Behind The Scenes

Major-league task: Inside’s upcoming Uniform Power Rankings



Editor’s note: Which MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL uniforms are the best — and the worst? Let us know in the COMMENTS section below this post, and of course go to’s Playbook next week for the actual Uni Watch Power Rankings.

There are “Power Rankings” for everything these days.

You name it, there are people ranking it. But when it comes to a power ranking for sports uniforms, there can be only one author: Paul Lukas, who writes the Uni Watch column for’s Playbook.

In fact, Lukas is the only reporter anywhere covering uniforms full-time, and he’s been doing so in excruciating detail since 1999 — when he started writing the first version of Uni Watch for The Village Voice. He joined ESPN in 2004 and continues to maintain his daily blog.

The Uni Watch Power Rankings will list all 122 professional team uniforms from four of the major American sports leagues: MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. Counting down from worst to first over five days next week, Lukas’s ranking will include videos, sidebars from editors who cover the respective sports, as well as an open poll to collect input from fans.

Front Row asked Lukas about his obsession with uniforms, how he went about this major undertaking, and why in the world of sports he would want to do this.

Ranking all 122 major league sports teams seems like an audacious task to say the least. What made you do it?
My editor Thomas Neumann and I were thinking of column ideas, and out of the blue he said, “What if you ranked all 122 of the big four teams?” He said it kind of apologetically, like it was a silly idea that wouldn’t work. But I jumped at the chance, and almost immediately we decided to call it the Power Rankings. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.

How do you rank uniforms across the four different sports?
It’s a little crazy to compare any basketball uniform to a hockey uniform, for instance, but my job is to respond to designs and to comment on how we as fans respond to uniforms in positive or negative ways. That kind of emotion can transcend different sports or categories. I did the best I could, trying to keep in mind the differences. The Power Rankings are just my opinion as a fan. I’m just lucky enough to write about uniforms every day.

So what makes a good uniform? Is it fashion or function?
It’s not about fashion. It’s about good design and what makes an imprint on us as sports fans. A good uniform should outlive its era, and one function of a uniform is to simply look good. But there is no formula or algorithm. If you like sports, what is sports? It’s objective. The score of a game is objective, and there is a finality to that. But as fans we add subjectivity to it. Very few people are going to agree with what I have to say, and that’s the fun of it.

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