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Don't look now, but yellow is having a moment

Jason Miller/Getty Images

If you're a fan of sports that take place on the ice and the hardwood, you're going to be seeing a lot of a certain color over the next week or so.

The Stanley Cup Final, which began on Monday night, features the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins, two teams whose uniforms feature a lot of yellow. In fact, they use the exact same shade of yellow: Pantone 1235C.

Meanwhile, the NBA Finals tip off tonight, with the Golden State Warriors hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams make significant use of yellow in their uniform programs. Put the two final-round series together and you have the most yellow-centric championship season in sports history.

So it would be fair to say that yellow is having a bit of a moment. That doesn't happen too often because yellow is a color that doesn't get much respect, beginning with its name. Most teams that wear yellow refer to it as "gold." That includes three of the four NHL and NBA teams still playing this year. (The one exception: the Warriors, whose official team colors include "golden yellow" -- an amusing attempt to have it both ways.) Other teams have come up with other yellow synonyms, like the University of Michigan, which insists that its shade of yellow is actually "maize."

"I think it's a macho thing, a testosterone thing," said Donovan Moore, a researcher and historian who specializes in sports colors. "You don't want to admit that you wear yellow, going back to the days when 'yellow-bellied' meant you were cowardly." Plus yellow is the color of jaundice and urine, while gold is the color of, you know, gold. And maize is -- well, at least it isn't yellow.

But come on: Marketing spin notwithstanding, gold is what the 49ers and Saints wear. It's what defending World Series champions wear for the first few games of the season. It's what the NHL's newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, will presumably wear once their uniforms are unveiled later this month. But most of these other teams that claim to be wearing gold are really just wearing yellow. They can call it whatever they want (did you know that the sun shown in the Minnesota Wild's logo is officially "harvest gold"?), but back here on planet Earth, yellow is still yellow.

With the uni-verse approaching peak yellow this week, let's take a look at which teams from each major pro league have done the best job of wearing yellow over the years. Since the NBA and NHL are leading the yellow charge this week, we'll start with them.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers aren't the only NBA team to have worn yellow at home instead of the standard white, but they've been the best at making yellow their own signature style. When they wear those white Sunday uniforms, everything feels a bit off, no? The yellow design is so definitive that your friendly uniform columnist doesn't even mind that the Lakers also use that most accursed of colors, purple.

Honorable mention: The Warriors have had several excellent yellow uniforms over the years, including the awesome "The City" design and the original "Golden State" design. But these don't necessarily feel like great yellow uniforms; they're more like great uniforms that happen to be yellow. They can't quite match the Lakers for yellow supremacy.


NHL: Boston Bruins

If you look back over the Bruins' uniform history, you'll see that yellow is the one constant. At one point they even tinkered with yellow pants. That might have been a bit much, but it wouldn't be such a bad thing to see them trade in their current black jersey for the older yellow design. Going back to the yellow shoulder yoke on their white jersey would be a plus, too. (But please, leave the yellow Pooh Bear design in mothballs, where it belongs.)

Honorable mention: Before the Kings adopted silver and black as their primary team colors, they wore yellow with distinction. And of course we can't forget the immortal California Golden Seals.


NFL: Los Angeles Rams

The Rams wore yellow for most of the period from 1939 through 1999. During those years, they applied yellow to just about every available uniform element -- their jerseys, their pants, their uniform numbers, their contrasting sleeves, even their sock stripes -- and it all looked great. OK, so they went a bit overboard with the solid-yellow Thursday-night design in 2015, but that says more about Nike's Thursday-night uniform program than it does about yellow. With the Rams having relocated back to L.A., many fans have been clamoring for a return to the blue-and-yellow glory days, but ownership seems more inclined to go with the blue-and-white look that the team used from 1964 through 1972. It's not a bad design, but come on, we're not in the black-and-white TV era anymore. Bring back the yellow!

Honorable mentions: The Packers. (And while we're at it: the Packers cheerleaders.)


MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates

No MLB team has ever worn yellow as much, or in as many configurations, or as well, as the Buccos during their fabled "bumblebee" period from 1977 through 1984. The mix-and-match uniform elements all worked, and the Stargell stars added a bit of bonus yellow for good measure. The gold standard for yellow, so to speak.

Honorable mentions: The early-1970s A's and the 1978 Padres.


Is that enough yellow for ya? There might be more to come, at least according to Moore, the color historian. "I think these bold colors are coming back, and not just in sports," he said. "They're bright, they're bold, and they tend to promote optimism." It's hard to argue with that -- just look at those four teams competing for the NBA and NHL titles.

Paul Lukas can't write about yellow uniforms without mentioning the aptly named Savannah Bananas. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.