Illini: Fab Five not first with baggy shorts

Updated: March 15, 2011, 12:17 AM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Former Illinois players Stephen Bardo and Kendall Gill think Jalen Rose is shorting the truth when it comes to the roots of the baggy shorts trend.

Rose said in ESPN's documentary "The Fab Five" that he and his Michigan teammates started the phenomenon when they asked then-Wolverines coach Steve Fisher during their freshman year if they could wear baggier shorts.

But Bardo and Gill see it a little differently. They say it was the Flyin' Illini team of the late '80s who first sported the baggy shorts that have become the norm in college hoops over the past two decades.

"I do think it's revisionist history because they did not start the baggy shorts [trend], we did," Bardo said Monday night on "Chicago's GameNight" with Jeff Dickerson and Jonathan Hood. "The Flyin' Illini did. That was Kendall Gill that started that, that wasn't Jalen Rose. So I know he took credit for that, but I have to remind people that we had baggy shorts before they came on the scene."

Gill backed his former Illini teammate's claim.

"Yeah, he's telling the absolute truth," Gill said later on the show. "And I can tell you they probably won't admit [it], but Juwan [Howard] and Chris Webber would come up to us, myself, Nick Anderson, Steve Bardo, when they would see us when they got into the league and they would say, 'You know what? We wore our shorts long because you guys did it, the Flyin' Illini.' They bit off of us. They did."

Gill said that it took some convincing to get former Illini coach Lou Henson to agree to the uniform change.

"We said, 'Coach, we're tired of ridin' high, we need some room in those shorts,'" Gill said. "We knew that they were going to re-design the uniform the next year so we just [asked] coach to add a couple of inches length on there. We were surprised that he agreed to it because Coach Henson is old-fashioned. But he agreed to it and that's how it started."

Gill did say that the Fab Five took things a step further in the uniform department by wearing black socks and black shoes.

"We didn't do the shoes and the socks," Gill said. "That was in the [era] when gangsta rap was starting to get popular and the thug life was getting popular. Actually, Michigan, they actually wore their shorts a little longer than ours, past the knee and everything, which I did not like, but that was their style. They just took it to a whole new level."

Bardo thought the look worked well for the Wolverines that season.

"I remember that [the Wolverines] were 'the 'hood favorites,' no pun intended," Bardo said "But they were loved throughout urban America. And they represented kind of a young, rebellious mode that people kind of took to at that point. And it was a perfect storm for them."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

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Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.