Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
2/27/2007 12:16:00 PM
Hoops' Fashion Dynasty
Undrcrwn brought Larry Johnson's Rebels into the 21st-century fashion scene.
Ken Levine/Getty Images
For the unhealthy amount of time I devote to watching, writing and obsessing over basketball, the game is underrepresented in my T-shirt collection. Two tees, out of maybe 100, are hoops-themed. The first is a blue Nike classic with "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" in Western font on the front, and black-and-white images of the Golden State Warriors' Chris Mullin (the archetype for my lefty jump shot), Billy Owens and Tim Hardaway on the back, with the line, "Who are you calling ugly?" That one was introduced into my J.F. Luther Middle School wardrobe in 1992 and made weekend cameos until earlier this month -- when Hardaway's verbal ugliness made it socially stigmatic. Why, oh why, Timmy, did you poke your head out from oblivion and ruin my retro gear?
The second shirt, which I bought in December, ending a 14-year hoops-apparel drought, is the reason for this post. Near the end of a failed sneaker hunt in lower Manhattan, I spotted a tee with no logos or frills -- just six words in silver ink:
Larry& Stacey& Anderson& Greg& The Shark
That was my introduction to the Dynasty Tees, which were the handiwork of the small street-wear outfit Undrcrwn in 2006. The inaugural line included four NBA models and two from the college ranks: 1990 UNLV (sans George Ackles) and 1994 Michigan's Fab Five (Jalen&Chris&Juwan&Jimmy&Ray, sans Ed Martin), an appropriate choice since the inspiration for the shirts was a Danish company's textile tribute to the Fab Four. "John&Paul&Ringo&George" was remixed for the hardcourt, and the resulting products -- which have sold out online -- were an underground sensation among sneakerheads, basketball geeks and even pro athletes. New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush appeared in an AP photo in December wearing the "Sin City" model while signing autographs.
In the interest of taking this blog beyond the standard material -- Florida-LSU and Wisconsin-Ohio State were covered this weekend, if you're wanting in that department -- I put in a call to Undrcrwn's lead designer, Dustin Canalin, who works out of a studio (that also doubles as his apartment) in Tribeca. Undrcrwn's Dynasties as well as its riffs on old Salem caricature tees from the '80s and '90s, resonate in part because, as Canalin said, "When's the last time you've seen a really fun basketball shirt?" And perhaps more because they've taken late-20s and early-30s hoopheads back to an era when Spike Lee played Mars Blackmon, Charles Barkley was not a role model, and the indelible image of the NCAA tournament was Tark dining on his towel. Never mind that UNLV and Michigan weren't actual dynasties; culturally, they had more impact on the street than the Duke team that did win back-to-back titles.
I met up with Canalin, an Alameda, Calif.-born 29-year-old who was formerly a design director at And1 and Ecko Unlimited, earlier this month and talked about Undrcrwn over a few beers in the West Village. The natural reaction to the Dynasty line, he said, was a deluge of suggestions for what should come next. "We get e-mails every day, and the majority of them are like, 'Do my team -- the '76 Knicks!' Or, 'Do the old Milwaukee Bucks!' Or, 'I love Chuck Person -- How can we get the Rifleman on a T-shirt?'" said Canalin. "Those shirts are how we launched ourselves at the basketball consumer."
My reaction was identical to everyone else's. I brought along the NCAA's Final Four Records Book to show him the pimped-out photo of 1977 Marquette (every champion in the book has a standard team picture, except for the Warriors, who are wearing tuxes while posed around a white Rolls Royce) and make my pitch: Bo&Butch&Jerome&Seashells&Balloons.
The Al McGuire model is unlikely to actually happen; the genesis for most of Undrcrwn's ideas is players or teams who mattered in the lives of Canalin and fellow company founders Jeremy Castro and Pete Small. Canalin was born in Las Vegas in '77, and after moving to the Bay Area, was babysat by prep phenom J.R. Rider -- hence the affinity for the Runnin' Rebs. As a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts in the mid-'90s, Canalin estimates that, "literally, 90 percent of my projects had to do with Michael Jordan," and not surprisingly, he made a Bulls Dynasty tee. Canalin's father was such a Dr. J fan that he stipulated his eldest's son's first and middle names be Dustin and Oliver, to make the initials "DOC" -- eventually spawning an '83 Sixers tribute that comes out later this year. "Almost all the products we've done have been a regurgitation of my childhood," said Canalin. "That was pretty much the golden era for everything from hip-hop to Jordan, to sneaker culture."
While Undrcrwn's Spring '07 line is devoid of Dynasties (it's more high-fashion, including a Cosbyesque Bed-Stuy jersey that I could never pull off wearing), college hoopheads should be psyched about what's in the works for later this year: odes to Louisville's Doctors of Dunk, Houston's Phi Slama Jama and, best of all, a blend of '82 and '83 Carolina -- with the shirt done completely in argyle. "That one is hilarious," said Canalin. "This round is going to be a lot more creative than the first."
Canalin, who e-mailed me an exclusive sneak preview of the UNC tee this morning, is already forecasting another Tar Heels title in March. Such an outcome, I presume, could have an effect on the 2023 release of Joakim&Al&Humpty&Corey&Crunk Juice.
Taurean Green and the Gators were unanimously ranked No. 1 in the latest AP Poll.
