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NBA Cracks Down on Baggy Shorts

November 18, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NBA fashion police were on patrol again Monday, trying to make sure shorts are short enough and knees are naked.

The latest to cross the fabric line were rookie center Kelvin Cato and forward Rasheed Wallace of the Portland Trail Blazers. They were fined $2,500 apiece by the league and the team was fined $25,000 because the players wore uniform shorts that hung below their knees.

It was the second such penalty in a week from the conservatively dressed folks at the league’s Fifth Avenue office.

``It has gotten out of control,″ said Rod Thorn, NBA vice president of operations. ``This is a professional league and you should wear your uniform in a professional manner.″

The length-of-shorts rule, which is new this season, states that shorts must be at least 1 inch above the top of the knee. Thorn acknowledged some flexibility in the rule, but anything below the midpoint of the kneecap is out of bounds.

``If you look at other leagues, they all have rules and regulations about how you have to wear your uniforms. We can’t have players wearing shorts that hang down to the middle of their calf,″ Thorn said.

Wallace accused the league of aiming their rule at young players.

``I know they targeted a whole lot of young guys, so you know it’s discrimination right there,″ he said after the Blazers beat Dallas 120-75 Monday night.

Although his shorts looked a little shorter than usual, Wallace said they were the same ones he always wears. He said he likes to wear baggy clothes on and off the court, and it’s because of comfort, not style. He also said he sees no negative image that the baggy clothes portray to youngsters.

``What is there negative to say?″ he said. ``It’s just you’ve got some big shorts on _ whoop-dee-doo.″

More than 30 players have been warned to shorten their shorts, and the fashion police are watching.

Last Saturday night, a representative from the athletic apparel company Starter, which makes the Sacramento Kings’ uniforms, and league official Christopher Arena were in the visiting locker room in New York, their eyes cast downward at knees.

The players union said a grievance would be filed over the fines to Cato and Wallace, just as one was filed last Friday when the league fined Chris Carr, Stephon Marbury, Kevin Garnett, Clifford Rozier and Doug West of Minnesota $2,500 apiece and the Timberwolves $25,000.

``It seems like a waste of time,″ union director Billy Hunter said. ``They should be more concerned with on-court conduct, trying to enhance the game so there are more points scored and seeing that the quality of the game is kept at a sufficient level.″

At least two members of the Timberwolves, Stanley Roberts and Sam Mitchell, were among those who were warned and subsequently hiked their shorts high enough, Thorn said.

``I’ve moved mine up a little,″ said Kenny Anderson of the Trail Blazers.

Unlike the Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale, who ridiculed the fine last week, Blazers’ president Bob Whitsitt was careful in his reaction, at least publicly.

``I think there are a lot of other issues to worry about,″ Whitsitt said, ``but we’ll do our best to comply.″

Cato, although obviously upset, declined to comment.

The trend toward longer shorts is widely acknowledged to have begun with Michael Jordan, who wore his baggier than usual with the Bulls because he had a pair of University of North Carolina trunks underneath.

When the Fab Five freshmen _ Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King _ entered Michigan in 1991 they took it to a whole new level, wearing shorts so long they covered the entire knee and then some.

Young people have been wearing them longer ever since. And in the minds of some of the NBA’s 18- to 23-year-old newcomers, asking them to shorten their shorts is tantamount to telling them to dress goofy.

``He (Thorn) has to understand that I’m a big guy, and for me to wear short shorts just isn’t right,″ said 7-foot-4 Denver center Priest Lauderdale. ``You know, feel better, play better _ that’s a fact. It’s a different era and basketball has to grow in a different way.″

Added Nuggets rookie Bobby Jackson: ``It’s not the ’60s anymore. I don’t want to be out there with my whole (thighs) showing.″

Other players warned: several members of the Washington Wizards, including former trendsetters Webber and Howard; four members of the Los Angeles Clippers; Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby and John Wallace of Toronto; Jackson, Lauderdale and Danny Fortson of the Nuggets; and Allen Iverson, Derrick Coleman and Rex Walters of Philadelphia, among others.

``Many of them were youngish, some were oldish,″ Thorn said, dismissing any suggestion of an age bias and insisting it’s not a question of fashion, it’s about following the rules.

``It doesn’t matter what I think or what they think. It’s a uniform and everyone was told of the rule.″

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