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Why Aren’t NBA Players Allowed to Wear Throwback Jerseys

All NBA players are mandated to wear jerseys on the basketball courts however, the NBA banned all NBA players from wearing throwback jerseys in 2005 to games. The ban has now been around for sixteen years however, at the time there was huge controversy over the ban of throwback jerseys.

Why aren’t NBA players allowed to wear throwback jerseys? In the late 1990’s and early 2000s NBA players wore throwback jerseys on the way to basketball games and in media appearances. Following Malice in the Palace, the NBA decided that appropriate attire had to be worn prior to games and in media appearances.

What was the Pretext for Banning Throwback Jerseys?

In the late 1990s, NBA players wore throwback jerseys in tribute to previous players such as Michael Jordan. Wearing throwback jerseys was also the fashion in hip hop culture and hip hop culture featured heavily in basketball and vice versa. NBA players had worn the throwback jerseys when arriving at stadiums for a game. NBA players also wore throwback jerseys to media events and charity events run by the NBA.

In 2003, the Malice at the Palace brawl took place between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons (if you have not read about the brawl check out our article here). The scene of NBA players storming into a crowd of fans to fight the supporters was a watershed moment for the NBA. The NBA decided to make sweeping changes to league rules in 2005, this is believed to help make incidents such as the Malice at the Palace not happen again.

Kobe wearing a Jordan Throwback Jersey

Who from the NBA Banned Throwback Jerseys

David Stern, who was the NBA commissioner at the time, banned the players from wearing NBA throwback jerseys prior to a game and at any media or charity event which involved the NBA. No other sports league in the world imposed the ban but Stern wanted to ensure that an event of the crowd and players never happened again in the NBA.

Any player who broke the rules on the throwback jerseys would be fined by the NBA. Prior to the dress code David Stern was happy for NBA players to wear jeans with shoes and a shirt with a collar. However, the players went over the top. When asked about bringing in the dress code Stern said:

The [players] union said it was a good thing to do, I did it and then they attacked me for it.

– David Stern

Why did the NBA Ban Throwback Jerseys?

The NBA and in particular David Stern believed that the players had taken the relaxed dress code of a shirt, jeans and shoes far too far. The NBA also wanted to clean up it’s image after the Malice in the Palace incident and felt that players should dress smartly as they are going to their job. The NBA felt that should be a distinction between the NBA players and the crowds. Even players sitting on the bench had to be suited.

David Stern was pretty clear on his enforcement of the dress code and even intimated that if players did not comply they would have to decide whether they would wanted to play in the NBA or not.

Stern also informed the media that there are different uniforms for different times of the time. A uniform for when you play, a uniform for downtime and a uniform for smart business occasions. The NBA just changed the definition of when you are on NBA.

What Throwback Jerseys Were Banned?

All throwback jerseys were banned for all players arriving to a game or making media appearances. There was no exception to the rule not even the the G.O.A.T, Michael Jordan’s Jersey was safe. Check out Jordan’s throwback jerseys here.

How did the NBA Enforce the Ban on Throwback Jerseys?

The NBA brought in a dress code which meant that casual business attire was worn by all NBA players. Business attire was clarified as a dress shirt with either long or short sleeves, alternatively players could wear a turtleneck instead of a shirt. Players were allowed to wear a jumper with the shirt or turtle neck.

Players had to wear smart trousers and or smart jeans. The NBA also confirmed that players are allowed to wear khaki trousers as well. The league stipulated that the NBA players had to wear smart shoes and boots and were not allowed to wear trainers, flip flops and sandals (essentially the league was trying to get the players look as smooth as MJ, when did you see him in a throwback?). Within the same sweeping changes the NBA also banned Timberland boots, which players found to be another ban against hip hop within the NBA.

How did NBA Players react to the Ban on Throwback Jerseys?

The NBA players were bothered by the dress code being implemented by the NBA. The players felt like they were being targeted by the league for dressing in particular way, which was influenced by the hip hop culture.

After the dress code came into force, NBA players wore clothes that made them feel comfortable but would not get them fined. It changed some peoples style but no player wanted to get fined. Allen Iverson was very outspoken about the ban on throwback jerseys and felt that he had been targeted with the new rule change. Particularly, as Iverson was seen as the pioneer of the hip hop style in the NBA.

Iverson was asked about how the NBA players dress today and he stated that:

I think there should be a dress code now. They made a big deal when I was doing it, some of the stuff these dudes are wearing, come on man. They were picking on me then obviously, they these guys wear what they are wearing now. This is out of control.

– Allen Iverson

What Impact did the Ban on Throwback Jerseys have on the NBA?

Although there was uproar when the ban on the NBA throwback jersey was brought in . There has since been a significant change in the fashion of the NBA. In today’s NBA players have relationships with fashion brands and house and are style trendsetters. Looking at today’s NBA, David Stern believes the dress code was a good choice as it opened up new sponsorship avenues for the NBA players.

The ban on throw back jerseys was initiated to protect the league’s image however, the change in fashion rules started a game of one up man ship by the NBA players. Each player tried to be more stylish than the previous NBA player. Players could also reflect their personality through their suits, shoes and glasses. Although the ban was initially hated by the players the change in style proved to open new sponsor opportunities to basketball players who are now offered sponsorship deals by fashion brands or fashion houses.

NBA players now have a huge say in the fashion world, Russell Westbrook took his fashion style and made regular updates to his Instagram page. Westbrook’s fashion sense caught the eye of the fashion world and has respected admires on the court and in fashion circles. Westbrook launched a book about his style called Style Drivers.

Ironically, there can be some exceptions to the rules. Headphones were banned by the NBA unless the player was wearing them on the team bus or in the team locker room. However, in 2008 a new headphone brand gave a pair of their headphones to LeBron James. This was a marketing tactic of a new headphone firm to give superstars the headphones, the firm was Beats by Dr.Dre. Beats took off and the NBA now have a sponsorship with Beats as the official headphone sponsor of the NBA, funny how things turn out.