What makes a jersey awesome, you ask? Well first of all, we’re not talking about your mainstream, find-it-at-Macy’s jersey here, oh no. The jerseys on our list are rare, tough to come by, and were at one time or another made available to the public for purchase in replica format. You may not be able to find all these jerseys in stores today, but they were out there and you had your chance, and chances are you passed. Which is why here at SSN, we’ve done the work in tracking these mesh memories down to show you one more time what you missed out on. From the very cool to the very unfortunate, we have 11 of the most awesome jerseys Seattle sports fans could ever want. Enjoy.
First of all, let me tell you about jersey manufacturer Champion. Back in the day, when cheap mesh jerseys became all the rage, Champion used to make player replicas on both a local and national level. Nationally, Champion would market one or two of the team’s biggest stars and sell their jerseys around the country. With the Sonics, those two players were always Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Locally, however, you could buy the jersey of almost any player on the Sonics roster from Nate McMillan to Sarunas Marciulionis. Schrempf’s jersey was confined to the greater Seattle area, making it hard to come by for out-of-towners.
Secondly, the green and gold Schrempf jersey was only produced for two years. In 1995, the Sonics changed their logo and jerseys to the ill-fated forest green-brick red combination. So any of the pre-’95 green-and-gold jerseys became that much more sought after.
In addition to all the rarities of this jersey, Schrempf turned out to be one of the greatest players in Sonics history and validated the wearing of his throwback jersey for years to come.
10. Rick Mirer, Seahawks royal blue-and-white, 1993-1996, #3. The distinction of being a first-round draft pick in the NFL comes with the glory of having a mass-produced replica jersey released in your honor. It’s part of the NFL marketing plan and almost any first-round pick of the last fifteen years or so has seen others proudly, or perhaps in Mirer’s case not-so-proudly, wear their jersey.
These days, you’re much more likely to find Mirer’s Hawks jersey on Craigslist, being sold to anyone willing to take it. Actually witnessing a Seahawks fan wear his or her Mirer jersey in public is like spotting Bigfoot or seeing Halley’s Comet twice; these kinds of things just don’t happen.
9. Lenny Wilkens, Sonics white-green-gold, 1968-1969, #19. If you happened to frequent Key Arena before the Sonics left town, you may have noticed Wilkens #19 jersey hanging from the rafters after having been retired way back in 1979. Wilkens was a good player and an even better coach. There isn’t a big market for Lenny Wilkens leisure suits however, so vintage jersey manufacturer Mitchell and Ness went with the classic approach and released Wilkens’ Sonics jersey a few years ago.
Even after just a couple years, Lenny’s jersey is tough to come by already and good luck finding it for under $200. But for those Seattle fans who are trying to get their hands on all things Sonics, you can still find #19 online. Just don’t expect to get a deal.
8. Willie Horton, Mariners powder blue-royal blue-and-yellow, 1979-1980, #53. Even a well-reputed jersey maker like Mitchell and Ness is apt to make a few mistakes here and there. Perhaps one of their bigger failures was the release of Horton’s Seattle Mariners jersey a few years back. Raise your hand if you actually recall Willie Horton playing for the Mariners. Ok, now raise your hand if you actually know who Willie Horton is. Exactly, whoops.
Just so we’re all on the same page here, Horton is a former Major League Baseball player who ended up being of the greatest Detroit Tigers of all time. Memo to Mitchell and Ness: that’s Detroit, not Seattle. Horton was one of the game’s premiere power hitters through the 1970’s and was a member of the Tigers organization from 1963 until 1977. Towards the end of his career, a cellar-dwelling Seattle club tried to rekindle Horton’s glory days by bringing him on board the good ship Mariner only to witness an old man try to hit baseballs. Horton actually did have a great ’79 season, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 106 runs for the M’s. But 1980 was a complete bust and the one-time great ended up retiring after that season, having spent only two years as part of the Seattle fabric.
Of course, that didn’t stop Mitchell and Ness from trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice with Horton and Seattle, although this time it may have ended up even worse than before. I can’t imagine too many Seattleites spending $250 on a Willie Horton jersey, nor can I imagine too many Detroit fans opening their pocketbooks for another team’s uni even with their favorite son’s name on the back. It’s like us buying a Gary Payton Heat jersey, or a Griffey Reds jersey…sure it happens, but not that often. Of course, if you really want to get your hands on Willie Horton’s #53, check out eBay, which is where I found the image above.
7. Washington Huskies football purple-and-gold, #15. Each year, every major college and their apparel sponsor come up with a few numbers to put on the backs of football jerseys to sell to the general public. If you’re a Husky fan, chances are you’ve seen a #10 jersey around (Jake Locker), or possibly a #7 (Greyson Gunheim), or a #4 (Isaiah Stanback), or even the generic #1 (a number that almost every school does, but often ties in with a player’s jersey–this year, it would be Chris Polk). If you wanted a Husky football jersey in 2004, however, chances are you were stuck with good ol’ #15, quarterback Casey Paus.
To be fair, Nike didn’t have too many options when deciding which jersey to mass produce and sell to Husky fans in ’04. Their option on defense was the jersey of linebacker Joe Lobendahn, but Lobendahn’s uni was considered the “backup” option and wasn’t produced in the same quantities as Paus’ #15. Nike rolled with the “safe” choice for their primary UW jersey and went with the starting quarterback of the team (almost always the fallback option when it comes to jerseys), who happened to kinda sorta be Casey Paus. Needless to say it was a total failure.
Personal story here. When the Paus jerseys were unveiled in ’04, I was working at Champs Sports, which some of you may know is a sports apparel retailer that is one of the best places to buy jerseys of any type. Near the start of the ’04 football season, we received a shipment of roughly 50 Paus jerseys, which we ended up sending back to Nike having not sold a single one. Amazing, I know. To this day, you can still find #15 UW jerseys buried amongst the racks at certain retailers. Two places I’ve seen #15 recently, in case you still want to purchase one: the Northgate Mall Finish Line and the Alderwood Mall J.C. Penney, but I’m sure there are others.
Anyways, the #15 jersey didn’t do so hot for Nike or the UW, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome. Sure, rocking out in Paus’ old digs may say to the world, “look how bad I am at making decisions,” but just know that you’re of a rare breed and one of the lucky few who actually managed to take home one of those jerseys before the unsold were burned to ashes.