A History of the Draft Cap


I believe 1986 was the first year that the NBA had draft caps. Here’s another R.I.P. to Len Bias. What could have been.


Also noteworthy from this draft, I could not find any footage from the 1986 draft, so assuming no one in the 1986 put their draft hat on while on stage with the commissioner, Kenny Smith might hold the honor to be the first NBA draftee to put his hat on on stage. He took it off soon after.

Reggie Miller was also drafted this year but was not present at the draft. He was at his Riverside home and he was wearing this hat.


I couldn’t find any pictures so I just took this from the video. Here it shows Danny Manning receiving his draft hat. They’re all the same so you’re not missing out on much. I think this is the first draft where every NBA draftee is handed a hat when they walk to the stage.


Draft hats have pretty much been the same since they were introduced. This Lakers one is a little stylized with the Lakers L. They did add an NBA logo to the hat this year.


Again nothing too special. The same script snapback that all sorts of hypebeasts and Mac Millers and Wiz Khalifas lust over.


Same old same old.


The Magic hat is a little stylized just like the Lakers one.


A Webber/Shaq frontcourt would have been something. That Warriors draft cap is really nice.


The first year they decided to do something different. This is my second favorite draft hat. The white 2 tone gives a little more uniformity while still showing the team’s colors.


The script snapback finally gets dropped. I don’t know what this style is but I guess it’s some other font across the front with the team logo on the right side (their right) and I don’t recognize the logo on the left side.

Here are a few more pictures.

The other ones have the city name but Phoenix’s one just says Suns.


The greatest draft class of all time brings me my favorite draft hat of all time. Again we have the 2 tone white hats. We have more of a close up of the logo on the left side but I don’t really know what it is. I’m guessing it’s the logo of the hat manufacturer?


And the NBA takes a giant step back. You can actually purchase these on Amazon (just click on the Suns hat below)


A departure from the other hats that were a bit on the flimsy side. 1998’s draft hats look like those athletic caps that cost quite a bit and are pretty ugly. This marks the first year where the draft hat would look stupid if the brim was flattened out this is the line between retro and ugly.


Officially the boringest draft hats ever made. At least they’re better than the 1998 ones. There’s a little 2 tone action going on the brim. This marks the beginning of the boring draft hat era.


There’s a little design on the front right side of the brim, but otherwise just as boring as 1999.


There are so many things wrong about the 2001 draft that the hat should be on the least of my worries. A bit of a throwback to 1999 but instead of team logos we have the team insignia we have the team name in their distinctive font.


Still boring, still ugly. NBA teams got to switch it up a bit with the 5 panel style.

Yao Ming was not at the draft so Yao and family just got issued some generic Rockets hats.

And on topic of hats… What size are the draft hats? With the exception of a few picks, most of the picks are completely random. “One size fits most” doesn’t really apply to NBA players who mostly start at 6 feet tall and I’m sure there are a lot of size 8 heads out there. Yao’s hat looks pretty small on him and most of these draft hat pictures have pretty good fitting hats.


The draft hat gets a change in 2003. The hat is made from a satin-y material which gives it its shine. That’s all I really have to say. The brim looks a bit small.


The best draft hat in a while. Nothing spectacular about it but the design is a little bolder and the bigger logo makes the hat look less cheap. Accents all around in the team’s secondary color add a nice touch to the hat and the brim gets a little bigger so it looks less childish on these NBA giants.


Building off the success of the last hat, the accents are changed up a little bit to have a bigger block of the secondary color with the NBA logo tucked in there. Everything looks proportional. The new hats are back to the team logo instead of team name. This hat is made by Reebok and the retail version has the Reebok logo replacing the NBA logo.


It was only a matter of time. The 2006 draft hat is as simple as it gets with the team logo, minimal accents, and the adidas logo placed on the left side. This is the beginning of the adidas era in the NBA and just note how subtle the three stripes are… for now.


The classic Joakim Noah draft photo with a slightly different angle to show the hat. The adidas logo is still on the left side but this time there are a pair of three stripes on the brim.

Again all the draft hats are white with the accents coordinating with the team’s color. This one isn’t too bad.


In my opinion the most ‘sporty’ looking of the draft hats. This photo doesn’t show the hat well but it shows Joe Alexander!

3 stripes at the very front, white block of color on the brim, the logos, and an otherwise very plain hat. This is my favorite of the whole adidas sporty looking hats and if I was a dad mowing his lawn this would be my hat of choice.


Another recent bust. Somehow it all worked out for the Grizzlies and they had a great run in the playoffs this year.

2009 features a blacked out hat with a pair of the three stripes next to the logo. The stitching alone the hat is in 3 rows, just in case you didn’t know adidas made the hat.

The preferred hat of 2009 NBA draft point guards.


NBA goes flat brim and who else to model this hat other than Gordon Hayward.

So it’s basically a Jerry West down the middle splitting the team name in half into two colors with an alternate logo and adidas logo on the side. Kind of a bold move considering the way the draft hats have been looking since 1998. This design looks pretty good on some teams but on some other teams it just looks horrendous. I think this is the draft hat that has potential to be sought after in the future.


What’s in store for 2011? After seeing that this year’s championship hats were snapbacks, I was convinced that the 2011 draft hat would be a snapback.

But it isn’t.

This year’s draft caps are some monochrome gradient mixed hologram weird mess with… I don’t know. It seems like every time they nail a draft cap they screw up the next one (96 to 97)

I just finished up with less than an hour to go in the NBA Draft. We’ll all get to see Kyrie Irving and the rest of them wear these ugly draft hats and hopefully we see some trades that shake up the league for next season.

I personally love the 1996 NBA draft hats and I wouldn’t mind have a couple of them. I’ve seen a lot of snapbacks that are similar but none of them are quite as nice as those ones.

– Jordan

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4 Responses to A History of the Draft Cap

  1. Hunter says:

    do you know by any chance where its possible to obtain a 1996 draft hat… i would kill for a lakers one.

  2. josh Muntz says:

    I have a 96 Knicks draft hat!! ex gf bought it on amazon. had no clue it was a draft hat til I saw this.

  3. peter says:

    I can’t find ANYWHERE LITERALLY AS IT SEEMS a 1991/1993 Charlotte Hornets all teal silver script nba draft snapback you know, the ones that alonzo mourning & larry johnson got at their draft.

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