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A Uni Watch Look at Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant died yesterday. I’ll leave it to others to address what he meant on a cultural or historical level, or even on a basketball level. Here at Uni Watch, we’re more concerned with how he fit into the uni-verse and how the uni-verse responded yesterday to his passing, so that’s what we’ll address today.

First and foremost, Bryant is the only player from any Big Four pro league to have two numbers retired in his honor by the same team. He wore No. 8 from the 1996-97 through 2005-06 seasons, and then wore No. 24 from 2006-07 through the end of his career in 2015-16 (he said the number change symbolized a “clean slate” after teammate Shaquille O’Neal was traded from the Lakers). Following a lot of speculation and discussion regarding which number the Lakers would retire for him, the Lakers settled the issue by retiring both of them — a good and unprecedented solution. Since it’s extremely uncommon for a top-tier player to change uni numbers while remaining with the same team, Bryant is likely to maintain this distinction regarding his retired numbers for the foreseeable future.

I also remember Bryant as the first notable player — or maybe just the first player, period..? — to wear tights on the court, which he began doing in 2005. It was so notable that I wrote an ESPN column about it at the time. Nowadays, of course, tights are common in the NBA — maybe even more the rule than the exception — but when Kobe began doing it, he stuck out as the only tights-clad player on the court (click to enlarge):

I’m not 100% positive that Kobe was the first NBA player to wear tights (anyone..?), but I am certain that he was the first star player to do so and that the trend caught on because of him. So in addition to all of his other career accomplishments, we can credit him (or blame him, if you don’t like the like the look) with bringing long underwear to pro hoops.

Bryant was also among the first pro athletes (again, maybe the first..?) to have a uniform created in his honor. That was in 2017, when the Lakers unveiled the first of their “Lakers Lore” alternate uniforms, each of which honors a key player from the team’s history. The debut edition was the Kobe-themed “Black Mamba” uni, which Bryant himself reportedly had a hand in designing:

Finally, no discussion of Bryant’s uniform legacy would be complete without this:

One of my favorite uniform eccentricities.

There were lots of uni-related responses yesterday to Bryant’s death. Here are the ones I’m aware of, although I imagine there were more:

• Hawks point guard Trae Young, who normally wears No. 11, wore No. 8 last night as a tribute to Bryant:

• By bizarre coincidence, Bryant’s two uniform numbers — 8 and 24 — match up with the number of seconds for a backcourt violation and a shot clock violation, respectively. So for many of last night’s games, the first team to take possession after the opening tip intentionally took an eight-second backcourt violation, and then the other team reciprocated with an intentional 24-second violation, all of which is pretty awesome:

• As you’d expect, lots of NBA players inscribed tributes to Bryant on their sneakers. For example, here’s what Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball had on his (for all of the photos that follow, you can click to enlarge):

I’m sure there were dozens of other players doing this, although I only saw photos of a few of them. Here are the ones that crossed my radar last night, beginning with Pelicans guard Frank Jackson:

Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes:

Pelicans guard Josh Hart:

Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell:

Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell:

Several unidentified players here:

The sneaker tributes went beyond the NBA. In college hoops, Oregon women’s point guard Sabrina Ionescu — a friend of the Bryant family — joined the mourning:

 

• The Mavericks announced that they will retire No. 24.

• Here in New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in Lakers colors and Bryant was featured on the exterior video board:

• The escalators at TD Garden were likewise lit up in Lakers colors:

• Lakers colors were also lighting up the sky at LAX airport, and at Los Angeles City Hall:

• Sports Illustrated basketball writer Chris Mannix floated a uni-numerical suggestion for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game:

• At X Games Aspen, biker Jackson Strong wore a Bryant jersey:

I’m sure there were lots of other uni-related tributes out there that I missed. Feel free to post them in today’s comments. (But let’s please try to stick to uni-related tributes. The tribute at the Grammys for example, was nice but had nothing to do with Bryant’s uni numbers or Lakers team colors or anything else uni-related. No need to post anything like that. Thanks.)

