Friday, March 1, 2013

The NBA and body consciousness

Wesley Morris wrote for Grantland about the short-sleeved shirts worn by the Warriors during a game against the Spurs last week. He's on point in his criticism, as usual. The problem with the jerseys, in practice, is one of size and tailoring. They looked about as baggy as the t-shirts I wear to pickup basketball. The jersey above looks great. It looks sleek, lithe, fast, and strong. The jerseys below look dumpy.

Perhaps the fabric stretched during warm-ups, but I'd wager that the players selected (or were given) shirts a size too big. Does that suggest the players' aversion to any restriction of motion in the chest and shoulders? Maybe.

Or, perhaps, the choice is a symptom of the larger basketball culture whose fashion, recent trends in post-game attire notwithstanding, has become baggier and baggier as time has gone on. Are the athletes able to perform better in larger uniforms? Or are they simply more body conscious than their forebears?

Even though the short-sleeved shirt is a novel concept in NBA uniforming history, then, it represents a throwback in how it presents the athletes' bodies. The image of Oscar Robertson above is something of a celebration of the male body. But it captures not only his athletic grace and power, but also the thousands of spectators watching him. Over the years, players have reacted to that gaze by wearing longer shorts and baggier jerseys, hiding their bodies under folds of fabric. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the Warriors wore their shirts a little loose the other night.

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