A Brief History Of Basketball Merch & Spoiler Alert, It’s Always Been Cool As Hell

basketball merch

Basketball was never really on my radar until lockdown – original, I know. But isn’t that how all stories start these days?

This whole chapter of mine started when I watched The Last Dance on Netflix – that doco about Michael Jordan – followed by the ABC’s Australian Story about Luc Longley. If you haven’t watched the latter, I absolutely recommend it because it dives right into Longley’s legacy as the first Australian to play NBA, winning three consecutive championships.

That’s around about the time I fell down the rabbit hole. One Google search about how basketball even became a thing in the ye ol’ times of the 1890s grew into the great big world of uniforms and merch.

So let’s have a lil’ squiz, shall we?

Back then, basketball was apparently played in regular street attire. While I’m sure street attire in the 1890s was extremely different to today’s, it goes without saying that basketball has played a big part in the evolution of street style and your off-court fit.

I mean, look at this.

You can find this baby – the Puma Official Visit Mens Basketball Jacket – at rebel, if you’re keen on it.

Basketball uniforms started to really take shape between 1920 and 1940, when players started to wear mid-length shorts and jerseys made of wool.

Yes, wool!

Spalding, one of the original suppliers of basketball uniforms, first churned out gear made up of padded shorts that were knee-length and woollen jerseys with quarter-length sleeves.

Then in 1949, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL) merged to form the – you guessed it – National Basketball Association (NBA). It was a new era for the game, which meant teams needed more distinct uniforms – ones that would separate them from other sports.

The Harlem Globetrotters, legendary since its infancy in 1928, paved the way for basketball uniforms after they donned their simply iconic gear on court.

As you can see, basketball shorts used to be, well, really short. But this all changed in the late 1980s when one Michael Jordan asked the Chicago Bulls’ uniform manufacturer to create longer shorts so he could be more comfortable on court. Short shorts are preeeeetty tight when you’re hunched over.

Et voilà! A trend was born.

In total, Jordan’s influence added five inches to the hemline.

Shorts aside, if we’re talking about merch then we have to talk about Jordan’s banned Nike sneakers. Even if you know nothing about basketball, there’s a solid chance you’ll recognise these red and black shoes. Jordan was fined $5,000 by the NBA every time he wore the shoes on court in 1984 because the colours broke uniform rules.

The NBA was very unamused. Nike? Not so much, the cult brand even made an ad about the shoes being banned.

His influence.

Walk into major sporting stores like rebel, and you’ll find a slew of Jordan’s. That, and literally everything you need if you have a sudden urge to hit the court/backyard now.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the sport or have been shooting hoops for eons, basketball drip has taken the world by storm on and off the court, and rebel has your back to make it your own. They’ve even linked up with Fanatics to bring you the biggest official fan gear collection, from Boston Celtics merch to the Sacramento Kings.

I mean, look at these Nike PG 5 Daughters Basketball Shoes, inspired by LA Clippers’ Paul George‘s daughters Olivia and Natasha.

Pretty sick, hey?

If you have enough kicks, then maybe you need to start from scratch with a whole new system or a sleek new ball? Like this Wilson WNBA Authentic basketball, perfect for no matter where your court is – inside or out.

But since we’ve been looking into the history of basketball merch, let’s circle back to rebel’s yuge collection of fan gear. To be honest, I’m just using this as an excuse to gas up Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s “Freak” Premium Basketball Tee.

basketball merch
*adds to bag*

It’s a little bit of the Greek Freak for your everyday fit.

I could go on here, but there’s just heaps to choose from at rebel – the ol’ home of basketball.