A few people mentioned to me that NBA teams were wearing black memorial bands last night. As I had to remind them, those black bands were added earlier this month for former commish David Stern and had nothing to do with Bryant, although it does raise the question of whether an additional band will be added for him. At the very least, it seems obvious that the Lakers will add some sort of uniform memorial. R.I.P.

(My thanks to Timmy Donahue and Kary Klismet for the LAX and City Hall items, respectively.)

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Embed from Getty Images

Obligatory Pro Bowl mention: The Pro Bowl was yesterday. I saw a little bit of it in a bar and couldn’t believe how lame it was. Like, they don’t even bother to tackle now? They just hug the ball carrier and he stops running? When did that start?

Anyway: Crazy quilt of helmets, something-something, reflective sleeve patches, something, stickers for the players’ high schools on the back of the helmets, something-something.

I’d say that about covers it.

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• • • • •

Working Class Wannabes™, continued: Here’s something from three months ago that I missed: Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen installed a freaking time clock at the team’s practice facility so his players can clock in and clock out. I’m sure that would’ve been a big hit with Jordan and Pippen.

In case you missed it on Friday, I have a new article in The New Republic that addresses this phenomenon of the sports world’s fetishizing of the working class, and how it amounts to stolen valor. I’m pretty happy with this one, and the response to it has been very positive. I hope you’ll check it out here.

Meanwhile, here’s something I’ve been wondering: Are there any examples of women’s sports teams engaging in blue-collar bullshit? The phenomenon seems like a proxy for macho posturing, so maybe it wouldn’t have the same appeal to women, but I wonder. Anyone..?

(My thanks to @stodgeoff for letting me know about the time clock.)

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Click to enlarge

Withdrawal symptom: You know how you can tell that you’re really missing baseball? When you’re walking across Brooklyn on a Sunday afternoon in January, pass a van tagged with orange and blue graffiti, and think to yourself, “Hmmm — Mets colors.”

As for where I was walking, I’ll have more to say about that soon. You’re really going to like it — trust me.

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Click to enlarge

Hail to the chief: The Tugboat Captain and I were talking about how the upcoming presidential campaign and election are going to be a total shitshow. It all seemed so grim. Just then, Uni Watch girl mascot Caitlin trotted in. “Why can’t she be president?” said the Captain.

Why not indeed. So we’ve decided that she now is president — President Caitlin. Her main platform involves affection, cuteness, purring, naps (aka “Executive Time”), and kibble in every bowl (or at least hers). She does have the unfortunate habit of issuing official proclamations out loud at 6am, but you get to do that when you’re the President.

Later on, I saw the Captain snuggling with President Caitlin. “Cabinet meeting,” she explained.

Caitlin’s always run everything around here anyway. Now we’ve just made it official. Four meow years!

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In case you missed it: I don’t usually repeat this type of item, but the situation with with the Uni Watch hat appearing on TNT the other night is so funny and so bizarre that I have to share it again. But this time I’ll do it via a Facebook embed — easy to scroll past if you already know the story (or just don’t care):

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The Ticker
By Jamie Rathjen

Football News: Collector’s Corner compiler Brinke Guthrie sent us an eBay listing for this Chiefs brochure for travel to Super Bowl I, which would have gone in his column for this week but for the listing expiring today. Notable: Although the term “Super Bowl” did not become official until SB III, it was being used in this brochure (with a hyphen, oddly — “Super-Bowl”), which confirms earlier reporting that the term had gained a foothold even before the first Supe was played. … Also from Brinke: The pilot of the 49ers’ team plane flew a team flag out the window before the Niners headed to Miami yesterday for the big game.

