Word on the Street

John Stockton Shorts (jahn stahk’-tuhn shohrtz) noun. Refers to the leg-exposing, butt-and-junk-hugging short-shorts that were worn by NBA players from the time of George Mikan in 1946-1947 up to the early 1990s.

Usage example: Back in November of 2001, the NBA fined a scad of players – including Shaq, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Nick Van Exel, Eric Piatkowski and Dana Barros – $5,000 each for wearing their shorts too long. League rules dictate that players must wear shorts that are at least one inch above the knees. For his part, Shaq said he didn’t want to wear “John Stockton shorts” and was seriously worried about what the kiddies would think: “Would all the kids then wear John Stockton shorts? No, they wouldn’t. They would laugh at me, and I wouldn’t be their favorite player any more. I’d be the laughingstock of big men.”

Word history: Michael Jordan and later Michigan University‘s Fab Five brought baggy shorts into vogue in the NBA, and that fashion shift caused the extinction of the short-shorts. Or, I should say, the near-extinction. Because one small, hairy man continued to sport the shorties right up until the final game of his 19-year NBA career. The fact that John Stockton was the last remaining short-short enthusiast was well known – it’s even mentioned on his Wikipedia page – and became something of a running joke around the league and among its fans. For instance, after being fined for wearing his too-baggy shorts (as described above), Shaq squeezed his giant ass into a pair of Stockton-sized Jazz shorts and said: “Are these better, Stern?” No pictures of that event survived, and I thank God for that, but the point was made.

The short-short subject actually came up during Stockton’s retirement ceremony, and this is what he had to say about it:

“To be honest, for the first 15 years, I didn’t know we had a say in it. I figured shorts are shorts, I’ve never had a say in what size the shorts were since I was a little kid. I was lucky I wasn’t wearing my brother’s most of the time, it’s just what you have. It came to a surprise when people were making fun of me, ‘I can change them?’ And I didn’t want to at that point, they were comfortable. Styles are going to come and go. I think it’s easier to stay with what you’re comfortable with.”

And in case you’re wondering, wearing short-shorts for 1,504 career NBA games didn’t do any serious (as far as we know) or lasting damage to Stockton’s genitals: He and his wife have six children. For all we know, the short-shorts might have made him more potent.

Personal anecdote: I was still in high school when baggy shorts were being phased in as the standard for NBA uniforms. Well, actually, they were pretty much phased in already. However, I had a pair of Celtics practice shorts left over from the late-80s. And, of course, they were of the short-short variety. I regularly wore these shorts when I played and practiced at the small court near my house. (Which, being in Eslöv and all, was sandwiched between an elementary school and a corn field. Seriously.) To make matters worse, that also happened to be around the time when NBA players had begun wearing compression shorts under their shorts. So …I usually wore my Celtics short-shorts over a pair of bike shorts that reached almost to my knees. Yes, I know. FASHION FAIL.

Anyway, a day came along on which I was supposed to go out with this girl I’d been crushing on for years, but things were kind of up in the air. So instead of just waiting around for her to call me, I went to shoot some hoops. She called shortly after I’d left, and since this was the pre-cellular phone era, my mom had to drive out and tell me that she was waiting for me at the convention center of the local community college. There was no time to clean up or get changed, so I jumped into my moms car and hightailed it over there. Turns out, she wanted to attend a play. Being your typically clueless 16-year-old boy, I was utterly unaware that there was anything whatsoever unusual about showing up dressed in my short-short/bike short combination and a Larry Bird t-shirt (yes, I was decked out in full Celtics regalia). Her best friend and the best friend’s boyfriend were also there – the bf was wearing a sensible (but boring) khaki-and-polo ensemble – and her friend kind of laughed at me and said, “Nice shorts.” I didn’t realize until sometime later that she wasn’t being sincere.

If you listen closely, you can hear his genitals screaming.

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Labels: John Stockton / George Mikan / Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) / Kobe BryantTracy McGradyNick Van Exel / Eric Piatkowski / Dana Barros / Michael Jordan / Larry Bird / David Stern / Boston CelticsNBA / Word on the Street

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