Chris Douglas-Roberts Brings Short Shorts Back to the NBA. But Why'd They Go Away?

Could short shorts make a comeback in the NBA? STACK surveys the history.

Fashion counts in the NBA. That's why we end up with guys wearing lensless glasses and whatever this thing is that Russell Westbrook once sported. But one player, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, favors a classic look that was once standard but is now often ridiculed. Douglas-Roberts is bringing back short shorts.

To Douglas-Roberts, it's all about freedom. "They want me to check the best guy, and you have to have the stamina, you have to be able to move," he told the Los Angeles Times"I'm not saying you can't move with bigger shorts, but I feel more comfortable in these."

Douglas-Roberts has a point. Consider the physics involved. Short shorts restrict you less and allow you to move more freely than longer, baggier varieties. That's why runners wear themAnd it's not like these superb athletes should be embarrassed about their legs. 

So why the mass exodus from short shorts to long ones? The history is more interesting than you might think.

Before 1989, every NBA player wore short shortsThat's just how things were. Then Michael Jordan came along. 

Throughout his career at the University of North Carolina, Jordan wore the typical tiny shorts everyone else wore. When he joined the Chicago Bulls, Jordan wanted a way to remember his time at UNC. So he decided to wear his old UNC shorts underneath his Bulls shorts. 

The problem was that the Bulls shorts weren't expansive enough to fit his UNC shorts underneath. So before the 1989 season, Jordan told his team about his desire for a bigger pair of shorts, and the Bulls got it done. Jordan also liked the extra length of the shorts, because he could tug on the ends when in a rest position.

"It's just something that seemed more natural, more comfortable to me," His Airness told regarding the longer shorts.

Around the same time, the University of Illinois "Flyin' Illini" basketball team began wearing longer shorts. (You can see them on display here.) But longer shorts became a national phenomenon in 1991, thanks to the University of Michigan's "Fab Five." While Jordan and the Flyin' Illini were sporting shorts a few inches longer than traditional short shorts, the Fab Five wore shorts so long and baggy, they hung past the players' knees.

The Fab Five's style, which also included black shoes and black socks, became iconic and wildly popular. Also around this time, Jordan starred in several commercials wearing his longer shorts, helping to feed the baggy shorts frenzy. By 1993, nearly everyone's shorts were covering their quads.

Shorts kept getting bigger. By the early 2000s, players like Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady were getting fined for wearing shorts that were too big.

There were holdouts, of course. John Stockton famously kept wearing short shorts into the new millennium. But Stockton retired in 2003 and took his daisy dukes with him, leaving the NBA devoid of short shorts.

Since then, the Los Angeles Lakers donned the classic shorts for a throwback night in 2007, but other than that, it's been more than two decades since short shorts had a chance to shine. Until now. Thanks to one brave man.

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