Hockey News: At the NHL All-Star Game, the two finalist divisions, Atlantic and Pacific, switched jerseys for the final even though they wouldn’t have clashed. The Atlantic wore grey in the semifinal and white in the final, while the Pacific did the opposite (from Eric Griffin). … A three-on-three women’s event on Friday between U.S. and Canada representative teams featured the same All-Star jerseys, but with the NHL logo, and patches and helmet decals with the event’s logo. … For all All-Star events this weekend, NBC also superimposed their own ads over the ads already there, which you can see in this video. … Some NHL goalies this season have been wearing chest protectors from Kenesky, a company whose pads were once ubiquitous (from Jerry Wolper). … The following junior hockey items are all from Wade Heidt: the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders were another team that didn’t wear the league’s Hockey Night in Canada blazer lookalikes, instead wearing yellow jerseys with a crest of the show’s vintage logo. … The WHL’s Portland Winterhawks had rainbow-taped sticks on Friday for Pride Night and also have a new rose-themed secondary logo. Additionally, Portland and the Seattle Thunderbirds did their annual color-vs.-color game. … The OHL’s Barrie Colts retired No. 18 for current Jets C Bryan Little, and wore warm-up jerseys listing his accomplishments. … The OHL’s London Knights wore throwbacks from their ill-fated purple-and-teal era. Down a level in junior hockey, the British Columbia Hockey League’s Victoria Grizzlies wore camouflage.

Basketball News: Georgia and South Carolina’s women’s teams played a black-vs.-garnet matchup yesterday (from Chris Wellbaum). … Oregon’s women’s team wore ’90s throwbacks yesterday (from Kary Klismet). … Oregon’s men’s team wore yellow at home against UCLA (from Josh Hinton). … Also from Kary: Louisville’s men’s team wore 1975 throwbacks on Saturday. … Iowa’s women’s team retired No. 10 for PF Megan Gustafson, and Boston College’s men’s team retired No. 2 for PG Troy Bell (both from Timmy Donahue). … Texas Tech’s men’s team wore black at home against Kentucky Saturday. … Both North Dakota State and Denver’s men’s and women’s teams went yellow-vs.-red this weekend (from Ryan Workman). … Northern Iowa’s men’s team began the annual February pinkifying of college basketball a week early: The coaches, bench players, and cheerleaders, among others, wore pink shirts.

Soccer News: French team Nantes wore their Argentina-style shirts with white shorts and socks — though the blue stripes were very faint — revealed last week in memory of former striker Emiliano Sala. Opponents Bordeaux wore an Argentinian flag under the crest. You can see more of Nantes’s tributes to Sala here. … Italian team Inter Milan wore Chinese NOBs for Lunar New Year (from @donie_drago). … French team Olympique Lyonnais’s nets have a blue and red stripe, which isn’t worn by Lyon now but was associated with much of their dominance in the 2000s (from @MikeDinCT). … In England, a short video (which is a bit graphic) for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is today, was shown before matches in the FA Cup fourth round. Some youth teams also wore warm-up shirts and/or patches. … With the Women’s FA Cup fourth round also this weekend, Lewes’ men’s and women’s teams wore warm-up shirts protesting the amount of prize money for fourth-round wins: £180,000 for the men, but £2,000 for the women. Lewes’ men’s team would have earned £6,750 in prize money for their two-round journey ending in the second qualifying round in September; the women’s team would have to make the semifinals to exceed that. … New kits for Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys and Ecuador’s LDU. … Shocker: The UK’s sports minister says soccer in the country is too dependent on gambling ads.

Grab Bag: Both the U.S. and Netherlands women’s field hockey teams and the game’s officials wore black armbands or wristbands in memory of Larry Amar, a USWNT assistant coach until recently and a longtime USMNT player, which included captaincy at the 1996 Olympics. … New Zealand dual-code rugby player Sonny Bill Williams recently signed with the rugby league Super League’s Toronto Wolfpack and will cover the league’s betting ad because he is Muslim and is opposed to alcohol, banking, or gambling ads. He’s now not worn ads in both kinds of rugby, having previously done so with a small banking ad on the collar when he played in union for Super Rugby’s Auckland team, the Blues. … Ohio State’s wrestling team gives its top members black shirts to wear during practice as a mark of achievement (from Kary Klismet). … Here are the bibs worn by Polish ski jumper Kamil Stoch in all 35 of his FIS World Cup wins (from Jeremy Brahm). … The organizing body of the professional snooker tour renamed itself the World Snooker Tour and got a new logo (from Graham Clayton). … The New York Times wrote about the decline of Under Armour in the sportswear industry (from Tom Turner).

