Part of me wanted to post a suggestive title image for this article. Maybe post James Harden in some questionable alternate jersey. Maybe I would have a Hakeem Olajuwon with the uniform blacked out. I thought being a little misleading would be fun here.
Then I realized there was nothing fun about this article. I realized i should get right to the point. From 1995-2003, the Houston Rockets wore the ugliest jerseys in the franchise’s history.
I really hate these things.
Aesthetically speaking, the infamous white home and blue away pinstripe jerseys is almost some sort of artful-level of self awareness. It’s as though management one day sat down together and said, “Hey, I just realized we’re in the ‘90s. We need some sort of way for us to encapsulate this decade forever for our fans. I know! We’ll make the most ‘90s uniform ever.” Then to top it off, they had Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen wear them.
Having pinstripes on one’s jersey shouldn’t be a ripoff of any sort, because no one truly owns one of the most basic looks of all time, but it definitely feels like they looked at the newly christened Orlando Magic and said, “now, THAT screams a decade look.” And, in their defense, it’s made for a really fun throwback for fans. Up until 2003, the Rockets had only three basic sets of home and away unis in their 30+-year existence, with the first two sets being extremely similar. Maybe it was the foresight to engineer more throwback options.
Looks aren’t why I’m here, though. Do I think they’re exceptionally ugly? Yes. Is it abominable to see both Hakeem and Clyde Drexler to wear these? Also yes. But to me, the baggage that these jerseys bring make them even uglier.
Up until 1995, the Rockets sported the same logo and the same colors. The ketchup and mustard was, and should be (even though it kind of still is), synonymous with the Houston basketball team. Why they completely move away from that look, ditch the yellow, and add the blue, all for it to never come back into play in the history of the franchise is beyond me.
On top of that, and I’m sorry if you’ve heard me say this before, THEY SWITCHED JERSEYS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CHAMPIONSHIP ERA. Can you please name another team that has ever done that? This team, for the first and only time in its history, won a championship — two to be exact — with possibly the start of a dynasty, and decided to switch colors. Can you imagine if after the second championship, Tom Brady was like, “This silver and blue isn’t really working for me.” Or if after the three-peat, the Bulls were like, “No, this look is good for this period and this period only.” You know who completely overhauls their image? Teams that aren’t winning anything.
I mean, look at this:
This was the season after the back-to-back. This doesn’t look like these two are competing for the same thing. It looks like one was competing for a championship and one was gearing up for retirement.
There’s also nothing good that came with these jerseys. These were the last thing Charles Barkley wore in his NBA career, after injuries left him a shell of the player he was, and the very ones her wore when he ruptured his left quadriceps, cutting his final season short. Pippen was traded to Houston and extended in these, just for him to leave after only one season (a lockout season at that). They are the literal representation of one the most dysfunctional teams in Houston sports history.
“I wouldn't give Charles Barkley an apology at gun point” - Scottie Pippen pic.twitter.com/GGEUVR6rvF— Wunderkind (@Carnage45__) May 4, 2020
They are also the jerseys that couldn’t get past the Utah Jazz, depraving the Rockets of a chance to finally face Jordan in the Finals and Barkley of a ring. Even worse, the last time we saw Hakeem and Drexler as Rockets was in these things.
The only plus side to these jerseys is that they are the ones associated with one of the most disappointing segments of the franchise’s history. Again, call it foresight, but maybe they knew that, for the foreseeable future, things wouldn’t be as good as that feeling of back-to-back championships. They allowed the ketchup and mustard to maintain its regality and retire champions. They never allowed us to have the image of a scorned Pippen wearing their championship. And, most importantly, they never let the Jazz have the pleasure of keeping Houston from adding to the rafters while wearing their most iconic look.
The best thing that ever came out of those striped messes is absorbing a whole lot of let-downs, an iconic fit to Astroworld, and these images: