Basketball shorts get short again
Trayvontae Reed stood at the scorers table before the start of the fourth period.
The buzzer sounded and the Ozen junior prepared to step on the basketball court.
But first, he stopped and adjusted the waistband of his shorts, rolling the elastic two times to get the shorts to a desired length.
“I don’t like the baggy feeling anymore,” said Reed, who plays on Ozen’s varsity basketball team. “I like clothes that fit.”
The vogue of tighter-fitting clothing is seeping into the game of high school basketball as players choose short and skinny over long and baggy. For local athletes, the fit is about functionality and fashion. For coaches, it’s adding a sense of nostalgia to the game - a visible nod to the days before Michael Jordan and Michigan’s Fab Five used deeper inseams to influence basketball’s brand in the ’90s.
“Fashion is kind of like history,” Silsbee coach Joe Sigler said. “It repeats itself.”
If you look nice, said Central freshman Kason Harrison, “you play nice.”
Harrison wants plenty of breathing room between his hemline and his knees.
“If you see someone wearing long shorts over their knees, it’s almost like you’d laugh at them,” Harrison said.
Harrison’s coach, Franklin Paul, finds it amusing that his players are gravitating toward the style of his own playing days.
“We had short shorts,” said Paul, who played for Central from 1991 to 1994. “Looking at what the kids want to wear now, I think they would’ve loved what we played in. I joke now that if they want them like that, I’ll go buy them soccer shorts.”
Todd Sutherland, East Chambers’ coach, worked at Hardin-Jefferson as an assistant in 1990 and was shocked at the uniforms coach Charles Breithaupt ordered for players that year.
“We pulled the shorts out and they were about thigh length,” Sutherland said. “At the time, we considered that to be incredibly long. But the kids loved them.”
Ten years later, he said, they were out of style.
“All of a sudden they got too small for everyone,” Sutherland said. “But now, these current kids, all they want are those thigh length shorts.”
In 2005, the NBA mandated that players dress in business-casual attire to and from games. The move was first widely criticized as a racist directive against young African-American players who favored hip-hop clothing staples such as baggy jeans, fitted baseball caps, jerseys and oversized T-shirts. But NBA stars like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade began making headlines for daring and trendy fitted clothing that soon became the norm among players.
Central’s Paul requires his players to wear a dress shirt and tie during school before road games because it “keeps them in the right frame of mind.”
“I think the change in how they dress normally, the transition from baggy to form fitting clothes, it’s translating to the basketball court,” said Ozen assistant Trey McDowell. “It’s not just functionality, it’s what’s in. Everything is circling back.”
Longer shorts restrict movement and make it harder to play defense, according to Central sophomore Rayshawn Morris. He currently wears size-large shorts during games, but prefers a small.
“With longer shorts, sometimes the ball gets stuck between your legs,” said Morris, who like many players wears longer compression shorts under his uniform. “Having fabric over your knees when you shoot can also cause a problem.”
Morris’ favorite college player, UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball, wears a fitted uniform with shorts that end well above the knee - a style Morris admitted he tries to replicate.
Last season, NBA veteran Chris Douglas-Roberts requested size medium shorts when he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, a choice that required a special order by the team.
In early November, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James declared he would wear skinnier and shorter shorts this season, his 13th in the league, to present a more professional appearance.
Fitting the budget
The problem for local teams is that fashion doesn’t always fit the budget. Hence the need for the waistband roll.
Paul said Central has a budget for new uniforms every two years. They buy in bulk. Enough for varsity, junior varsity and the freshman teams.
“We have to make sure there is enough for everyone and that it all fits,” Paul said. “But I think the way we order uniforms is going to change. It used to be all about ordering 2XLs, and now they all want mediums or smalls.”
At Silsbee, Sigler has enacted strict rules on uniforms - one waistband roll is allowed on game day.
It’s a rule he never thought he’d have to make.
“I remember when I had to make rules for our uniforms because they all wanted their shirts and shorts larger than they needed,” Sigler said. “Now I’m just trying to avoid them looking like there is a towel wrapped around their waists.”
Silsbee sophomore Jordyn Adams, who has committed to play for Baylor in college, prefers to wear longer shorts that he has to roll.
“It just doesn’t feel right unless I roll them (my shorts) up.” he said.
Legacy girls head coach Yannick Denson said the trend is not gender-specific - it’s about the fit.
“The baggy shorts of the ’90s and early 2000s have evolved into a fit that players want to be more comfortable and closer to the body,” Denson said.
During his playing days, Denson said he was more comfortable with athletic shorts that went past his knee, but that style also reflected what he wore off the court.
“Outside of the game it was all about tall T-shirts and baggy jeans,” Denson said. “Now the kids want things that fit them correctly. It just shows that styles continuously change and sometimes older fashion finds its way forward.”