By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

OK, enough already with all the chatter about the NBA's off-court dress code. A tailored suit, a track suit, a birthday suit -- whatever. When it comes to the NBA, Uni Watch's only concern is what we see on the court. So with the season tipping off Tuesday night, here's what you can expect to see this season (with a big shout-out to Matt Bourne and Christopher Arena at NBA central, who provided Uni Watch with invaluable assistance):

• The league's only full-scale makeover is taking place in Indiana, where the Pacers have dropped their pinstriped design and will now look like this. Clean, classy, no extraneous bells or whistles -- Uni Watch likes it. And we can all rest easy knowing that the next time Ron Artest goes ballistic, at least he'll look good doing it.

• With the Hornets taking up temporary residence in Oklahoma City, the team's home jersey lettering is changing from "New Orleans" to "Hornets." But "New Orleans" will still appear on the road and alternate jerseys, and all their unis will now carry an "OKC" chest patch to recognize their temporary home.

• The award for the year's subtlest uni change goes to the Kings. Ever notice that their little rear-neckline crown logo was ever so slightly crooked? Now it's perfectly horizontal. Uni Watch can only wonder how many high-level meetings and conference calls were required for that one. Unfortunately, the Kings also get credit for the year's least subtle change, thanks to their putrid new alternate unis -- woof!

• Second-subtlest change: Someone decided that the "1" and "7" in the Bobcats' uni typeface looked too similar, so the serif on the "1" has been shortened, and the serif on the "7" has been lengthened. You can compare the old and new numeral sets here.

• The Trail Blazers are changing their road jersey insignia from "Blazers" to "Portland" (with thanks to reader Jeremy Brahm for the photo).

• Lots of tweaks to shorts: The Pistons have removed their flaming horse-head logo and replaced it with a new "DP" mark; the Bucks have removed the uni numbers from their right leg; and the Warriors have removed their "Triangle man" logo from the back of their left leg and replaced it with their "W" logo.

• Lots of patches too, although they'll only be appearing on warm-up suits and shooting shirts: a nice ABA patch for the Nets, Nuggets, Pacers and Spurs, to mark the 30th anniversary of the NBA/ABA merger; a really cool George Mikan memorial patch for the Lakers and Timberwolves; and in the latest example of the sports world's calendar illiteracy, a 40th-anniversary patch for the Bulls, even though it's actually their 40th season and therefore their 39th anniversary.

• Plenty of nifty throwback unis this season, most of which will debut in December. Among the highlights: The Heat and Grizzlies will honor their cities' old ABA franchises by dressing up as the Miami Floridians and Memphis Pros, respectively; the Bulls will play as the 1946 Chicago Stags (complete with contrasting shorts); if you've forgotten that the Clippers came to California from Buffalo, you'll remember after seeing them dressed as the 1970 Buffalo Braves; the Wizards will become the Baltimore Bullets (and check out the cool wraparound-stripe shorts); and there'll be straight retro designs for the Sonics and Knicks (with Father Knickerbocker on the shorts!).

• In alternate uni news, the Raptors have flip-flopped their road uniform designations: This one is now the primary road design, and this one is now the alternate. Plus, the Nets have ditched their gray alts, and expect to see new alts soon from the Celtics, Cavaliers, Nuggets and Pistons, although those are still under wraps for a few more weeks (or at least they're supposed to be -- it's a fairly open secret that Boston's new design will look something like this, and LeBron James has been on at least one magazine cover wearing this).

• The Hawks are memorializing Jason Collier by wearing a black shoulder band, and some players have added their own personalized tributes.

• Two teams will be wearing road unis for their home openers: the Suns, who'll wear orange, and the Cavs, who'll wear red. Why? Because orange is the color of Home Depot, which is sponsoring the Suns' home opener, and red is the color of Quicken Loans, which now holds the naming rights to the Cavs' arena. A disgusted Uni Watch urges the league to put the kibosh on this dog-waggery, posthaste.

• One last item: The Celtics, Knicks and Bulls are reportedly planning "something special" for St. Patrick's Day. No details available yet, but Uni Watch suggests you use your imagination.

