NBA: An Official Eulogy For Baggy Uniforms

The days of the XXXL jerseys and shorts hanging well below the knees are over as the NBA officially welcomes back the fitted, tailored look.

When Michael Jordan broke onto the NBA scene, he was more than just a basketball phenomenon.

Not only a statistical marvel, MJ’s style and flair captivated the imaginations of millions around the world, as many would emulate his signature swagger.

The bald head, the high arm-band, the Air Jordan shoes, and of course, the baggy shorts — worn originally so he could hide his North Carolina blues underneath — would be a style that infiltrated the NBA during the late 1990s.

Then, just when Jordan was about to retire, Allen Iverson happened.

Encompassing a similar seductive appeal, The Answer brought an urban flavor to MJ’s fundamental elements.  Iverson’s cornrows, arm sleeve and extra baggy jersey to go along with shorts that hung around his shins became the “in” look during the NBA of the 2000s.

But, just as general fashion trends tend to go in cycles, apparently, so do NBA uniform trends.

This season marks a new era of basketball.

For the first time in more than 20 years, the league will go without the paradigm-changing presence of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett — three pillars that represented the dominance of yesteryear’s era, and not coincidentally, the last holdovers of the baggy uniform brigade.

Oct 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) makes the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris (12) and forward Luis Scola (4) in the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 122-117. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe, not just in his game, but also in his image and swagger, embodies a direct decedent of the Jordan influence.

Unwillingly rocking his shaved head and outrageously oversized jersey, the Black Mamba hung them up for good last April after dropping 60 points in his last game.

Duncan and KG, meanwhile, said goodbye in a much less-celebrated, but just as appreciated, way — announcing their respective retirements during the weary months of the offseason.

When watching the preseason and the first week of the NBA this year, there has clearly been a changing of the guard.

Look at players like Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Booker and Boston Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, and you’ll notice their jerseys are almost undershirt-like tight and their shorts fit handsomely well-above their knees.

The change did not happen overnight, however, as the latest trend began catching momentum as early as the late-2000s.

Most notably, LeBron James and Dwight Howard began wearing significantly-tighter jerseys to show off their chiseled physiques.  In 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers honored the Showtime Era by wearing genuine John Stockton-like short shorts.

Those looks, respectively, never looked right, as the King and Superman paired their tailored tops with baggy bottoms, while the Lakers complemented their thigh-pinching shorts with parachute throwbacks.

Of course, NBA trends are always going to mirror casual fashion trends; it may take an extra couple of years for the league to adapt, but the skinny tights and fitted shirts were eventually going to transmit into the NBA landscape.

When looking back at “old” game films some 10-15 years ago, a sense of discomfort is engendered when cringing at the old baggy-everything, double arm-band look — almost the same brand of “what the hell were we thinking” that spawned when watching tapes of the 1990s during Jordan’s second three-peat.

So, in essence, this season illustrates a changing of times of not just how the game will be played and the faces that will represent the league, but also the evolution of the visual aesthetics of the NBA as a whole going forward.

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