Portland Trailblazers – Champion Jersey

Although Champion began producing jerseys for all NBA teams for the 1990-1991 season, they didn’t start producing replica jerseys for resale until 1991-1992 (most likely the summer of 1991, prior to the start of the season). Evidence of this can be seen in the Portland Trailblazers jersey design. For the 1990-1991 season, the Trailblazers had the “lower case” Blazers logo. No Champion Trailblazers replica jerseys exist with the older “lower case” Blazers logo from the 1990-1991 season.

clyde drexler hoops card

1990-1991 Blazers “lower case” logo jersey

For the 1991-1992 season, the Trailblazers updated their logo to the “upper case” Blazers logo. All Champion Trailblazers replica jerseys have this logo. However, the heat-transfer/screen-printing techniques that Champion used during the 1991-1992 production run were primitive. In fact, it appears that Champion rushed jerseys to market. A lot of the initial replicas from the 1991-1992 season were very basic and lacked the detail of the jerseys that teams actually wore on the court. For instance, the Trailblazers didn’t even have their signature stripes (blaze) on the 1991-1992 replicas jerseys:

Clyde Drexler Blazers No Stripe Red-White Trim Front

1991-1992 Blazers replica jerseys didn’t even have their signature stripes

Much of this was probably due to the limited platen size available on the heat presses that Champion was using in their production facilities.  The platen is the heated upper plate on the heat press and most likely was 14″ x 14″, which means that printing outside of this size range wasn’t possible. Therefore, all designs would be limited to a 14×14 area on the jersey. Therefore, while the authentic Trailblazers jerseys had stripes that run across the entire front torso, the replica jerseys initially had stripes that were short and limited to the width of the “Blazers” logo. Champion would add the stripes to the Trailblazer replica jerseys for the 1992-1993 season.

Clyde Drexler Blazers Partial Stripe Black Front

1992-1993 Blazers replica had stripes, but they didn’t run across the entire torso due to limited printing capabilities

In addition to adding the stripes for the 1992-1993 season, Champion also changed the neckline from a multicolor white/red trim, to a solid red trim. They also released white home jerseys, although they were extremely limited in both player availability and quantities printed. It was common for Champion to mainly release road jerseys for most teams, while home jerseys were limited and harder to find.

Champion wouldn’t change the Trailblazers jerseys until 1998-1999. It appears during this time that they finally were able to update their printing techniques and print across the entire front torso of jerseys (for instance, other teams like the Utah Jazz finally had logos that stretched across the entire chest). The stripes stretched across the entire torso, replicating what the players actually wore on the court. The only other change was the players names on the back of the jerseys went from straight orientation to a rounded/curved orientation. Also, Champion issued more white home jerseys in a wider variety of players, although quantities were still limited, and they are still scarcer than the black road versions.

Rasheed Wallace Blazers Full Stripe Black Front

1998-1999 Blazers replica jersey with stripes across entire torso

 

While most teams eventually transitioned to vests by the 2000-2001 season, the Trailblazers were one of the few teams that still had the traditional tank-top style jerseys when Champion ceased production of replica jerseys after the 2001-2002 season.

 

 

Authentic vs Swingman vs Replica Jerseys….

How the NBA defines the three categories of jerseys available for retail:

Authentic

The authentic jersey features the same fabrications and embellishments worn by players on-court but offered in regular apparel sizing.

Swingman

The swingman jersey includes nearly all the same visuals as an authentic jersey but integrates a consistent performance mesh fabrication and one layer twill wordmark, name and number applications.

Replica

The replica jersey is a screen-printed derivation of the jersey that highlights basic inserts and design elements.

 

Champion NBA Licensing Timeline (1990-1991 through 2001-2002)

This is a the follow-up to my recent posts on NBA uniform licensing. The following just focuses on recapping Champion’s NBA licensing history….

  • For 12 seasons (1990-1991 to 2001-2002), Champion was involved in NBA uniform licensing in some capacity
  • Champion produced replica jerseys for all NBA teams for 11 seasons (1991-1992 through 2001-2002)
  • Champion was the official uniform provider for all NBA teams for 7 seasons (1990-1991 through 1996-1997).
  • For the next 4 seasons (1997-1998 to 2000-2001), Champion was the official uniform provider for 10 NBA teams.
  • In 2001-2002, Champion was the official uniform provider for 8 NBA teams.
  • At the conclusion of 2001-2002 season, Champion’s license with the NBA expired and it no longer provided uniforms nor produced replica or authentic jerseys for any NBA teams

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NBA Jersey Licensing – Overview by Brand

In the following post I look at the brands that have had NBA uniform licenses over the past 30 years. I begin with MacGregor Sand-Knit, who in 1986 signed the first exclusive NBA license to outfit all NBA teams and produce replicas jerseys. I then look at all the other team uniform suppliers over the years, including Champion, Starter, Puma, Nike, Reebok and Adidas. This is a good resource if you are looking for a particular replica jersey and want to know who produced it, or if you are trying to authenticate a jersey.

