I recently received a note from a guy named Harrison Hall (that’s him at right), who has an interesting hobby: He collects game-used NBA armbands, which he documents on an Instagram account that he shares with a friend and fellow collector.
It never occurred to me that someone would collect this particular accessory, but of course it makes total sense once you stop and think about it. I had lots of questions, so we did the following email interview:
Uni Watch: First, please give me some basic background on yourself. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?
Harrison Hall: I am 23 years old and currently live in Orlando, Fla. I am the Marketing Coordinator for Rock ’Em Socks, which is a sock company that offers over 10,000 different styles, including college sports, WWE, lifestyle, and pretty much anything you can think of. We just launched our first retail store in Columbus, Ohio, this past November. I started working for the company in 2012 in high school, then left to attend FAU in 2014, and just graduated and returned this past August.
UW: When did you start collecting armbands, and why?
HH: My armband collection began all the way back in 2003, when I was about eight years old and I went to my first Orlando Magic game. My family had just recently moved to Orlando and this was the first time being pretty close to an NBA team. (I’m originally from Michigan and went to a few Pistons games when I was super-young, but I barely remember those and we lived far from the Palace [RIP!].)
Anyway, my Dad was able to get some pretty solid tickets right by the Magic’s tunnel. I was able to high-five some of the players before the game started and that made my year. Fast-forward to the end of the game and as I stick my hand out to high-five the players again, Tracy McGrady pulls off his armband and places it in my hand! It had T-Mac’s logo on it and I thought it was so cool that the players were able to customize part of their own equipment. I made it a priority to try to spot custom armbands whenever I watched a game, either on TV or in person. I went to probably three or four more games that season but wasn’t able to get any other game-worn items. But my family got season tickets for the next season and I made it a priority to attend as many games as possible and try to get every armband I could.
UW: Who’s your friend who shares your Instagram account?
HH: She’s a longtime Minnesota Timberwolves autograph collector and used to go to all the games as well. Here’s a bio she provided:
Leafdream7 first started basketball graphing in 1998 with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the CBA before moving to Minneapolis in 2001. Her first armband acquired was Stephen Jackson’s on Jan. 2, 2004, when he was playing for the Atlanta Hawks. The following season Leafdream attended 30 Timberwolves home games and compiled a whopping 18 armbands. An old collector with a young heart, she hopes one day to submit a collection to the Naismith Hall of Fame for others to view and enjoy.
I actually found her on Instagram in 2017 via her personal account because she used the hashtag #gamewornarmband on one of her posts. You don’t come across many other people who collect armbands, so it’s always nice to find someone with a similar passion.
We share the account and post everything that we come across and are able to add to our collections. I started the Instagram but wanted her to contribute, as she has a lot of armbands that the world needs to see. Our Instagram page almost acts as an encyclopedia for armbands and we try obtain any that we can find. It sucks, though, that there are some really rare armbands (colorways that were only used on special jersey nights, one-off variations, etc.) that are probably buried and forgotten in someone’s closet.
UW: In one of your earlier emails, you mentioned that there’s a lot of “weird history” regarding armbands. Can you tell me more about that?
HH: Most people don’t realize that at one time there were so many players wearing custom armbands, and then they just disappeared. They started to surface in the late ’90s. You would see guys like Karl Malone wearing custom ones with “Mailman 32” on them, and you would also have guys like Scottie Pippen wearing “33″ and “PIP.” I believe they were some of the first players to really start wearing custom stuff.
2005 was the Golden Era for armbands. Probably a majority of players who wore an armband had something custom on it. The Phoenix Suns had like half of their team wearing custom armbands that year — it was a good time to be a collector! But 2007 is when it came crashing down. NBA Commissioner David Stern outlawed players wearing custom armbands and also made it a rule that if you were wearing an armband, it had to be below the elbow. I still don’t understand the point of this rule, and it certainly pissed me off!
However, Paul Pierce didn’t care! After that rule was put in place, he started wearing green armbands with “The Truth 34” stitched in green so it would blend in! You really couldn’t tell unless you saw it up close.
2007-2010 were pretty much dead years for armbands. Lots of players were switching over to the sleeve and a lot of the new players never adapted to wearing armbands or even bothered to get something custom done.
Around the start of the 2011 season that’s when you would start to see some players wearing custom armbands again, but only with their number (no nicknames or phrases). I’m not sure if the rule was lifted, but it seems like they almost forgot about it and didn’t bother policing the players anymore.
