Why Do the LA Lakers Have a Black Stripe on Their Jersey?

Everyone has probably heard the cliche that clothes make the man. While that’s not quite true in the world of sports — looking cool can’t guarantee a championship — uniforms are a central part of every team and player’s identities. The Los Angeles Lakers just wouldn’t seem like themselves, for example, without their iconic jerseys.

If you tune into an NBA playoff game, however, you may notice something different about those uniforms: the Lakers have a black stripe across one of their shoulders. While that band may not seem like much, it’s a mark of respect for one of the franchise’s all-time greats.

The LA Lakers’ uniforms have become iconic over the years

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These days, it’s almost impossible to imagine the Lakers playing anywhere other than Hollywood and wearing anything other than purple and gold. When the franchise first hit the hardwood, however, both of those were the case.

As their name suggests, the Lakers began life in Minnesota. There, they wore blue and gold uniforms, not too dissimilar to UCLA’s colors. In 1960, though, the club relocated to Los Angeles.

The Lakers color scheme, however, didn’t immediately change. They kept wearing powder blue until 1967 when they moved to The Forum. Once here, the team hit the court wearing “forum blue,” which was more purple than anything else, and gold uniforms.

While there have been some changes over the years — Forum Blue has become “royal purple” and drop shadows have come and gone — the Lakers still hit the court in more or less the same uniforms. Thanks to that longevity, the relatively unique color scheme, and the stars who have called Hollywood home, the iconic gold jersey an inescapable part of both popular and basketball culture.

Why do the LA Lakers have a black stripe on their jerseys?

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If you haven’t seen a Lakers game in a while, you may notice something different when you tune into a playoff game. While the club is still wearing their iconic uniforms, they’ve also added a black stripe to the left shoulder of their jerseys.

The black, in this case, symbolizes mourning. In March 2021, Lakers’ legend Elgin Baylor died at age 86. The jersey band also bears the initials “EB,” although they’re a bit tough to see during a television broadcast.

For those who are unfamiliar with Baylor, he’s certainly worthy of the tribute. The forward proved to be a perennial all-star during his time with the Lakers and earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s top talents. He’s a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and is even immortalized in statue form outside of the Staples Center.

Can LeBron James and company win an NBA title in Elgin Baylor’s honor?

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During his time with the Lakers, Baylor only won a single NBA title; even that championship didn’t come easily, as he retired earlier that season with nagging knee problems. This summer, however, the franchise will be trying to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy with his initials on their chests.

Although Los Angles entered the playoffs as the seventh seed (via the Play-In game), their regular season was ruined by injuries to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Both stars have returned the lineup, however, setting the stage for a spirited title defense. While health is admittedly a major “if,” it’s tough to pick against the Lakers if their two big guns are physically able to perform during the postseason.

Last year, the Lakers wanted to win the NBA title in honor of the late Kobe Bryant. While Baylor’s death was probably a bit less jarring, it a championship would still be a fitting way to honor the legend.