Welcome to The Vault, the weekly blog post that takes a look back at some of the best (and worst) jerseys throughout sports history. Each week, a classic set of threads each from the sports of football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and soccer will be revisited.
All submissions are welcome by messaging @tftb_smalls on IG.
Football: San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson
The first entry in this week’s Vault belonged to one of the most dynamic running backs in NFL history. Ladainian Tomlinson was selected fifth overall out of TCU by the San Diego Chargers in the 2001 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he ran for 1,236 yards and 10 TD’s. Known for being both elusive and a great receiver, LT scored ten or more touchdowns every season he was in San Diego. He helped the Chargers win the AFC West five times between 2004 and 2009, and was the NFL MVP in 2006 after rushing for a career-high 28 touchdowns. Tomlinson was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and is now listed as the fifth-highest in all-time rushing yards. The powder blue Chargers jerseys were some of the best throwback jerseys of the 2000’s and will always stand the test of time. I firmly believe these were FAR better than the navy blue jerseys the Chargers were also wearing during that era. It also doesn’t hurt that one of the best RB’s in history was wearing it during his years in San Diego.
Basketball: 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team
Our basketball selection this week is probably the most recognizable jersey of all time. The 1992 USA Olympic basketball squad is widely considered the best team to have ever been assembled (yes, even better than that team from the Bay that is monopolizing basketball as we know it). Boasting names like Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing (just to name a few), this team put on an absolute show at the ’92 Games in Barcelona. It was the first Olympics where professional basketball players were allowed on a country’s roster, and the US clearly took advantage of it. The Dream Team easily took home the gold, beating their opponents by an average of 44 points. There will most likely never be another team put together with as much talent or competitiveness. I mean, can you imagine being a spectator for one of those practices? That’d be incredible. The team’s jerseys are legendary, and were designed and produced by Champion instead of traditional powerhouses like Nike and Adidas. Clearly, Champion came up HUGE.
Hockey: 1996-97 Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd Jersey
Wow. These 1996-97 Lightning jerseys are so ugly that I actually kind of love them. The NHL introduced the new franchise to Tampa in 1990, and the Lightning played their first NHL season in 1992-93. They only went 23-54-7 that year, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering most franchises struggle in the early stages. We get it Vegas, not everyone can be like you. In the 1996-97 season, when these alternate jerseys were first released, the Bolts went on to a 32-40-10 record and failed to make the playoffs after making the cut the year before. However, the team did go 4-2 while playing in these
monstrosities beauties. Center Chris Gratton led the team in scoring that season with 62 points, and the team’s starting goaltender was Rick Tabaracci. While there weren’t any Hall of Famers on the 96-97 Lightning roster, these uniforms certainly make the cut as some of the most cringey/irresistible jerseys of all time. These sweaters scream the phrase “only nineties kids would understand” and I absolutely love it. Jerseys like this are why I started doing the Vault.
PS: Fast forward to today… the Bolts are absolutely BUZZING right now before the start of the NHL Playoffs. Can anyone spell “lock”?
Baseball: Toronto Blue Jays 1B/OF Joe Carter
The baseball selection this week doesn’t belong to a Hall of Famer (at least not yet), but it does belong to the man who made one of the most memorable plays in World Series history. Joe Carter was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1981 MLB Draft out of Wichita State. He made his MLB debut in 1983 against the Phillies, and would go on to be traded to the Cleveland Indians for the 1984 season. In Cleveland, Carter finished ninth in MVP voting after the 1986 season when he hit for a .302 batting average. He would go on to play for the Padres in 1990 before moving to the Blue Jays in 1991. Once in Toronto, he made the All Star Game four straight years and finished third in MVP voting in the 1992 season. However, his walkoff home run in Game 6 to win the ’93 World Series against the is what most baseball fans first think of when they think of Carter. His ninth inning homer to beat the Phillies gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. I’ve always thought the Blue Jays uniforms were knockouts (especially with that lettering on the front), and the ’93 home jerseys with the powder blue trim are no different.
Soccer: Arsenal F Thierry Henry
Our last entry this week belongs to French soccer legend Thierry Henry. The superstar striker first made his professional debut for Monaco in 1994 later signed with Italian giants Juventus in 1998. Henry made the move to Arsenal a year later, where he stayed until 2007. While in North London, Henry became Arsenal’s all-time leading goal scorer with 228 goals. During the 2003-04 season, Henry led Arsenal to an undefeated record and the Premier League title. As the club’s captain, he led Arsenal to the 2006 Champions League Final where they lost to Barcelona 2-1. Henry would transfer to Barcelona a year later before making the move to the MLS’s New York Red Bulls. Henry also enjoyed immense success playing for the French national team and was on the 1998 World Cup winning squad. The 2005-06 Arsenal home kit is a classic for a few different reasons. First, the jersey deviated from the classic shade of red that the club usually wore and went with a darker maroon color, which goes great with the gold lettering. Next, this was the kit that Arsenal (captained by Henry) wore on their way to the 2006 Champions league final. This kit was worn by one of the most successful clubs in the decade, which included one of the greatest strikers of all time.
If you have any jerseys that you’d like to see on the Vault, please feel free to message @tftb_smalls on Instagram. Input is always welcome.