In the past few years, you still see some custom armbands in the NBA. Marcin Gortat wears a pair of wristbands with his number and he even wore one that said, “Polish Pride” recently, which is the first custom phrase or nickname I’ve seen on an armband in almost a decade! Evan Turner also has his number & initials. These examples give me some hope that there may be a resurgence.
UW: How many of them do you have?
HH: I don’t have an exact count. At the peak of my collection I had well over 120, but I’ve sold and traded some. Between myself and my friend in Minnesota, we have over 300.
UW: How have you acquired most of them?
HH: A majority of them I got in person! Players are usually really nice about it. It definitely helped being a kid, as a player would much rather give their stuff to a young fan than to an older adult. I would always make it a priority to get to the arena super-early so I could talk to the players and ask beforehand. Nicest player without a doubt was Chris Bosh. Every time the Raptors came, he remembered me and would give me his armband every time. He even told his teammates Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon (who both wore armbands at that time) to give their armbands to me as the game ended.
I never really had any negative experiences with players. The worst that would happen is that they would just forget. However, dealing with other fans is a different story. You would be surprised how many people would try to rip an armband out of my hand as a player would be handing it to me. When Jason Richardson gave his to me, someone else slipped in and grabbed it from him and Jason told security to grab him and then told him to give the armband to me. Pretty epic.
UW: How, if at all, do you distinguish between armbands and wristbands? Are they just two different words for the same thing?
HH: Personally, I refer to them as armbands, as majority of them were worn on the forearm, elbow, or bicep. But when searching for them online, I will try searching under wristband or sweatband as well. All pretty much the same thing.
UW: Aside from posting your armbands on Instagram, do you display them in any way?
HH: I have some displayed in tiny cases. In the future I may get a massive frame and have a majority of them placed in it. Would make an awesome art/collector piece.
UW: If a player gave you his armband at the end of a game, would it be all sweat-soaked and stanky? Would you ever wash them?
HH: They’re not as bad as you might think. I’ve gotten my fair share of headbands over the years, and those would be absolutely soaked and gross, but armbands aren’t so bad. I would say that there is almost an collector’s taboo against washing them, as it would take away the game-worn factor. I honestly have never had to wash or throw away an armband from it being too gross or sweaty. All these years later, none of them smell or have deteriorated.
UW: Do you ever wear them?
HH: Nope! I think they are amazing collectibles and don’t want to ruin them. A lot these are irreplaceable and I may never see them again. I have seen a lot of fans wearing them at games, and I have nothing against that, but I don’t do it.
UW: Which armbands in your collection are your favorites, and why?
HH: Without a doubt The Holy Grail in my collection is definitely the Ben Wallace “NFZ” (No Fly Zone). He was known for wearing abnormally long wristbands, and for a short period of time he had “NFZ” on them. He rarely would give them out after games and I was beyond lucky to obtain one.
A few years later, in ’07, when he launched his $15 sneaker with Steve & Barry’s, he was on tour to appear in stores and sign autographs. I went to the one in Orlando and brought the NFZ with me so he could sign the back of it. His face lit up when he saw it and his kids, who were young at the time, even knew what it was. I have only seen two other people with one of these.
UW: Is there a community of armband collectors like yourself? If so, do you all trade armbands, bid against each other on eBay, etc.?
HH: Surprisingly, there is still a community, although it’s much smaller than it used to be. There used to be a massive community back in the day, but now only a handful of people are still constantly looking to add to their collection.
The original community formed before social media, so most exchanges and communications were just done through email. It’s a bit harder to try to locate people today.
There are definitely bidding wars on eBay and they can get pretty expensive, especially if something pops up that’s unique!
UW: How do you feel about fans who collect more conventional items, like jerseys? Do you get a kick out of collecting something smaller and more specialized? And do you have any sense of how other collectors view the armband-collecting community?
HH: Even though my main goal has been armbands, I’ve still collected my fair share of shoes and jerseys over the years. I would use some of the non-armband stuff I obtained as trade bait for other people who had armbands. Shoes and jerseys can definitely be a much more expensive hobby in comparison, but I have all the respect in the world for someone who shares a similar passion for collecting.
As for how other collectors view us, not too many people even realize there is an armband-collecting community. Some people think I’m joking when I ask if they have used armbands.
UW: Has acquiring a player’s armband changed how you root for him or his team?
