Former NBA player TJ Ford explains origin of absurdly baggy shorts in viral rookie photo shoot with Bucks

The sheer volume of content I’ve consumed during the pandemic combined with my age prevents me from identifying the specific film, but there’s a movie line that I always remember when I think about fashion:

“What’s wrong with her? She dresses like it’s the 90s. It’s 2010 … she should dress like it’s the 80s.”

I’ve surely butchered the line since entering “she should dress like it’s the 80s movie line” into a search engine failed to yield the desired results, but the sentiment remains the same. Fashion is cyclical, and when a trend goes out of style it will inevitably return at some point in the future. Currently, the baggier-the-better fashion of my adolescence has been eschewed for more form-fitting attire.

Nowhere is this trend displayed more clearly than in basketball culture, where today’s tighter, shorter shorts would have gotten you laughed out of the gym just a couple of decades earlier. But looking back at the baggy shorts of the 90s and early 2000s, famously brought into style by Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard and the University of Michigan Fab 5, even I can admit that things got a little out of hand. There’s no better evidence of baggy shorts jumping the shark than the now-famous photo of former NBA player T.J. Ford during his rookie photo shoot with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The immediate thought in this day and age is that the image has been doctored to make the shorts baggier than they were. Nope. That is a real thing that happened in 2003. In a recent interview with fellow ex-NBA player James Posey on, Ford gave the origin story of his viral photo:

“You have to do the rookie-transition program. I don’t know how it was for you, Poz, but they had the gym set up at the Knicks‘ practice facility. It’s where you did all the media and you did all the stuff for the video games and that’s where they gave everybody their uniforms. So, when I got there, that’s what the Bucks had sent me. I’m like, ‘Yo… What? What you want me to do with this?’ They were like, ‘That’s all we’ve got. It’s either you wear them or you won’t get these photos.’ I’m like, ‘Shoot, I wanna have my rookie card. I ain’t gonna miss this.’ So hey, we gotta do what we gotta do!

“So, imagine the jersey. The jersey is the same length as the shorts! I still have the jersey. I may have to do a Throwback Thursday and actually wear it because I kept the whole thing ’cause I had to. Now, the cool thing about it is, that was so long ago. That was back in 2003. Every year, when these new guys come into the league, that picture keeps resurfacing and all these kids see it for the first time. Now, when I’m in the gym somewhere, Poz, that’s my little thing where everybody’s seen it. That’s what they want to show me! It’s cool, I enjoy it. I guess it’s something in history, so I’ll take it.”

Ford told the same story on Twitter in 2018, saying that he “has to get mad at the Milwaukee Bucks” for giving him a uniform more tailored for a 7-foot center than a 6-foot point guard.

So there you have it. Ford wasn’t making a fashion statement — he was being a team player and trying not to come off as high maintenance before he played a single NBA game. It will be interesting to see which of today’s players we’re laughing at in 20 years for the thigh-high snugness of their shorts.

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