66 comments to A Uni Watch Look at Kobe Bryant

  • Lindsay B. Resnick | January 27, 2020 at 8:21 am |

    Plus one vote for President Caitlin!

    • MARQUIS Sanders | January 27, 2020 at 8:52 am |

      +2

  • Larry | January 27, 2020 at 8:26 am |

    Most of the sneakers with Kobe tributes are versions of his signature shoe. Kobe was adamant that he wanted a low-top shoe which was virtually unheard of in the NBA at the time. The belief was that basketball players needed a high-top shoe to provide ankle support. Kobe argued that soccer players didn’t wear high-tops and their movements were similar to basketball players.

    • Lindsay B. Resnick | January 27, 2020 at 9:07 am |

      I was going to mention that every example given in this post is of a Nike shoe. Do we know of any non-Nike players that made a shoe-based tribute? Or is the Corporate Douchebaggery strong enough to prevent that?

      • Block "O Canada" | January 27, 2020 at 11:46 am |

        Looks like Josh Hart of the Pelicans does not know how to spell “Forever”.

      • Joe | January 27, 2020 at 12:07 pm |

        In the embedded Complex tweet, you can see Trae Young’s adidas in the upper right and (I believe) Kelly Oubre’s Converse in the lower left. Pretty much across the board. As someone else said, most of the images that got broadly shared were different versions of Kobe’s signature models.

    • Jim Vilk | January 27, 2020 at 1:23 pm |

      Kobe wasn’t the only Laker to prefer low-tops. In the 1985 Sportsman of the Year issue of SI, Kareem gave his reasoning for wearing them. He said if you bind your ankle, the stress goes to the next available joint: your knee. Better a sprained ankle than a blown-out knee. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of either player, I respected them both and have subscribed to their theory for many years.

  • Jamie Rathjen | January 27, 2020 at 8:47 am |

    Paul, I don’t think women’s teams have any need for Blue Collar Bullshit.

    The NWSL doesn’t publish player salaries like MLS does, but the minimum is $20,000 for next season (this is up 20% from last season). Many players play elsewhere, primarily Australia, in the offseason in order to make a living (I think WNBA players do this as well with European leagues).

    I’ve heard that some players in English soccer’s Women’s Super League earn the minimum wage, and below that players generally have other full-time jobs.

    Many women’s hockey players are boycotting the NWHL because it doesn’t provide health insurance or a living wage — they recently formed a union to achieve those goals, and it was mentioned that almost all the players in the three-on-three NHL ASG game on Friday were a member of the union.

  • Joe Rodgers | January 27, 2020 at 8:49 am |

    The Lakers uniform he wore for the majority of his career will go down as the Kobe uniform. They changed to it in 1999, just as the Shaq-Kobe teams started to win championships. They kept that uniform for the rest of Kobe’s career, before changing in 2018, two years after his retirement. It’s rare that a player, especially one with such a storied franchise, would have a uniform set associated with him.

    • Mike Engle on iPhone | January 27, 2020 at 9:49 am |

      The Cleveland Cavaliers’ burgundy, metallic gold, navy, and white set was brand new to coincide with LeBron James’s rookie debut, and then the burgundy/athletic gold set replaced it effective LeBron’s departure to Miami. So that set is literally exactly LeBron’s first Cleveland tenure uniform set, no more and no less.

      • Joe Rodgers | January 27, 2020 at 11:34 am |

        Yep, except LeBron had a second act in Cleveland with different uniforms. And the Cavs changing isn’t like the Lakers.

    • Brian | January 27, 2020 at 12:35 pm |

      I think when all is said and done, the current Patriots set will be the Brady uniform. First worn his technical rookie year in 2000, obviously all the success that has followed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they changed (not radically, but probably to something close to the current color rash alternate with non-mono pants) after he departs the team (whether through retirement or free agency)

  • Kenny Ocker | January 27, 2020 at 8:55 am |

    Did the A’s retire both of Rickey Henderson’s numbers?

