Quick Shots: Nike’s Weird Uniforms; The Hills; Vince; Timing

by March 08, 2007

by Lang Whitaker

We are often told that fashion is a cyclical beast. What was popular decades ago will someday become cool again, like Tony Bennett, Dr. Jack Ramsay and teams using gimmick formations in football.

When Nike recently unveiled the new uniforms they’re introducing for a few of their schools to wear in their conference tourneys and beyond, I immediately was revulsed. What is this, the XFL?

For the three seasons I played high school basketball, I wore number 54. I had no real affection for the number, at least not at first, but on the day coach gave out uniforms when I was a sophomore, I accepted number 54 for two reasons: 1) it was available, having been vacated by a graduating senior; and 2) it was the largest uniform available. This was the early ’90s, and we were under the fashion influence of Chris Webber and the Fab Five. Big was in. Nobody wanted to be the guy who ran out on the floor with the ill tight-fitting jersey and nut-busters. So I became number 54, and I hung on that number (and roomy uniform) for the next three seasons.

(I wanted to wear number 7 because Kevin Johnson was my favorite player, but it was illegal for any high school or college players to wear numbers ending in anything from 6 to 9. I think it still is. I ended up getting a number 7 practice jersey instead. Actually, I still have that jersey somewhere.)

It was around this time in the early ’90s that North Carolina State decided to buck the growing trend and announced their players would wear “unitards.” I vividly recall watching in abject horror as Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe (Fire and Ice!) jogged out onto the floor in what appeared to be wrestling singlets. As the story goes, the uniforms were initially one piece, but the Wolfpack players refused to wear them unless they could wear their game shorts over them. (More pictures here, and discussion on them here.)

Those uniforms lasted two game before NC State packed them away. No telling how long these new joints will last. To me, basketball uniforms aren’t supposed to be tight. Basketball uniforms are supposed to let you move and breathe. When you’re tired you should be able to grab your shorts and get some rest. Football uniforms should be tight. Basketball uniforms should not be. Not sure what Nike’s trying to do here, other than simultaneously be fashion-forward and fashion-backward.

• An NBA player sent me this link last night with a note that said, “Link it up…that’s how the real oc rolls.” Consider it linked, Nick Collison.

• Henry Abbott linked to my Kobe post from earlier today in a post he called “Kobe Bryant’s Elbow Mini-Bullets.” I am pointing this out only to say that I think Henry, in the spirit of non-violence, should change the name of his regular “bullets” columns to “wizards.”

• Linkstigator Ken sent this along. Pretty hilarious, unless you’re a Nets fan, I guess.

• In the comments thread of Sam’s Player of the D.A.Y. from yesterday, Tom Jackson wrote…

Who cares about Slamadamonth, Blue? The magazine gets to stores about 30 days (or even a little more) than the information was written, and in even more hilarious fashion, they post date the issue month about a month and a half. So you’re buying a magazine written in early January that you get in mid February that has an April date on it. Hell, they’ll release the next issue before April! It’s really ridiculous. That’s why I only read the website. It’s not like it’s an unfixable problem.

TJ then demanded answers. I’m here with answers.

As for the timeliness of the stories, the 30 days between being written and being read by the majority of you guys is probably about right. For instance, on Tuesday I finished writing a long (2,000 words) feature for the next issue of SLAM, SLAM 108. We’re working on that issue right now. It’ll be gone to the printer by the end of the week. We’ll have copies back here in about 10 days. It’ll be on newstands in big cities within about two weeks. Then within the next week or so it’ll start showing up everywhere else, from grocery stores to bookstores to airports. And it’ll be on newstands for a few weeks until another issue comes along and bumps it off.

The thing is, very rarely do we do a story that is completely time-sensitive, meaning I’m not going to write a 2,000-word article about George Karl and Carmelo beefing when I know very well that in the three weeks between the time I write and you guys read it there are almost certainly going to be major changes in the story. It would stupid of us to do that, and it would be stupid of us to think that you guys would be interested in reading a story about that.

(Occasionally, though, it all falls into place and we’re able to do a time-sensitive story. The first one that comes to mind was a few years ago when whatever we had planned for the cover just wasn’t working. At the last minute we got word that Alonzo Mourning was making a comeback from his kidney transplant. So we called Zo, got a photo shoot, had Scoop go down to Miami for a weekend and about two weeks later we had a Zo cover on stands. That scenario is definitely the exception, however, not the rule.)

Instead, what we try to do in the magazine is give you content that is a little more timeless. I don’t mean we’re here turning out classics (although my Leandro Barbosa story in SLAM 107 is pretty amazing); I mean we’re here trying to write stories that will be just as interesting and informative and entertaining tomorrow as they will be in three months, or six months, or a year. How do we do that? Well, a lot of the stories we do go into the backgrounds of players — where they’re from, how they got to where they are, why you should care about them. For instance, that Barbosa story I wrote in 107 is a lot about his background growing up in Brazil, but there’s also a lot in there about what makes him an effective NBA player and why he’s having the best year of his career right now.

At least, that’s how it is with the NBA stories. With College and Punks stuff, we try to highlight a lot of people you might not otherwise hear about. Which is why we had a five-page story on LeBron before his junior year of high school. And which is why I went to Barcelona two weeks ago. Then there’s SLAMadamonth, which might be late but it’s one of my favorite things in the magazine. It’s our way of recognizing the guys who managed to do what we all wish we could do. (What’s funny is the way NBA guys react to SLAMadamonth. Chris Paul, for instance, was genuinely thrilled when he heard he’d made it a few issues back. And I think Dwight Howard is still mad at me because he always seems to be the guy getting dunked on — I’ve told him it’s nothing personal.)

One other thing that I love about SLAM is the artwork. Each issue is filled with gorgeous photos, and our design staff just kills it on feature after feature. There’s an Iverson photo from our photo shoot with him in the current issue — a close-up of his face — that any self-respecting Iverson has hanging on their wall by now. I actually have a few pages I’ve torn directly out of SLAM hanging here in my office. They’re glossy and colorful, and they look a lot cooler than anything I’ve ever printed out from a website.

As for the dates on the magazines…well, for one thing, all magazines are like that, particularly monthly magazines. GQ, Vogue, Esquire…all of them. Go look for yourself.

Why? Well, I asked the powers-that-be around here and was told the month on the magazine tells newsstands when the issue should be banished from their newsstands.

To be honest, when we’re putting together all these magazines, we never refer to them by the month that they’re listed as, we refer to them by the number of the issue. I can’t tell you what month that LeBron cover was, but I can tell you that it was SLAM 106.

It’s interesting, because the magazine industry is a pretty slippery game. When I was a kid I got a huge chunk of my sports information from my weekly copy of Sports Illustrated, but now SI.com gives you all the daily nuts and bolts. Even newspapers are different now — I can’t remember the last time I looked at a box score in a newspaper. A lot of magazines and papers have found themselves completely outmoded by the internets, but I think we hit a pretty good balance between SLAMonline.com and SLAM. You don’t have to buy SLAM to enjoy SLAMonline.com. But if you enjoy SLAMonline.com, you will definitely enjoy SLAM.

And even though technology keeps evolving and things keep changing, I don’t think magazines and newspapers will ever completely go away, at least not for a while. We still need something to read in the bathroom, after all.