HH: I’m a diehard Magic fan, but I’ll root for a player if he gives me his armband.
UW: Have the Magic players gotten to know you over the years?
Yes, I befriended a lot of the Magic players. I even got invited to shoot around at the practice arena with some of them.
UW: Anything else I haven’t asked that you want me to know about?
HH: Just that the one armband I’ve been on the hunt for is one that was worn by Jamal Tinsley and also Fred Jones, with the numbers of Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jermaine O’Neal on it:
They started wearing this armband shortly after the Malice at the Palace took place. Those three players all received long suspensions, so it was tribute to them. I have yet to see anyone with this armband and would love to come across it someday!
Now that was a really good interview. I want to thank Harrison so much for sharing his story with us, and for teaching us about this very specialized collecting niche.
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The latest in pitchers’ headgear (and logo creep): We’ve seen pitchers with reinforced helmets and padded caps, and now we have the latest development on that front: Right-handed reliever Danny Farquhar, who collapsed in the White Sox dugout with a brain hemorrhage last April and is now in spring training on a minor league contract with the Yankees, will be wearing a Kevlar insert inside his cap this season. It protects his skull and also has a flap that covers his left temple. Here’s how it looks when he’s wearing it (click to enlarge):
The “does not equal” symbol is the logo of the cap insert’s manufacturer, Unequal Technologies, which of course had to turn this product into a branding exercise — sigh. It’s not yet clear if that logo will be covered up when the insert is worn on the field.
You can read more about Farquhar’s cap insert here.
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“Gotta support the team”: Nearly 24 years after it first aired, the “Face Painter” episode of Seinfeld is still a cultural touchstone — so much so that the Devils are giving away David Puddy face-painted bobbleheads to the first 9,000 fans who attend next Tuesday’s game against the Penguins.
I’m not sure which is more amazing — that the Devils waited so long to do this, or that their jersey has essentially not changed in the two dozen years since the episode aired.
Actor Patrick Warburton, who played Puddy, will be attending the game. I wonder if he gets a kick out of this kinda thing, or if he wishes the world would finally let him stop being David Puddy already. Hmmmmm.
Before he wore the hoodie: Check out this shot of Bill Belichick from 1992, when he was coaching the Browns. Note the helmet icon on the chest — I don’t recall having seen that before, nor do I recall ever seeing an NFL helmet represented at that particular angle.
Was there a whole series of similar helmet depictions, or was this a Browns exclusive because they didn’t have a conventional logo?
Update: Reader/commenter Gene Biros says, “The Browns used that logo on many applications beginning in ’70s. Was used on the cover of media guides, appeared in end zones. Was also on decals that the team would send with season tickets.” Huh — guess I just missed that boat on that one!
(My thanks to reader Jason Hillyer for bringing this one to my attention.)
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Eye spy with my little eye, continued: Earlier this week I showed a photo of an intriguing jersey that DIYer extraordinaire Wafflebored was working on. As you can see above, it appears that the project is continuing to evolve quite nicely. Hmmmmm.
Nice sticker on Wafflebored’s sewing machine, too!
Raffle results: The winner of the Pillbox Bat Co. raffle is Jakob Fox. Congrats to him, and thanks to all who entered.
Meanwhile, the winner of last week’s Vintage Brand raffle, Matt Brevet, sent this photo of his chosen prize — a 1935 Navy/Virginia ticket stub canvas:
Looks great, Matt — nice choice!
By Yianni Varonis
Baseball News: Here’s one writer’s opinion of the weirdest logo for each team in MLB history (from James Gilbert). … The Padres will apparently wear their team 50th-anniversary patch on the same sleeve as the MLB 150 patch (from @BBgunn42). … Red Sox P David Price has switched from No. 24 to No. 10, but nobody knows why yet. More info here (from Mike Chamernik). … The Iowa Cubs will wear Scouts-themed uniforms in April. … New throwbacks, with huge lettering, for Nebraska (from James Burke). … Mets Police blogger Shannon Shark thinks a new St. Paddy’s Day cap featuring Mr. Met as a leprechaun is disrespectful to Irish people.
NFL News: We all know that Fred Gehrke painted the original horns on the Rams’ helmets. But did you know he also invented the net/cage that placekickers use to warm up on the sideline? That’s apparently the case, at least according to this 1968 photo and caption discovered by Tom Jacobsen.