    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 8:58 am |

      No. And no other Big Four team has ever retired two numbers for the same player. That’s why I wrote, “Bryant is the only player from any Big Four pro league to have two numbers retired in his honor by the same team.”

  • Joel I. Frank | January 27, 2020 at 9:20 am |

    If the position of “C”Attorney General is open, I’m available.

  • JohnMark | January 27, 2020 at 9:22 am |

    Kobe’s “Basketball Reference” page has a black memorial band on the top right corner, like a jersey. https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/bryanko01.html

  • Michael H | January 27, 2020 at 9:39 am |
    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 9:55 am |

      Good one. Thanks!

      • Tom | January 27, 2020 at 2:16 pm |

        Trying to dig around to find it, but I recall David Duval dressing in all dark blue at one of the majors early in the 2000’s and a comment about it being about being workmanlike. It might have been a counterpoint to Tiger’s red/black Sunday outfit.

        (I could be misremembering….)

  • LKjus | January 27, 2020 at 10:50 am |

    The :24 shot clock violations to start the game were about as good of a tribute as you can get. It was nearly a minute of silence rounded out by standing ovations, not only to both teams for acknowledging a basketball great (again debate his personal worth somewhere else), but it was in-game, so it had more meaning.

    There was one Uni related moment at the Grammy’s. Lil Nas X performed Old Town Road and right next to him was a Kobe Bryant 24 jersey:

    https://topnewswood.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ccelebritieslilnas-jersey.jpg

    • Pete | January 27, 2020 at 11:46 am |

      Except it was the exact opposite of how he projected himself as a player. To Kobe that would be the waste of an opportunity to score and compete.
      A tribute Kobe would appreciate: 1st possession for each team run an isolation for each team’s best player.

      • LKjus | January 27, 2020 at 12:50 pm |

        But that wouldn’t be obvious or fall in-line with a uni-convention. So, as I said, the :24 shot clock violations and the :08 halfcourt violations were about as perfect as you could get.

        • Jim Vilk | January 27, 2020 at 1:30 pm |

          Agreed. As I said further up in the comments, I wasn’t a big Kobe fan but I respected his talent. That tribute got me a little verklempt, I’ll admit.

  • Mark coale | January 27, 2020 at 11:25 am |

    After scoring last night in PSG’s match, Neymar did “2” and “4” with his fingers, for Bryant.

    Paul, would you consider women’s teams using “Rosie the Riveter” imagery as Blue Collar imagery, Feminist Imagery, Wartime Imagery, a combo of all three or none?

    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 11:41 am |

      Primarily feminist, but with elements of all three.

  • mike chamernik | January 27, 2020 at 11:33 am |

    Kobe was the pioneer for the black face mask, which looked super cool (and was later banned by the NBA) https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2017/10/31/16581148/legend-of-the-black-mask-nba-lebron-james-kyrie-irving-kobe-bryant-halloween

    Kobe wore a glove during games to protect a broken hand in 1999 https://twitter.com/uniwatch/status/635822944057434112?lang=en

    Also, the Kobe 2 shoes from Adidas were legendarily… unique https://solecollector.com/news/2019/08/best-kobe-bryant-sneakers/

    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 11:41 am |

      D’oh! I should have included that.

  • Truth Teller | January 27, 2020 at 11:41 am |

    So we’re all going to ignore that Kobe Bryant is a rapist? Seems like an important piece of information to include, doesn’t it?

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/kobe-bryants-disturbing-rape-case-the-dna-evidence-the-accusers-story-and-the-half-confession

    https://nypost.com/2020/01/26/sexual-assault-claim-marked-kobe-bryants-darkest-episode/

    https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-01-26/what-happened-kobe-bryant-sexual-assault-case

    Kobe is scum. Yes, it’s a shame he died early, that his daughter died with him, and that several others lost their lives. But he is a rapist and must be acknowledged as such.

    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 12:08 pm |

      Please go back and re-read the first graf of today’s entry. Thanks.

    • Chris Weber | January 27, 2020 at 12:23 pm |

      No room for redemption, no room for penance? If I knew you, boy, would I tread lightly in your presence. -C.

