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Basketball Uniforms Through the Years

Sports uniforms

A look at how basketball sportswear trailed the fashion path

People's fascination for basketball is as old as the game itself. If you are an avid basketball fan, you have probably witnessed not only eras of certain players or teams (like the era of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls), but also eras of basketball uniforms.

Yes, basketball uniforms have certainly come a long way from its earlier, 'preppie' beginnings, and its journey into the basketball sportswear we know today is both interesting and entertaining.

Basketball uniforms were not always sleeveless jerseys and trendy shorts. When the first basketball game was played in 1891 by youth from School of Christian Workers, they only used their gym clothes. The trend carried on for a while but as soon as the basketball rules developed, so did the uniforms.

Big changes. The soccer ball used for the first basketball game in 1891 was traded in for the first real 'basketballs,' which look a lot like the balls we use today, except brown and without the special anti-slip rubber. Then, the boxes that used to serve as the nets were replaced by braided cords hooked onto sturdier metal rings in 1906. Modifications were also introduced to the initial 13 rules laid down by basketball founder James Naismith. One of the more significant changes was made in 1932, when the '10-second rule' was implemented. The rule stated that the offensive team must get the ball past the division line within 10 seconds or they lose the possession. But even before these rule modifications, basketball was already catching on fast. YMCA teams, high school and college teams began forming associations and played against each other, and the need for standardized yet distinguishable basketball uniforms surfaced.

The first set of basketball uniforms came out around the 1920's when the sport became more competitive and formal basketball leagues were formed. The set comprised of quilted padded shorts and a wool jersey with the team name. The company 'Spalding' was one of the first to manufacture the padded shorts, which always carried the Spalding cloth patch. Such sets of basketball uniforms typify what was considered a milestone in basketball history, which is why they are still auctioned off in collector's sites these days, with serious prices ranging from $250 to as much as $600, depending on the condition.

Women's basketball uniforms. The year 1978 ushered women into basketball. Contemporary women's basketball uniforms resemble men's uniforms to a great extent, although jerseys were considerably smaller, and some special undergarments like sports bras were added. But it wasn't always this way. There was a period - short but memorable - when women wore short-sleeved shirts and skirts when playing basketball.

Trends today. Today, both men and women wear the standard basketball uniform consisting of a pair of shorts and a sleeveless tank top. The shorts were shorter in the 1970's and 1980's, but they eventually fell on the knee in the 1990's.

Yet another interesting part of the basketball uniform is the footwear, which has also seen a lot of changes. The traditional basketball shoes were high-cut sneakers that provided ankle support, but players later traded them in for more indulgent branded shoes that prop up such moves as dodging, leaping, etc.

The future. Changes in basketball uniforms say a lot about how the game is played, and the changing needs of basketball players (who are getting better and better). Basketball jerseys may change colors and shorts may change lengths, but the most important things about basketball never seem to change: teamwork, sportsmanship, and good old fashioned fan spirit.

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