The Warriors' new throwback jerseys are fine. The Wizards' represent everything wrong with society

SFGATE columnist Rod Benson on the latest reboot of something that's neither good nor old.

Michael Jordan, wearing one of the worst jerseys ever, argues with a call in November 2001.

Michael Jordan, wearing one of the worst jerseys ever, argues with a call in November 2001.


I’m old enough to remember when throwback jerseys were the only jerseys we wore. The first one I wore, once a week with Girbaud jeans and black Air Force Ones, thank you very much, was a black, red and yellow Shareef Abdul-Rahim retro Hawks jersey. I rocked that fit with pride constantly until the first day of summer class one year at Cal, when Shareef walked in and sat down next to me. Ashamed, I never wore it again.

But the second was a Michael Jordan Washington Bullets throwback, which may have been the most popular of that era. You couldn’t go out without seeing someone else with it on, but that didn’t deter me. There weren’t a ton of options for Jordan jerseys then, and eBay barely existed yet. And critically, the jersey was actually fire. The red, white and blue was my fit for back-to-back July Fourths. 

But perhaps the real reason for its popularity was that while Michael was in Washington, there was only one other MJ Wizards jersey available: The abomination that I refer to as “the Kwame Brown.”

And no one wanted the Kwame Brown, believe me. It looked bad. Really bad. It reminded me of one of those kids’ design competitions, and the winner was a kid who was inspired by real magic and believed in wizards. It looked like the jersey the wizard from Cookie Crisp would wear if he played in the NBA. This was also during the XXXXL size era, so this jersey on actual NBA players looked like yards and yards of the only unsatisfying blue colored fabric imaginable. Twenty-two inches of inseam in shorts that nobody wanted. Nobody.

Luckily, in 2012, the Wizards went back and adopted the old Bullets theme that they still use today and left the Kwame behind. Nobody was upset with that change. Nobody. 

And certainly no one spent the last decade clamoring for it. Which is why I began yelling WHY to myself when the Wizards recently announced that they’re bringing back one of the worst jerseys in NBA history as a throwback Classic Edition for the upcoming season.

Seriously. Why? Why bring back a jersey that’s only ten years old? If John Wall were still a Wizard, this would be a retro version of a jersey he actually wore. It’s hardly retro at all! The old jersey was adopted in 1997 and ran until 2011 and during that time, no one liked it and the Wizards lost a lot of games. So I have to imagine that the only reason they’re going back to this particular jersey is because the Wizards don’t have a lot to offer in terms of retros. The current jersey basically is a throwback already. But then why not come up with a new alternate, like the Cavs and Jazz did, or put a new spin on an already-existing classic, like the Warriors did? Alas, Wizards gonna Wizard.

This is the larger issue: everything is being recycled. Nothing is new, and it’s not just the NBA.

There’s “White Men Can’t Jump,” a near perfect film, being rebooted with Jack Harlow as the star. There’s the McRib. These are among the roughly ten million things from the ‘90s that had their moment but no one is asking for now. But there’s a level below that: reboots of things that were both never good and are not old. Transformers movies. And the Kwames. I now believe every pitch meeting for everything consists of a bunch of decision makers sitting quietly around a table until one of them asks “remember this?”

Of course there is a place for nostalgia, executed narrowly and well. Outside of the NBA, Spider-Man and Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza. Inside it, what the Lakers, Warriors and Pistons are doing this year. (Give me the horse on the jersey all day. Seriously. More horse.)

And that’s why we get the constant reboots: Because the ones that work really do scratch an itch. I’ll likely never tire of the Jordan III no matter how many iterations come out. But the league, and society at large, are now flooding us with things we aren’t really asking for and trying to convince us that these things are cool.

Too often, we take the bait, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone falling for the Kwame Jersey, a look so jarring it snaps you back to reality like a cold shower. I look forward to laughing at whoever wears it on and off the court.