    • Andrew Y | January 28, 2020 at 10:13 pm |

      I’m not ignoring it. I’ve not been able to stand him since 2003. His fans are worse, at least those who showed zero remorse for the woman he assaulted.

      I am very sad for the people who lost their lives in such a fashion (had to be a horrible way to die, hovering and then crashing) basically because they had to beat the traffic on a Sunday morning. Tragic waste, especially with children on board.

      But no, many of us know who Kobe was, even if he did appear to try and become a better person later in life.

      On a much more uni topic, I always disliked how baggy he wore his uniform. It looked bad.

  • Ethan K. | January 27, 2020 at 11:42 am |

    One of my good friends is named Caitlin, and she’s an animal lover who has three cats and a dog. So I get a kick out of giving her updates about “herself”, e.g. “Did you hear that ‘you’ were elected president?” I also sent her the GIF with Caitlin on the bed, asking her “Do you also have a favorite blanket?”

    As far as I know, my friend has no clue what Uni-Watch is, but she does seem to enjoy hearing about her namesake mascot!

  • Glenn | January 27, 2020 at 11:58 am |

    Really? This is just about the shittiest take anyone can take, not to mention beyond irrelevant compared to the topic as it relates to this site.

    If you have problems with Bryant for what he did off the court, deal with it elsewhere, it has NOTHING to do with Bryant and uniforms.

    • Glenn | January 27, 2020 at 12:00 pm |

      Should have been in response to Truth Teller

  • Alex | January 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm |

    There were two tributes in Portland, OR. The Moda Center (home of the NBA Trail Blazers) lit up in yellow/purple as did the Oregon Convention Center’s glass spires.

    https://twitter.com/ModaCenter/status/1221614124141928448

    https://twitter.com/AJ_McCord/status/1221608082695839744

    As a Blazer fan, Kobe was a memorable villain and broke our hearts several times. But all the respect to him as an athlete and his Mambo mentality when it comes to one’s craft – professional athlete or not.

    And yes, when you’re talking about the legacy of anyone, it’s okay to include the good and the bad. Humans are imperfect and Kobe was certainly one of the darker stains on the world because of that incident. You can mourn for both his family for losing a husband, father, and all that…and mourn for the victim with all those painful memories brought up again.

  • Cris | January 27, 2020 at 12:24 pm |

    Kobe was a great player and it’s a tragedy that him and his daughter both died yesterday in the crash, but I don’t agree with the knee jerk reaction by the Mavs to retire #24 in his honor. If this becomes the norm, where do you draw the line? I mean, there’s been ALOT of great players in the history of the NBA. Jordan, Magic, Bird, Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J, Wilt, Russell and the list goes on and on. Honor his memory with a #24 jersey patch or black band for the season like the NFL did in the 2007 season when Sean Taylor died.

    • Paul G | January 27, 2020 at 12:32 pm |

      I agree, the only other examples I can think of are the Heat retiring 23 for Jordan and the whole NHL retiring 99 for Gretzky.

      • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 12:36 pm |

        Jackie, MLB.

        • Paul G | January 27, 2020 at 4:24 pm |

          I was thinking about guys that had it done for their on-field/court/ice contributions, but that too!

  • TIm | January 27, 2020 at 12:41 pm |

    Another uni-related Kobe tribute: At the AO, Nick Kyrgios warmed up with Rafa in a Kobe jersey.

  • MJ | January 27, 2020 at 1:04 pm |

    IIRC, Hakeem Olajuwon was the first to wear full-length tights toward the end of his career after he developed a DVT. Before that, there were many wearing compression shorts to just above the knee.

    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 1:06 pm |

      Compression shorts are a completely different animal — apples vs. kumquats.

      As for Hakeem, as I recall he only wore tights on one leg:
      https://www.espn.com/media/pg2/2005/1209/photo/g_olajuwon_350.jpg

      But maybe there were other instance when he wore both..?

