Basketball season is here. Kristaps Porzingis played at Madison Square Garden as a Dallas Maverick and was booed by Knicks fans. Elsewhere, a man named Robert Covington sat on the bench and ate a stroopwafel. Other tall men in various parts of the country ran down a big, shiny court, shoes squeaking, sweat flying, trying to put the ball in the hoop. Why weren’t any of these men wearing shorter shorts?
Generally, basketball shorts for professional athletes specifically follow loose fashion trends. In the 1970s, basketball shorts were short and got longer and baggier as the decades trod on. According to this helpful infographic from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the shorts were the longest somewhere in and around 2007—baggy, floppy, knee-length atrocities in wicking poly-blends that brushed the knees and are a spiritual relation to the knickers worn by historical reenactment enthusiasts. The shorts got shorter as the 2010s wore on, and now, it appears that all bets are off when it comes to short length.
Some men wear shorts that are too long for their bodies, and others have understood their superhuman, gangly proportions and have adjusted the shorts for what I assume to be maximum sports performance and also looks. However nowhere in this vast spread of short length is the short short, as seen on a variety of Knicks players in this archival photo from 1987.
These are Shorts: small, abbreviated, Daisy Duke-adjacent. Coochie cutters but for sport instead of sitting on the back of a motorcycle in the noonday sun. They are closer to tap pants in length and cut, revealing a healthy swath of thigh meat that is probably glistening a little bit with sweat—a rose touched by the kiss of morning dew. Very comfortable for the men, probably. Sweet basketball arena air, caressing their patellae. Nice to look at. Good to be free.
Unfortunately, the phrase “basketball shorts” brings to mind a garment with a stretched-out waistband and a 9-inch inseam, hastily tossed on when the delivery guy rings the doorbell or maybe, as some have posited, after sex. These basketball shorts, on the other hand, are the length that shorts ought to be: high, slim-fitting, but just baggy enough to offer the viewer the possibility that, if the player were to flop on the ground with his legs akimbo, the D would emerge from its protective underpants to say what’s up.
Many basketball men have taken it upon themselves to shorten their shorts while also compressing the bait and tackle in compression bike shorts, which are surely meant to prevent the aforementioned scenario from happening. That’s fine and good and I respect these men’s decision to keep their floppy bits out of the public eye. But why deny the public—me, specifically—the opportunity to watch basketball, marvel at the athleticism, yell when things go poorly despite not knowing why, and ogle some big-ass sport thighs? The Ancient Greeks did sport in the nude, carefully setting aside their little fig leaf dick covers and their togas to throw shotput and run laps in the Athenian sun, exposing the beauty that is a human body in peak physical condition. Athletes in 2019 probably shouldn’t do that for health reasons and also because the TV stations wouldn’t like it but the shorts? Short shorts? Tiny little shorts? Something to consider.