Colorful and loose, regional and stylistically varied, basketball to football and sports in between, jerseys gave artists the freedom to get ’fits off in a variety of settings and circumstances. If they were at a pool party but didn’t feel like going shirtless or wearing a tank top, they could throw on a Los Angeles Lakers jersey and be fly while also soaking up the sun. If they wanted to rep the Big Apple, they could throw on a New York Knicks jersey and give the city a silent but visible shoutout, too.
Rappers donned sports jerseys in the earliest part of the 1990s, with artists like Flavor Flav and Tupac Shakur and more rocking different team shirts whether in court, on stage or in music videos. Flav could be seen rocking a Chicago Bulls jersey while performing while ’Pac rocked a Detroit Red Wings jersey as he left a courthouse back in 1994. He’s caught on camera spitting at reporters while wearing the jersey.
As the years went on, rappers began wearing jerseys to any and all functions. And since people wanted to match their jerseys with their kicks, you couldn’t tell whether a rapper was actually a fan of the sports team emblazoned on their jersey or it was strictly a matter of utility.
Heading into the 2000s and beyond, rocking jerseys was still popular, whether it was a typical jersey from a current team or a Mitchell & Ness throwback. Red carpets looked like early 2000’s NBA all-star games. With the attire becoming embedded in pop culture as a whole, iconic images of rappers wearing jerseys in their music videos were seared into the rap zeitgeist. Cam’ron, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones rocked colorful throwbacks in Dipset’s video for “Oh Boy.” In a video for Mya’s “Best of Me (Remix),” Jay-Z and the R&B superstar wore Michael Jordan’s baby blue North Carolina jersey. Mya wore her jersey like a skirt.
By the mid-2000s—particularly after Hov distanced himself from sports jerseys in favor of button-ups in 2003 (“What More Can I Say”)—jerseys were no longer the rap ’fit of choice. There was a pivot to v-necks, Ed Hardy, Ralph Lauren and various streetwear by the time the mid-2000s had concluded. Artists continued to rock jerseys, for sure, but as is the case with everything, the trend receded into 1990s and 2000s ephemera, only to be seen courtside at NBA games here and there or throwback parties around the way.
Today, in commemoration of a time when jerseys were a must-have for any rapper’s stylistic utility belt, XXL takes a look at hip-hop’s love for the sports team attire through the years. From Bow Wow sporting an Allen Iverson No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers jersey to Hov donning a Charles Oakley No. 34 Toronto Raptors jersey and more, see throwback photos of them, ‘Pac, Jay-Z, Diddy, Snoop Dogg and some of your favorite rappers below.
See Hip-Hop’s Love for Sports Jerseys Over the Years