      • Geoff P | January 27, 2020 at 1:20 pm |

        Can we also point out the fact that in that Olajuwon photo he’s obviously wearing a Caucasian flesh colored compression legging? I know he wore it for medical reasons and not aesthetic ones, but that’s still rather jarring to me.

        *mumble mumble* institutional racism *mumble mumble*

  • Tim | January 27, 2020 at 1:26 pm |

    I recall that we were told to “go to work” or “get to work” when playing various sports (Football, Rugby, Baseball, Basketball). I’ve got no issue with this, the “Row the Boat” or any other reasonable motivation tools used by coaches.

    • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 1:32 pm |

      The word “work” is very different than the term “blue-collar,” and even more different than blue-collar cosplay/dress-up.

      Also: While I don’t know this for sure, Tim, I’m assuming you’re referring to when you were a youth and/or student, not a top-tier college player or an elite professional player. Context matters. This stuff isn’t just “motivational” — as noted in my New Republic article, it’s become a staple of teams’ marketing and branding. And like so much marketing and branding, it’s bullshit, and deserves to be called out as such.

      • Tim | January 27, 2020 at 2:31 pm |

        Fair enough. While I wasn’t “professional”, I did play pretty high level club rugby back in the late 80s, before it was being advertised funded. Combine that with us being a number of members of the military, to us anything we did was work. Rugby was a side activity we did to continue our training/work regimen.

        Your issue is using “blue collar” as a marketing/motivational tool and marketing/branding is BS. I guess I don’t see this as any different as the marketing/branding/sales of things like “Threepeat”, “Roll Tide”, “THE” (Ohio State), “Row the Boat (WMU, now Minnesota), etc. etc. etc. It’s all to, as you so aptly describe, to “sell merch”.

        • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 3:08 pm |

          Oh, most of those other marketing/branding things are also BS, for sure. But they don’t reduce an entire class of our fellow citizens to a stereotyped caricature, and they don’t cynically virtue-signal to those people while ignoring the real challenges they face and the things that could be done to actually help them (living wage, unions, etc.).

          In other words: Some BS is a lot worse than other BS.

  • Jim Vilk | January 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm |

    Here are the bibs worn by Polish ski jumper Kamil Stoch in all 35 of his FIS World Cup wins

    Thanks for sharing that, Jeremy! One of my all time favorite jumpers.

    • Jim Vilk | January 27, 2020 at 1:42 pm |

      And now I finally have another membership card idea… bibs usually don’t include the jumpers’ names, but his third win on the ski flying hill of Planica does. In between the VW ad and the Austrian wafer ad is cool piece of uni art. Can we make that happen, Paul?

      • Paul Lukas | January 27, 2020 at 1:46 pm |

        Probably. I’d need much better visual reference than that, though!

  • mike 2 | January 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm |

    Not really a “uniform” take, but its worth it.

    The NBA has been awarding the MVP since 1955, and Kobe is just the third former MVP to pass away. Moses Malone and Wilt Chamberlain are the other two.

    All of the other NBA MVPs are still alive.

  • Brent | January 27, 2020 at 3:03 pm |

    Growing up in North Texas, my first basketball hero was Mark Aguirre. The franchise first superstar. Now I get that he was a bit of a curmudgeon and wanted out and eventually got traded to Detroit, but he wore #24. If the Mavs REALLY want to knee jerk and retire Kobe’s jersey, they ought to go with #8. Just my opinion.

  • Patrick in MI | January 27, 2020 at 7:00 pm |

    Has any other pro athlete worn two different numbers with as much success as Kobe Bryant? Off the top of my head I’m thinking Michael Jordan with 23 & 45 but that’s not even close. There have been other world-class athletes that started their careers with a different number than what they were famous for so I wouldn’t count them.

    • ChrisH | January 27, 2020 at 7:46 pm |

      Tony Stewart was pretty successful in both the 20 (2 championships, 33 race wins) and the 14 (1 championship, 16 race wins).
      I still associate both numbers with Smoke.

  • Brant Douglas | January 27, 2020 at 7:02 pm |

    With Caitlin running for President, does that mean that stores that sell catnip will, by law, be forced to close on Election Day to avoid potential bribery of voters?