Uni News Ticker
Lots of readers have been curious about the undershirts with the reptilian-looking sleeves that many players were wearing in the World Series. Nike spokesman Nate Tobecksen tells Uni Watch it's similar to the same Nike undershirt that MLB players were wearing all season long, "but there's a concentrated area of a fleece material knit into the elbow, biceps and shoulder areas for padding and warmth." As for the ridiculously oversized "World Series" collar logo, Uni Watch will let that speak for itself. … Logo Creep Alert: David Thomas reports that the players shown in Penn State's Joe Paterno bronze statue are wearing Nike's you-know-what. … Still more Nike nonsense, courtesy of reader Will Morris: "My friend has become a United States Soccer Federation referee. I was flipping through his procedural manual [the "Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees, and 4th Officials"], and it seems that every time they drew a soccer ball, they had to put a Nike swoosh on it." … As Uni Watch covered in some detail a few weeks ago, an NFL player's socks are supposed to be white at the bottom. But Rob Curtin notes that Bengals WR Chad Johnson was wearing orange ankle socks on Oct. 23, complete with a black outline of the team's tiger head logo. … Several readers are surprised to see that Falcons RB Warrick Dunn wears a thick metal chain while playing (good thing he's not in the NBA, right?). Best commentary, courtesy of Ben English: "Seems like a bad idea. Mr. Warrick Dunn, meet Roy Williams and the horse-collar tackle. Ouch." … Miami's 1967 throwbacks, which they wore Saturday, looked really sharp (if perhaps a bit too Baylor-esque). … The Giants are memorializing Wellington Mara with a "WTM" jersey patch, which they'll wear for the rest of this season. … The Phoenix RoadRunners minor-league hockey team will be wearing Phoenix Suns-style jerseys this weekend. … Astros pitcher Brandon Backe, who'd been wearing a black under-visor lately (instead of gray, like the rest of the team), switched back to gray for Game 4 of the World Series. … More Series arcana: Joe Drennan notes that ChiSox second baseman Willie Harris was wearing the Barry Bonds-style under-the-shoe elastic pant straps, which were supposedly banned several years ago. … Remember all the fuss last year about Cameroon's one-piece soccer uniform, which led to a FIFA fine and penalty (the latter of which was later revoked) and ultimately prompted a lawsuit from Puma? That suit has now been settled. … The SEC has announced a throwback uni program for next February. … The 49ers wore 1989 throwbacks on Sunday, complete with the striped socks.

Follow-Ups
Where would Uni Watch be without this column's incredible readers, who provide such amazing info and feedback? Case in point: No sooner did Uni Watch lament that no photos could be found of Antonio Bryant's recent pants-falling touchdown catch than Sheldon Choo, Jim Bauerle and Evan Berger came up with this, this and this. Outstanding work, people. Now let's all chip in to buy Mr. Bryant a belt.

In other follow-up news:

• Thanks to the several readers who explained that Jerry Porter's zebra-striped belt is a standard black belt adorned with strips of white tape. "I learned this from my many years as an athletic trainer," says reader April Johnson. "The typical high-maintenance, diva-esque receiver has many of these unexplained 'fashion' rituals that have no fathomable purpose whatsoever." As if to prove that point, Ryan Duffy recalls that Desmond Howard used to wear strips of black tape on his waistband towel (an accessory Uni Watch plans to examine in excruciating detail in the next week or two, incidentally).

• Thanks also to the few bazillion rugby fans who patiently explained that the straps on the blonde rugger's calves in this photo are not sock garters, as Uni Watch had speculated, but are connected to shin guards. Reader Ray Lewis elaborates: "Any rugby player can wear shin guards, but usually only the 'hooker' does. When there's a minor stoppage in play, the game is restarted by having the two packs of forwards (eight players each, usually the larger ones) form a scrum. The scrum half of the team last in possession of the ball then feeds the ball into the tunnel formed by the front rows locking heads. At that point the two hookers [designated as "2" in this schematic] try to heel the ball to the back of their scrum to win the possession. This is when shin guards are important, especially because traditional rugby boots have steel toe caps. This picture shows the ball about to be fed into the tunnel. The scrum half and hooker usually have some signal or timing worked out so that the hooker will raise his (or her) foot just as the ball is put in."

• Regarding the Milwaukee Brewers' uni-borne sponsorship of the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team, several readers noted that there's been at least one other instance of a team whose uniform included a team logo from another sport: the Main Line Cycling Club, which is sponsored by the Philadelphia Flyers. And in a related item, Eric Coffman notes that the late Payne Stewart sometimes wore NFL team logos.

• Add Canadiens backup goalie Yann Danis to our roster of flag-clad athletes -- he wears the Canadian and Quebec flags on his mask's backplate. (Whoever submitted this tidbit, please get in touch again, as Uni Watch neglected to copy down your name and wants to give you full credit.) And Todd Mulvey notes that the South Carolina Gamecocks wear the South Carolina state flag on the back of their helmets, which you can just barely see here.

• As you may recall, Uni Watch was surprised to see the MLB logo appearing on Andy Pettitte's shoes. But Uni Watch lifetime achievement scholar Mark Mihalik says it's actually pretty common: "For the past few years, Reebok has been MLB's official footwear sponsor, so they get to put the MLB logo on all of their shoes. If you do the 'multi-view' option on any of the shoes on this page, you'll see the logo creep on every single one. Yes, quite disgusting. Other companies that have these logo rights include Franklin (for batting gloves), Wilson (small logo on mitts), Nike (the dreadful undershirts), All-Star (catcher's gear) and Louisville (bats)."

• And high school football ref Mark Dexter, aware of Uni Watch's mild obsession with striped football hosiery, checks in with this info on officials' socks: "There's a difference between the sock stripes worn by officials in the NFL and those in college and high school. The NFL socks have two equal white stripes; NCAA and high school socks have three white stripes -- two small ones and one big one in the middle. But the rules don't specify how wide the white stripes should be, so when you look closely at a football officiating crew, especially in high school, you can often see small differences in their socks." Hmmm, all this talk of white stripes -- how long can it be before football refs are being sponsored by these guys?

Paul Lukas wears jeans whenever possible, no matter what the dress code is. Archives of his "Uni Watch" columns are available here, here and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list? Contact him here.




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