Pat Croce wasn’t just building a basketball team when he became 76ers president in 1996. He was leading a revolution.

“At the time, that’s what I called it,” Croce said.

The Sixers — owners of five straight losing seasons — were drifting toward irrelevance.

“No one was coming to the games,” said Croce. “We only had 3,000 season-ticket holders. We needed a revolution in attitude, in perspective.”

And the revolution also needed a new look.

So 25 years ago this month, the Sixers ditched red and blue for black and gold as they revolutionized their uniforms with the help of Allen Iverson, who assisted in the design of the jerseys just before he reenergized the franchise.

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As teams across all sports — from the Kansas City Royals to the Duke Blue Devils — fused black into their color schemes, so did the Sixers. And the black jerseys that defined one of the franchise’s proudest eras could soon be returning to the court.

They won’t be worn next season to coincide with the 25th anniversary as the Sixers are not one of the teams authorized by the league to wear a throwback — or “classic” — uniform in 2022-23. But it’s safe to assume that the black uniforms are in the conversation to be worn as alternates the next time the Sixers are allowed to do so.

“I would be ecstatic,” said Tom O’Grady, who designed the jerseys 25 years ago when he was the NBA’s creative director. “I think the fans would be happy. I think it would be good. It doesn’t have to be the dominant uniform, but maybe for Saturday games or special games. It wouldn’t feel forced. They had a run, they went to the Finals in that uniform. It’s not foreign to the Philly fans.”

Almost every NBA team received a face-lift in the 1990s as O’Grady and his team redesigned logos and uniforms to keep up with the exploding merchandise market. Late NBA commissioner David Stern told the designers to stay away from the classic looks of the Celtics, Bulls, and Knicks, but everyone else was fair game.

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They put mountains on the Jazz jersey, helped design a dribbling dinosaur for the expansion Raptors, and gave Phoenix a “sunburst” across its uniforms.

In June 1997, the Sixers received theirs when Croce unveiled the new jerseys at the Modell’s Sporting Goods inside the Cherry Hill Mall. The revolution was underway as fireworks erupted and Jerry Stackhouse — who would be traded six months later in a key deal — modeled the new threads outside the store.

The 76ers won just 31 games in their first season in black before making five straight trips to the postseason and reaching the NBA Finals with Iverson.

“We had to show the fans of Philadelphia and the NBA that this was going to be a team to reckon with,” Croce said.

Croce, a motorcycle enthusiast, told O’Grady that he loved the Harley-Davidson brand. So O’Grady and his team at the NBA office used the Harley logo for inspiration.

“I think he kind of looked at the Sixers a little bit like Al Davis looked at the Raiders,” O’Grady said. “I think he wanted this snarly, bad-ass, Philly’s a tough town kind of idea.”

The NBA presented Croce with a few different designs — including one with colored side panels — but he wanted the new jerseys to be traditional. The Sixers didn’t want a cartoonish-looking jersey like other teams had introduced. Croce loved the basketball that ran under “Sixers” and implored O’Grady to use that on the team’s new hardwood design.

“He was super hands on. ‘I feel great.’ Pat was definitely cut from a different cloth from a lot of the owners we would deal with,” O’Grady said. “Sometimes, I would never meet the owners. Like, it would be like, ‘This is going up to Paul Allen,’ but Paul Allen was like this Vulcan and you’d never see the guy.

“Pat was really a guy who you wanted to do great work for because he was so pumped up and he would help energize the conversations.”

The uniforms looked great — “If you had the uniform in your hand, you would say, ‘Oh, my God. This is gorgeous,’” O’Grady said — but they weren’t perfect. The numbers were sewn lower on the front of the jersey than O’Grady had designed because of a manufacturing error and the Sixers logo onto the front of the white jerseys had so many layers that players complained about how heavy it was.

They changed the next season to a simpler design that eliminated gold from the font as “Sixers” was colored in either black or white. They also swapped the material for the second season, ditching mesh for a shiny polyester. Even that had its flaws as the material — known as “dazzle knit” — tended to snag over the course of the season. But they never fixed the numbers.

“Some people hated that, but I don’t know — it was more of that flashy NBA for that certain period of time,” O’Grady said of the shiny jerseys. “The shininess fit that kind of glitzy, ‘90s, showtime NBA look.”

O’Grady no longer works for the NBA as he runs his own brand agency in his hometown of Chicago. But he still keeps up with his old creations and knows fans have pined for the black jerseys almost as soon as they were eliminated in 2009. It seemed like the iconic black jerseys were coming back two seasons ago when Chris Heck, the team’s former president of business operations, teased that the 76ers would be wearing black again.

It was instead a black jersey with Boathouse Row across the front designed with the help of Ben Simmons.

In a November 2020 interview with Uni-Watch, Heck said he “absolutely despised” the Iverson-era black jerseys, called it “blasphemy” to introduce silver and gold into the team’s logo, and said, “come hell or high water, we’re not going back to that uniform.” The Boathouse Row threads, Heck said, represented “New Philadelphia.”

“When I saw that Boathouse thing I was like, ‘Holy crap. Wow. You almost had it. You were this close,’” said O’Grady. “They had this concept that was just so forced to me. I don’t get it. If you woke up 20 years from now and saw that, you would ask what team that was and you would have no idea. It had no connection to the Sixers whatsoever.”

Heck resigned earlier this month after nine seasons, creating the possibility that the Sixers could bring the black jerseys — the ones he said they “sold out” by wearing — out of retirement.

The Suns and Jazz both have plans to wear their ‘90s throwbacks next season. The Grizzlies and Raptors have worn theirs in recent seasons. For O’Grady, seeing uniforms he created provided a chance to relive some memories. And he could soon be reminded of the revolution he helped start in Philadelphia.

“I think sometimes a uniform fits a city,” O’Grady said.