    Some other ideas for her Convention “catform”: 1. Sunshine Laws will become far more relevant. 2. Generous grants for any person who can invent a noiseless, self-cleaning litter box (similar money for a robotic cleaner that automatically cleans up hairballs). 3. Secret “Purr”-vice will consist of well-disciplined large cats (think cougars, leopards, etc.); “Purr”-vice uniforms will be yellow and green! 4. CIA will now be known as the “Cat Intelligence Agency” because, well it SHOULD be obvious. 5. FBI, now “Feline Bureau of Investigation”, will focus on ways to keep toy mice and balls from going under furniture.

    I will make sure our 3 feline children make it to our local precinct to “cats” their ballot.

  • Jeff | January 27, 2020 at 7:14 pm |

    Has any pro team retired an athlete’s same number twice other than the Bulls for MJ? If not it’s pretty interesting that two players who were compared to each other so often (and one who admitted he modeled parts of his game from the other) also have unique “quirks” about their retired numbers as well.

    • Dave S. | January 27, 2020 at 10:44 pm |

      I’m not sure that I understand your question correctly, do excuse me if I’m off, but I think the Colts and Broncos both retired Peyton Manning’s #18.

      • Jeff | January 28, 2020 at 10:43 pm |

        Not quite what I mean Dave, sorry it comes off across ambiguous. I mean like the Bulls having Jordan’s 23 retired after his first retirement, which is why he famously wore 45 in the comeback before switching back to 23 when they unretired it in the off-season if I remember correctly. So after his second retirement the 23 went back to the rafters with 1984-1993 and below it 1995-1998 and thus being the same number retired twice for the same player by the same team.

  • Chris Mayor | January 27, 2020 at 8:18 pm |

    I saw this on several billboards around Nashville on my way to work this morning.
    https://fox17.com/news/local/billboard-on-i-40-in-nashville-pays-tribute-to-kobe-bryant

    Also, Bridgestone Arena and a bridge over the Cumberland River were lit up in purple and gold.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EPVA2LUXsAEOK9X.jpg
    And the Predators had a pregame tribute.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EPVKmcmWoAA2GEj.jpg

  • Davis Young | January 27, 2020 at 9:39 pm |

    “(But let’s please try to stick to uni-related tributes. The tribute at the Grammys for example, was nice but had nothing to do with Bryant’s uni numbers or Lakers team colors or anything else uni-related. No need to post anything like that. Thanks.)”

    I don’t see how the Grammys tribute wasn’t uni-related. The crew at the Staples Center repositioned Kobe’s retired jerseys to be side-by-side (normally it’s separated by Chick Hearn’s microphone jersey on the bottom row) to be spotlighted at the end of the Alicia Keys/Boyz II Men tribute song.

    • Paul Lee | January 27, 2020 at 11:26 pm |

      I was thinking this afternoon how Chick Hearn would’ve been heartbroken had he been alive and found out that The Kid has passed away so tragically and way too soon…

  • Christopher | January 28, 2020 at 12:44 pm |

    I’m coming to this a day late, but thanks for this excellent uni-focused reflection on Kobe’s career, Paul.

    I think you’re right that Kobe was largely responsible for popularizing the wearing of tights among NBA players, given his status within the league. But we know he was not the first player to wear them. As you noted in your follow up to that Page 2 column back in 2005, that honor belongs to Jerry Stackhouse, then playing with the Dallas Mavericks. (I only remember this because I emailed you about it after reading the Kobe column. It was the first time I’d ever emailed you (or probably any other columnist/writer), and I remember thinking it was so cool that you not only emailed back but acknowledged me by name in the follow up column. I’d only recently found Uni Watch a few months before that, and that helped cement it as a daily read for me, which it’s remained for 15 years now).

    The note about Stackhouse can be found under “Sox Redux” here: http://www.espn.com/espn/page2/story?page=lukas/051228

    • Paul Lukas | January 28, 2020 at 12:55 pm |

      Ah, thank you, Chris — I had forgotten about that follow-up!