NBA players suddenly sporting tights
MILWAUKEE -- It takes a pretty big man to wear tights in public.
Spandex is spreading throughout the NBA, as several players have taken to wearing full-length tights underneath their shorts during games this season.
James, who recently gave up his tights, suspects that some of his fellow stars are trying to make a fashion statement.
"Of course they are," James said.
Not James, of course. Like the other players who wear them, James insists he wore the tights to help prevent injuries.
"Mine were work-related," James said.
Having recently returned to the court after knee surgery in December, he's just trying to keep his knees warm to stay healthy.
"It's definitely not a fashion statement for me," Smith said. "It's something that's really helping me out."
These days, the Bucks show up to games looking like they're ready to perform Swan Lake.
At Smith's urging, teammates Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, Mo Williams and Toni Kukoc all have taken to the court with their legs wrapped in skin-tight black spandex in recent weeks -- Smith wears white tights -- giving Milwaukee the unofficial league lead in Lycra.
Bucks coach Terry Stotts is willing to buy the idea that tights might have some medical benefit for his players.
"It's certainly a different feel, and I think it does keep your legs warm," Stotts said. "Joe wears it because he had a sleeve on his one knee and just wanted to have the same feel for both legs. I think it's a personal (preference). I can see why guys would want to wear them."
But that didn't stop Stotts and his assistants from having some fun at their players' expense. The Bucks coaches all showed up to one of last week's practices wearing tights of their own.
And it wasn't a pretty picture, Stotts joked.
"The good thing about tights is, it makes even 48-year-old legs look better," Stotts said. "But I would say of the five of us, I don't think any of them were anything to write home about."
Bucks players, who had just lost two close road games, took the chiding in stride.
"We were all surprised by it, and we all had fun with it," Redd said.
Said Smith: "We came from a tough road trip, and I think it's just keeping guys light around here. It was kind of funny."
Stotts and his staff aren't the only ones who think the tights look a little strange.
Fashion has been a touchy subject in the NBA this season, as commissioner David Stern's new dress code didn't sit well with some players. The tights-wearing players have critics, too.
"I don't wear pantyhose," the Rocky Mountain News quoted Camby as saying.
And during a college basketball game last week, Alabama fans taunted LSU player Glen Davis, who was wearing black tights underneath his shorts, with chants of "ballerina."
Bogut, who wore tights during practices while in college at Utah, said he doesn't like the way he looks in them either.
"Definitely not," Bogut said. "I don't like how it looks, but I don't play basketball for looks."
Redd said Smith sold the rest of the Bucks on the merits of wearing tights.
"It all originated from Joe," Redd said. "Joe was the first one to wear them and I started wearing them, then Mo started wearing them, now Toni Kukoc and now Andrew, so everybody's pretty much wearing them a little bit now."
Smith said his tights are about survival, not style.
"It's something to keep you warm," Smith said. "It keeps my knee from swelling up, keeps some tightness around it so it won't blow up on me when I'm out there. It's meant a lot to me."
So says James.
"I wore them to keep my knee warm," James said. "When I went to the bench, I didn't want it to tighten up. I didn't wear them once I didn't need to keep the knee warm before going back into the game."
It must, therefore, just be a coincidence that James kept the tights on during a recent winning streak, then ditched them after a loss.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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