Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2005

Commentary: NBA’s problem isn’t baggy shorts

December 18, 2005

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— At least three members of the Orlando Magic could have been fined at a recent practice.

Grant Hill, Jameer Nelson and Travis Diener - you are all violators.

Lucky for them Commissioner David Stern didn't have any moles there.

For sure, Stern's next gig will be as a judge on America's Next Top Model, because he seemingly is more concerned about NBA players' wardrobes than the state of the actual game.

Drawing the commissioner's ire lately are the players' baggy shorts.

League rules say shorts should be one inch above the knee, which would work if the NBA were full of middle-school girls.

The one-inch rule has been around forever, but it has seen unprecedented enforcement this year because of the NBA's renewed emphasis on image.

The Magic have received several warnings. Of particular concern is Nelson, who is listed generously at 6 feet, but his shorts fit like a mini-parachute.

"Hey, these were the shorts that were given to me," Hill said.

The Magic shouldn't feel picked on because a handful of other NBA players already have been fined, including Allen Iverson and Jermaine O'Neal.

O'Neal told The New York Times last week, "You wonder where all this is going." That part is easy.

Obviously, Stern wants the NBA to be as square as The Lawrence Welk Show.

Stern has made a choice. He has decided he would rather alienate the league's vast hip-hop fan base instead of season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors.

He wants to market to daddies, not P. Diddy.

He wants soccer moms, not Ludacris fans.

He wants little kids, not Lil' Kim.

Stern is making a mistake and being extremely hypocritical. As if baggy shorts alone explain the waning interest in the NBA. Hip-hop fans should be insulted that they're being blamed for everything wrong with the NBA.

Stern conveniently forgets that in his haste to find the next Michael Jordan, immature talents were given carte blanche before they were ready. Kwame Brown does a lot more harm to the NBA than a pair of shorts.

Stern is telling hip-hop fans their influence and money never will mean as much as the guy sitting in the luxury suite.

Talk about ungrateful.

Stern wouldn't have such a fat wallet if it weren't for the NBA's immense popularity in hip-hop circles. Rappers set fashion trends, and they give the league the cheapest free advertising by wearing NBA jerseys at every opportunity.

Look at how much publicity and urban cache the league gained by having Jay-Z and Usher as minority owners.

Now, the league wants to bite the platinum chain that feeds it.

"You can't embrace it on one end and then divorce yourself from it," Hill said. "If you're going to embrace it, you have to embrace it entirely. The good aspects and the bad aspects."

You could say Stern merely is exercising good business sense by insisting his players wear shorts more suited for a Chippendale. If the people in the seats aren't comfortable with the players' appearance, that will affect the league's bottom line. But doesn't it make better business sense to embrace everyone?

The NBA is unique because of its urban appeal. The league should embrace that, not scorn it.

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