As Team USA gears up for the FIBA basketball championships (and further down the road, the 2016 Summer Olympics), their new threads have been getting almost as much attention as the final roster. The multicolored, American flag-themed unis are a far cry from the outfits of 1936, basketball’s first year as an Olympic sport.
STACK takes a look at how Team USA’s jerseys have evolved over the past 78 years of (mostly) American basketball dominance.
1936 – The First Uniform
All photos: AP Images
It all started with a uniform (above, far left) that slightly resembled that of a Boy Scout’s. A red, white and blue stripe ran diagonally down the jersey, and the shorts featured a similar colored trim at the bottom. In all honesty, those “jerseys” look more like small tank-tops.
1960 – Ahead of Its Time
Fast forward to 1960, when the men’s national team uniform was ahead of its time. Periods between the letters and a metallic silver tint to the numbers? This jersey could do no wrong, and neither could a team that featured Jerry West and Oscar Robertson as they streaked to a gold medal.
1976 – Same Ole, Same Ole
Prior to 1992, professional athletes were not allowed to participate in Olympic basketball, so Team USA was comprised of a bunch of amateurs, though that didn’t stop them from winning 63 straight games from 1936 to 1972. Their jerseys didn’t change much since 1960, featuring a simple white base with “U.S.A.” scrolled across the chest in red letters, paired with what can only be described as “short shorts.”
1992 – The Dream Team
If the USA men’s basketball team was dominant before, 1992 took things to a whole other level. With NBA players joining the ranks for the first time, guys like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Magic Johnson combined forces on a team that would become known as the Dream Team. They destroyed their competition on the way to the gold medal, defeating teams by an average of over 40 points, and looking good doing it. Team USA added the word “basketball” to their jerseys, as well as red and blue striping down the sides of the uniform. The threads also featured a star directly below the “USA.”
1996 – Shooting Stars
Team USA won gold again in 1996, with the city of Atlanta serving as host for their display of basketball dominance. The uniforms got rid of the star underneath “USA,” instead inserting it as part of the letter “A,” and featured a shooting star/basketball underneath the lettering. The players’ numbers were moved to the bottom of the jersey, and stars were added down the sides of the shorts.
2000 – Plain Jane
Team USA added another gold to its overflowing medal case in Greece in 2000, but did so in more of a scaled back uniform. The 1992 USA and star combo was turned into a patch the players wore on their left shoulder, and another star patch rested just below the neck. Other than that, “USA” lettering across the chest was all that was going on. If Vince Carter hadn’t thrown down one of the nastiest dunks of all time by jumping over a French dude, this jersey would be regarded as a big dud.
2004 – Earn Your Stripes
For the 2004 Olympics, Reebok took over from Champion as the producer of Team USA’s uniform, leaving it pretty much the same as the uniform from the previous Olympics but adding red and white striping down the side of the jersey. The U.S. stumbled to a bronze medal, their worst performance ever at the Olympics.
2008 – Modern Family
The “Redeem Team” reclaimed Team USA’s familiar place atop the podium in Beijing in 2008, thanks to guys like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Nike took over uniform production, and the result was a sleek, modern outift that spaced out the lettering and added a star in the middle of the “A.” An American flag was stitched into the left shoulder.
2012 – Looking Toward the Future
For the 2012 Olympics, Nike unveiled a more contemporary look for Team USA’s threads, changing the font on the lettering and pushing the letters closer together again. A blue stripe was added to the bottom of the shorts of the home uniform (red on the away unis), featuring a white star, a common theme throughout all of Team USA’s on-court apparel.