Pre 1986-1987

  • NBA teams purchased uniforms directly from major manufacturers like Rawlings, Wilson, Russell Athletic, Medalist Sand-Knit/MacGregor Sand-Knit. There were also smaller manufacturer like Powers Mfg. (Denver Nuggets), Tiernan (LA Lakers) and Spanjan (Phoenix Suns). Some teams used local distributors who bought blank jerseys from the major manufacturers and customized them at their facilities. For instance, the New York Knicks used local distributor Gerry Cosby who in turn used Sand-Knit jerseys.

MacGregor Sand-Knit

1986-1987 through 1989-1990 (4 seasons)

  • MacGregor Sand-Knit exclusive NBA uniform provider for all teams
  • MacGregor Sand-Knit exclusive producer of replica jerseys for all teams

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NBA Jersey Licensing – Part I (MacGregor Sand-Knit)

These days, sports apparel brands pay top dollar to be the exclusive uniform provider for professional sports leagues, and when those deals are made, the sports media reports on them. For instance, Nike’s recent $1 billion dollar deals with the NFL and NBA were widely reported. But prior to Reebok’s exclusive uniform deals with the NFL (winter 2000) and the NBA (summer 2001) , financial figures for the uniform deals were never released in the media. In fact, even mere mentions of the deals are difficult to find. As a result, the history of NBA uniform licensing is difficult to piece together. But as a jersey collector, it’s important to have a basic comprehension of uniform licensees over the past 30 years. It will help you determine which players and teams might be available from a certain brand like MacGregor Sand-Knit, Champion, Puma, Starter, Nike, Reebok or Adidas. It’s also an important first step in determining which jerseys are legit and which are counterfeits.

Several years ago when I first started trying to establish the timeline of Champion’s uniform licensing agreement with the NBA during the 1990s, I was not able to find one resource that accurately laid out NBA uniform licensing deals. I bounced around to different collector forums to try to piece it together, but found a lot of conflicting information and inaccuracies. Furthermore, no one had any supporting documentation backing up their claims. So I spent substantial time researching and piecing it all together. This series of posts are dedicated to providing an accurate, comprehensive look at the history and evolution of NBA jersey licensing. I have included links throughout this post to numerous articles, advertisements, product photos, etc. that backup my research.

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Champion NBA Jersey Archive….

My closet circa 2003

My closet circa 2003

For the past 15 years I have collected and sold Champion basketball jerseys. Over that time I have documented over 1,200 different jerseys. All of that content just collected in a folder on my computer….until now. For the past ten years I have wanted to create a blog-o-site that contained a comprehensive photo archive of every Champion NBA replica jersey ever made. But I didn’t have time, and I thought since the internet has everything, someone would eventually come along and create it. But, as the popularity of Champion jerseys continues to increase, there still is no place on the web where enthusiasts/collectors can go to see/discuss/learn about Champion basketball jerseys. Maybe I’m the only one who cares that much, and maybe that’s a problem…my girlfriend tends to think so. But nonetheless, this is my gift to the internet…which is now one step closer to containing everything ever.

Over the next several months, I’ll attempt to post one team gallery per week. Eventually as more content is posted, you’ll be able to search by player as well. And hopefully at some point, I’ll create galleries for the NCAA jerseys and for the NBA Authentic jerseys as well. But for right now, my focus is just on adult Champion NBA replica jerseys.

My blog posts will be aimed more at collectors and enthusiasts…more heavy on detail and history. But this site is for all NBA fans who grew up during the 90s and want to take a look back at uniform designs, players, etc. Champion jerseys capture a moment in time for the NBA from 1991 through 2002….my favorite period in basketball.

There are no jerseys for sale on this site, this is merely for historical purposes and for reference. If you own a jersey that is not posted on a published team page, send me photos and I’ll post it and give you credit. The whole goal of this site is to be a complete archive, so definitely appreciate any help from fellow collectors!