Which was worse, Sixers' teams or uniforms in early 1990s?

ASSOCIATED PRESS Tim Perry, who came to the Sixers in the Charles Barkley trade, sports ugly uniform.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Tim Perry, who came to the Sixers in the Charles Barkley trade, sports ugly uniform.
Posted: January 04, 2013

Five in a series of 13

WHEN IT comes to uniforms, the Sixers usually get it right.

There was the 1965-66 uni that didn't make the grade, but it wasn't because of the look. The players considered the high waist bands and baggy shorts too flashy and the uniforms were discontinued after 1 year.

Put a good team in a bad uniform and the talent overcomes the eyesore. But put a bad team in a bad uniform and there is no place to hide.

Enter the 1991-94 Sixers uniform.

It was hideous. And it replaced probably the classiest uniform the Sixers ever wore, from 1978-91. The one Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Andrew Toney, et al wore en route to the 1983 NBA championship. And the same one Charles Barkley wore for the first 7 years of his career.

The only historic event the star-crossed uniform encountered was when Barkley switched his jersey number from 34 to 32, in honor of Magic Johnson, who had prematurely retired after contracting the HIV virus. Barkley had to receive permission from his former coach, Billy Cunningham, whose No. 32 retired jersey hung in the Spectrum rafters.

And it was Barkley who said the uniforms looked like they were designed by his daughter with a crayon.

Barkley was smart. After 1 year in the Crayola garb, he forced a trade. Not sure if the uniform had anything to do with it.

The logo had "PHILADELPHIA" over the "SIXERS" on an angle with a band of stars either dropping from or raising to "SIXERS." Champion actually took credit for the "departure from classic Sixers uniform."

The fact that the uniform lasted 3 years is an amazing accomplishment in itself. Maybe management didn't want to spend money on another redesign or didn't feel that the group of players it had deserved another uniform.

Almost every list of the worst uniforms in history includes this one. Some of the lists: Traversing the Globe for the 15 Worst Basketball Jerseys of All Time (12th); Ten Worst Uniforms in Philadelphia History (first); Top Five: Ugliest Uniforms in Philadelphia Sports History (fifth); SI.com's Five Worst NBA Uniforms (second); and Bleacher Report's The 50 Worst Uniforms in League History (ninth).

In the 3 years the Sixers wore the uniform, they got worse each season, winning just 35 percent of their games (86-160).

Of the 34 players who wore these star-spangled vestments, there was a Kidd (Warren, not Jason), a Jordan (not Michael, but Thomas), a Mayes (Tharon, not Willie Mays), a Wilkins (Eddie Lee, not Dominique) and a Shack (not Shaq), as in Charles Shackleford. Others were Jeff Ruland (he came back), Moses Malone (he came back, too), Michael Ansley, Michael Curry, Kenny Payne, Brian Oliver, Mitchell Wiggins, David Hoppen, Orlando Woolridge, Bill Edwards, Eric Leckner, Isaac Austin, Greg Graham, and Shawn Bradley, the poster boy for this uniform.

"What really puts these awful uniforms over the top," said "Ugliest Uniforms in Philadelphia Sports History," "is that unlike most of the others [on its list], these were not special or one-off occurrences. The Sixers wore these horrifying things full time [for 3 years]."

"Nothing strikes fear into an opponent," said "Ten Worst Uniforms in Philadelphia History," "quite like an array of shooting stars that look like 'Rainbow Brite' should be on the other end."

And Shawn Bradley wearing it.

On a personal note, I was present at the June 30, 1994 press conference introducing draft picks Sharone Wright, B.J. Tyler and Derrick Alston. The threesome, as all rookies are apt to do, held up their new jerseys for the cameras. Looking down at his jersey, Alston then looked up and appeared to have said to Tyler, "Are we really expected to wear these?" Fortunately, these rookies never got to wear them. The Sixers introduced their new uniforms on Sept. 16.

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