore starting in '98 and running through at least 2003. As this list plays out you will see a similar shorts layout reoccur with Maryland and Texas. Kansas' version a bit different but just as dope with the interlocking KU on one side and the Jayhawk on the other. The color blocking scheme and in general their school colors are tough to beat. Add the "wave" on blue on the side with the spaced piping go up the leg....beauties!
JB: I can't decide if the shorts help make the player or the player makes the shorts. In this case I think it's a perfect marriage. Again, mid '90s Nike absolutely kills it with these UCONN shorts rocked by Ray Allen and later Rip Hamilton and the '99 champs. I was at this game in the picture and remember telling my buddies at school about Ray Allen by simply saying "He glides man. Legitimately glides around the court." He was the smoothest player I had ever seen, in the dopest shorts, in the greatest basketball shoes ever made. And I got to see that shit in person when I should have been at school. Thanks mom.
AM: Ray Allen was my favorite college player of all time. Not my favorite basketball player but that time for college was the Apex for me. I was still a little too young to realize some of the things that I don't like about the NCAA and still young enough to imagine that I might one day wear one of these uniforms on the court. His winning shot in the 1996 Big East Tournament vs. Iverson and GTown is still one of my most memorable moments watching basketball. The Shot
MICHIGAN STATE 1999-2000
JB: REEBOK makes it first and only appearance on our list but comes strong with the MSU 2000 "Greek Prints". There are a few subtle details that help these standout besides the obvious Greek print on the trim and waistand. They did a nice job adding that thin black stripe going down the side on the outside of the green blocking with the S. Also, leaving the Spartan helmet logo to stand alone on the other leg was a really nice touch.
AM: I love the contrast of these shorts with the way that the team was able to play. When you see Spartan shorts or vaguely greek design elements you think classic like Dean Smith and the 4 corners or a set shot. They could play fast they could play slow they seemed like a modern team or what would become a modern team just at the dawn of the new millennium. For me it is a razor's edge between these and the Magic Johnson State uniforms but because I got to experience these and that team they just mean more to me. Bonus they look great.
MARYLAND TERRAPINS 2001-2002
JB: Ok, so you know I love the layout of these shorts and you may get tired of hearing why because you're hopefully going to scroll down and see another similar Texas pair but..... I CAN'T HELP IT!!! I feel like each of the 3 similar shorts on the list are unique enough to distinguish themselves.
Kansas changed their logos on each side and put them inside the blue waves, Texas (below) killed it with the perfect waistband, and with Maryland it's all about the incorporation of elements of their state flag/colors. The alternate M with state flag logo was a great logo too and tied in all the other elements of the shorts. Sold red wave on the bottom with the checkered piping plus a long overdue National Championship... what could be better?
TEXAS LONGHORNS 2001-2002
JB: Give me the burnt orange and Longhorn logo all day, every day. Going with the Longhorn above the piping like Maryland did above, letting it stand alone was a great decision. What gets this pair on the list for me is the waistband.
I'm obsessed with the minor details and the waistband pattern is super unique. Using the Texas "T" instead of overduing it with another Longhorn was clutch. Then going with a thick white waistband and subtle burnt orange stripe was perfection. I want to remake these so damn bad!!!!
AM: Texas uniforms look like a car battery was attached to them. They have this corrosive look with the rust color. My exception to this was TJ Ford. He could make the uniform look like a latte as he sped past. He was one of the fastest players I ever watched in college.
JB: The Indiana Hoosiers basketball uniforms have gone through very little changes over the last 40-50 years and that's perfectly fine with me. Subtle differences in the IU "curvy" logo and the more structured IU logo of today, and the switch from fire engine red to a true crimson is about all you're going to get in the way of changes. That's what makes them great. Clean, simple, easily identifiable, classics.
AM: I spent 7 years in Bloomington through college and grad school so I might be just a bit bias. Even with that said these are absolutely part of college basketball iconography. Put on one shining moment and stare at this picture of Calbert dunking and try not to get excited for the tournament. I say that knowing that The Hoosiers have been on the fringes of relevancy the past couple of years and the current Adidas uniforms are some of the worst I've ever seen.
JB: Colors and tradition, tradition and colors. UCLA hasn't changed their uniforms since the Wooden years and why would they? I think a crucial mistake some universities make is changing just for the sake of changing. Unless you're Oregon where having 57 uniform combinations IS your tradition, you don't need to change. These are so classic, so clean that I hope they don't ever change.
AM: UCLA uniforms look like Los Angeles. They are blue, yellow, sunny, a fabric personifcation of the best weather on the planet. Beyond the look of the uniforms the players who go there seem to fit the uniforms as well.
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
JB: These are classics. Over the years the argyle print has become synonymous with North Carolina basketball and it's used perfectly on the Stack-Sheed, Vince-Jamison era shorts. Plus they were smart enough to keep the Tar Heel logo stitched on the waistband which was a great touch.
There may be not better color combination in all of college sports than Carolina blue with navy. Hard to go wrong there. The piping is perfectly executed on these by not going to the edge of the shorts and instead leaving a thick patch of white under it.
I remember seeing these in Finish Line when Nike launched a bunch of the teams shorts and passing on them. In one word... regretful.
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