College Football News: Next season will mark 125 years of Ole Miss football. The team’s Twitter account has been using this logo in commemoration of the anniversary. It’s not yet clear, though, if we’ll see the logo on uniforms or on the field (from Griffin Smith). … @thefontsavant has mocked up all the uniform matchups from the recent bowl games.
Hockey News: Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Panthers G Roberto Luongo wore this mask to remember the victims (from Aron Burke). … Flyers G Carter Hart will apparently wear an Eagles-themed mask for the team’s Stadium Series match on the Eagles’ home field (from Greg Burda). … We’ve covered this previously, but 30 years ago yesterday former Blackhawks C Jeremy Roenick went NNOB while scoring his first of 512 goals. He was new to the league and apparently the team didn’t yet have time to add his NOB (from Neil Hochman). … Speaking of the Blackhawks, they commemorated LW Chris Kunitz’s 1,000th game by giving No. 1000 jerseys to Kunitz and his family. Note that the numerals on the kids’ jerseys don’t have the black outlining (from Michael Brighton). … Someone got a pretty remarkable tattoo of Capitals F Evgeny Kuznetsov on his forearm (from Griffin Smith). … The Sioux Falls Stampede will become the “Fighting Wiener Dogs” for one game later this month to celebrate the area’s annual wiener dog races.
NBA News: Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki and Heat G Dwyane Wade are future Hall of Famers in their last season but also former rivals who traded jerseys yesterday (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … Good spot by Maddie Brei, daughter of longtime reader/contributor Doug Brei, who was watching Wednesday night’s Cavs/Nets game and noticed a mystery object in Cavs F Cedi Osman’s leggings. “I came to a conclusion that it was his mouthguard,” says Maddie. “My only question is, how did he get it in there and how will he get it out when he needs it?” … Yesterday was the 29th anniversary of Bulls G Michael Jordan wearing No. 12 with NNOB because his regular jersey was stolen from the locker room (from Fabian Buchheim). … New Thunder acquisitions F Scott Hopson and C Richard Solomon will wear No. 22 and No. 5, respectively (from Etienne Catalan). … The Hornets and Magic went throwback vs. throwback last night. Lots of additional photos here. … The Pelicans and Thunder went color vs. color last night (from Andrew Cosentino).
College Hoops News: Michigan will wear throwbacks to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its first national championship. … Georgia will also wear throwbacks this season (from Brent Hardman). … Looks like new alternates for TCU this weekend (from Patrick Homa). … Davidson also has new alternates, which will feature the personal logo of alum and current Warriors G Steph Curry (from @A10Talk). … Utah and Arizona went color vs. color last night (from Jakob Fox). … So did Hofstra and College of Charleston — the latter of which, incidentally, simply wears “College” on its chest (from Jeff Israel).
Soccer News: It appears that the EPL’s Manchester United has had its new 1970s-era throwback leaked (from Charles George). … Speaking of leaks, it’s possible that the crest for new MLS team, Nashville SC, has surfaced (from multiple readers). … From Phil: One of the biggest winners of Atlanta United’s popular jerseys? Its shirt advertiser. … New kit for South Korean club FC Seoul (from Ed Zelaski). … Also from Ed as well as Josh Hinton: The Colorado Switchbacks of the USL Championship have a new away shirt and advertiser. … Also from Josh: New Australian club, Western United, announced its name and colors. … From both Josh and @Hashalanche: the Swope Park Rangers of the USL Championship will wear this kit next season. … On Tuesday, there was a pretty bizarre blue vs. blue matchup in the English Championship between Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday. The ref decided that despite the clash, it was still the best uniform combo for the game (from our own Jamie Rathjen).
Grab Bag: From Phil: This article addresses whether or not participants should wear helmets during curling matches. … There’s a new website devoted to uniform numbers across many sports. The home page doesn’t look like much, but a lot of the content is worth checking out. … SportsReference got in the holiday spirit by placing hearts with arrows shot through them on the pages of players with names that are evocative of Valentine’s Day (from Mike Engle). … Good interview with the designer who is nominated for two “best costume” awards at this year’s Oscars. … At New York Fashion Week, one German designer presented a line inspired by coal workers and their uniforms (NYT Link). … The artist behind Burberry’s new logo discussed his design process. … Great project in Philadelphia, where some artists bought all the advertising space in one of the city’s subway stations and turned it into an art gallery (from Bryan Duklewski). … New York City subway signs usually depict the various the various train lines in colored circles. But for Valentine’s Day, there was a graphic showing all the lines as hearts.