Blast from the Past: The Uni's

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They say that the clothes make the man. And for over four decades, the Cavaliers have seen their men made by some diverse duds. Just last season, the Wine and Gold entered another era of sartorial splendor.

Cleveland’s new uniforms were as close to their original 1970 threads as they’ve had since. In between, the franchise has experimented with burnt orange, royal blue, bright orange, black, purple and pastel blue. And throughout the club’s history, there have been three radical uniform/color changes – not all good.

Over the past few years – and deep in the team’s history – the club’s colors (“wine and gold”) have become almost analogous to the team’s actual name. The Cavaliers are the “Wine and Gold” in the same way that Ohio State is the “Scarlet and Grey,” the University of Michigan is the “Maize and Blue” or the Oakland Raiders are the “Silver and Black.”

The first uniforms featured the original Wine and Gold.

Those uni’s included an underscore of “Cavaliers” on both home and road jerseys. Those years also featured the birth of the Cavs iconic logo – a silhouetted figure of a jousting Cavalier, encircled by the words “Cleveland Cavaliers.” The symbol is almost as recognizable as the infamous “Chief Wahoo” and, like his grinning baseball cousin, has survived through four decades of change.

Cleveland’s second uniform style – made famous by the “Miracle of Richfield” squad – featured home gold uniforms and “Marquette”-style horizontal white, wine and gold stacked piping along the sides. Those uniforms – and that era – were celebrated on several occasions by the 2004-05 team.

In 1981, as the final remnants of the Miracle squad left the arena, the Mike Mitchell-era team went with a metallic gold with a pair of horizontal stripes with the word “Cleveland” written above it in block letters. They were about as popular as the team and its ownership during that era.

But in 1983 – with the purchase of the team by George and Gordon Gund and the franchise poised for a positive rebirth – the Cavaliers made a radical departure from its original colors and identity.

This came in the form of the burnt orange and royal blue uni’s with the word “CAVS” written across the chest – with the “V” doubling as a hoop with a ball entering it. The word-mark also served as Cleveland’s new logo.

The Cavaliers retained the colors – and slight variations on the look – throughout their final, and highly successful, years at the Richfield Coliseum. The burnt orange as the primary road color was replaced by the royal blue road uniforms in 1987 and the “CAVS” logo was replaced with the block “Cleveland” before the 1989 season.


Cavs Records by Uniform

1970-74
99-229
1974-81
242-250
1981-83
66-180
1983-87
124-204
1987-89
99-65
1989-94
233-177
1994-97
132-114
1997-99
69-63
1999-03
108-220
2003-10
349-225


This attire will forever be linked to the Lenny Wilkens era of excellence that featured the likes of Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance and Hot Rod Williams.

When the Cavaliers left the Coliseum, they left both color schemes behind. And when they began play at Quicken Loans Arena in the 1994-95 season, there was a radical departure from the previous look.

From the wine and gold of the 70s to the burnt orange and royal blue of the 80s, the Cavaliers went with pastel blue and black. Home uniforms were white, road black, with a random, jagged blue splash across the torso and double-lined lettering that said “CAVS” at home and “Cleveland” on the road, both outlined in orange.

The Cavaliers modified this look in 1997, sticking with the color scheme, but adding an outline to the letters. In 1999, the team (thankfully) axed the incongruous torso splash. Instead, the uniforms featured a more streamlined blue and orange piping along just the right side of the shirts and shorts. The futuristic, lined letters remained.

But in October of 2002, Gordon Gund decided to bring Cavaliers fans back to the future. The new colors were announced on October 9, 2003 – the “new expression of wine and gold” – a crimson-hued wine color and a metallic, almost copper, gold.

The Cavaliers whites had a metallic wine in thick piping down the side of the shorts and jerseys. The same jagged capital “C” began “Cavaliers” which they wore at home and “Cleveland” – which they wore across their chest on their road wine jerseys. The road wines had the thick, metallic gold piping down the sides.

The 2003-2010 era Cavaliers also wore an alternate blue uniform with horizontal piping accents, a tribute to teams past.

To anoint the most recent era of Cavaliers basketball, the team once again made a change. The colors were still wine and gold – but both were injected with a new vibrancy. The metallic gold was replaced by the Miracle era bright gold.

Cleveland’s new old-school uniforms have a classic look – with “CAVALIERS” emblazoned in wine across the chest on the home whites; “CLEVELAND” in gold on the road wines. The thick piping along the outer-thigh of the shorts is gone, replaced by a “C-Sword” on both sides. The jerseys are crew-neck, with alternate striping on the neck and arms of the jersey – as well as the waistband and legs of the shorts.

But perhaps the most unique and meaningful feature of the Cavs new finery is something fans never get a chance to see.

Along the back of the jersey’s inner-collar – facing the back of the player’s neck – lies the Cavaliers credo: “All for one. One for all.”