Alan Goldsher is Collectable’s Head of Content.
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“Men’s fashion in the 1970s continued to get brighter and bolder. By the early seventies, the so-called ‘Peacock Revolution’ that had started in the 1950s had made it acceptable for men to wear brighter colors and bolder prints. Shirts and trousers were tighter than they’d ever been.”
So says fashion scribe Karina Reddy in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s extensive Fashion History Timeline. Sadly, Karina and F.I.T. didn’t see fit to discuss the bright, bold, tight, peacocky uniforms that populated the American Basketball Association during the league’s mercurial 1967-1976 run.
For the most part, the ABA’s unis were, in a word, dope-a-delic, especially when compared to the era’s NBA gear. The Boston Celtics, for instance, sported their traditional white and green, their traditional font, and their traditional lack of graphics. Yawn.
The Spirits of St. Louis, on the other hand, were all like, “Screw that, we’re going with neon orange as our primary color, plus we’re gonna incorporate our cartoony logo on the front of the jersey, plus we’re going by the Spirits of St. Louis rather than the St. Louis Spirits, and if you don’t like it, have fun with that snooze-riffic Detroit Pistons Basketball Club thing.”
To that end, here are ten of our fave ABA unis, gear that’s as funky now as it was during the disco decade.
KENTUCKY COLONELS 1974-76, HOME
A simple blue and white color combo, admittedly, but the font’s puffiness—so big that the edges of “C” and the “s” from the “Colonels” are all but under the player’s armpits—separate it from the pack.
NEW YORK NETS, 1974-76, ROAD
Three stars on the jersey, two stars on the shorts, a thin, sleek font, and royal blue as far as the eye can see. Those babies were gorgeous, especially when worn by Julius Erving.
MEMPHIS SOUNDS, 1974-75, ROAD
The red-and-white color scheme is meh, but the fat, sloped, distinctly 1970s letters comprise what’s likely the finest font seen on any professional uniform, ever.
PITTSBURGH PIPERS, 1967-68, HOME
The team’s logo had nothing to with pipers of any sort, be them of the bird or pied variety, but their ABA-centric red, white, and blue color scheme with the “I” tipping the ball, makes up for any confusion.
INDIANA PACERS, 1971-74, ROAD
A top-to-bottom stripe is tasty. Three parallel top-to-bottom stripes—all of which are either a different color or width—is a scheme of which Halston himself would be proud.
SPIRITS OF ST. LOUIS, 1974-76, ROAD
See: paragraph four, intro, above.
PITTSBURGH CONDORS, 1971-72, HOME
The Condors’ shades of rich yellow/gold and cherry red were eye-melting, and in order to compete with the NBA, the ABA had to try anything up to and including melting eyeballs. And the jersey’s front, on which an angry bird clutches the league’s trademark red, white, and blue ball, is utterly sublime.
VIRGINIA SQUIRES, 1974-75, HOME
Whether it’s 1974 or 2024, you can’t go wrong with red, orange, and black. The downward-sloping sans serif font adds to the magic.
THE FLORIDIANS, 1970-72, HOME
A plump pink and orange vertical stripe on a white background. A space-age font. And no team name to be seen. The Floridians owned it, and more power to them.
DENVER NUGGETS, 1975-76, ROAD
This beautiful mess basks in its weirdness. The red, white, blue, and yellow pickaxe that sits in the oval is so huge that it relegates the player’s number to mere inches above the waist. The fact that the DENV and ER are differently sized takes this glorious mess next level.