As the latest in a series of Blog Q&As, I chatted with Florida point guard Taurean Green on Monday. Green, along with fellow Gators Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer, was named to the Wooden Award's midseason top 30 list. The 6-foot floor general leads top-ranked Florida in points (13.8 per game) and assists (3.8 per game) and has piloted the team on a 14-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's date with Georgia. Luke Winn: I see that Florida now sells jerseys for every member of your starting five -- something that I don't think happens at any other school. Can you rank them in order of which ones you see around town the most?
Taurean Green: No. 1 would be Jo's [Joakim Noah]. The second-most is Al Horford's jersey, and No. 3 is probably Corey [Brewer]. Then me and Lee Humphrey are in a tie for last.
LW: If you had to add one of those to your everyday wardrobe, which one would you pick?
TG: I wouldn't have any of them … but a jersey that I have wanted is an Adrian Moss throwback. [Moss was the lone senior on the 2005-06 title team.] Moss was here for like five or six years, and I'd take one of his early ones, in black.
LW: Those black jerseys aren't around anymore, are they?
TG: We were not successful in the black uniforms.
LW: Let's say you're on a fast break, four on one. Jo is on your left, Al is on your right, and Lee Humphrey is trailing for a three. What would you most like to do with the ball?
TG: I like to do it up big, so if it was really up to me, I'd pass it back to Humph for the three. But usually I go and get the easy bucket, the two, to Jo or Al for a dunk, so coach [Billy] Donovan doesn't get mad at me. If it's a four-on-one and I don't get the easy one, he will get mad. … But a three for Humph, on the break, is almost like a layup anyway.
TG: It can lead into a lot of stuff, but the most obvious thing would be coaching. When I'm done playing basketball, that's what I want to do -- coach.
LW: Whose coaching style would you like to emulate?
TG: I would mix it up. I would definitely have some of coach D's style, some of my dad's style, too. [Taurean's pops is former UNLV and NBA player and college coach Sidney Green.]. I've been around a lot of coaches and I'd take some things from all of them.
LW: Your dad, Sidney, was a 6-foot-9, 220-pound power forward, but you're only 6-0 and 177. How did that happen?
TG: I inherited all of my mom's genes. She's 5-5. I always ask her, why couldn't you be 5-8 or 5-9? I'd be a good 6-4 or 6-5 then. I probably get my energy from my mom, too, even though both my parents are calmer than me.
LW: You poked fun at your dad during last year's NCAA tournament because he was crying all the time after your wins. ["It's OK for my mom to cry," Taurean said then. "Big Sid cannot cry. A 6-10 baby."] Did you inherit that gene from him?
TG: I'm a non-crier. I remember walking up to him after that title game, and I said, "Why are you still crying?" But then I thought, he has a pretty good reason to cry. And he doesn't care if I make fun of him for it.
LW: I've heard Jo tell the story of Ndongo, a word that has become your team's rallying cry. What's your version of it?
TG: Well, we came back to Gainesville from the summer, and [Noah] was like 'Yo, I got married in Africa.' I said, 'No you didn't,' but he told me it was tradition, and that his grandfather had set it up. So I said, 'What's her name?' -- and he told me 'Ndongo.'
I just started laughing, but I did believe him for a little while. Soon I found out he was just joking around.
LW: After the Vanderbilt game, Jo called you "a little stupid dude" for getting the Gators' first technical of the season. What's your reaction to that?
TG: I was right there in front of him when he said it. He was calling me a baby for getting the T. It's fine. We joke around about it a lot.
LW: When you were growing up, which point guards did you admire the most?
TG: I watched a lot of Isiah Thomas. I just liked the way he dribbled the ball, and how he carried himself on the court. And Earl the Pearl, too -- I watched a lot of film on him, and admired his basketball IQ and just how smooth of a player he was.
LW: I heard there's a good story behind the scar you have on your face. You mind telling it?
TG: I got into a little altercation in my junior year of high school. I was at IMG Academy, playing on the post-grad team with older guys against St. Petersburg junior college. We were just playing, and a dude was hand checking me a lot. I slapped his hand off of me a few times, because the ref wasn't calling a foul. On the next possession, the guy did it again, the ref finally blew his whistle, and I gave the dude a little elbow. I turned around to give the ref the ball, and the next thing, I started turning back, and the dude hit me with a sucker punch. It turned into a full-out brawl.
LW: You've played a solid schedule already this year, with Kansas and Ohio State in the non-conference season. Which team that's not on your schedule would you most want to play?
TG: It would have to be UNC. Growing up, you watch UNC all the time, and either want the chance to play for them or play against them. And me against Tywon Lawson would be a good matchup.
LW: You're still living in that four-bedroom apartment with Brewer, Horford and Noah. Any new additions to the décor beyond Noah's African masks?
TG: We've got a lot of new posters up. A new Jimi Hendrix one. [Noah walks by, yelling something at this point.] There goes Jo. He and I went to the store and bought that one together; I don't really listen to a lot of Hendrix, but our old teammate Adrian Moss loves Jimi, so we had to get something for our walls.
LW: Al Horford told me a long while back that you were the "hyper roommate." Is that true?
TG: Yeah. Jo used to call me "Crunk Juice" because I have all the energy. [Crunk Juice is a Lil Jon concoction.] I'm usually hyped all the time.
LW: So what's the craziest thing that's happened in your apartment since winning the national title?
TG: Aww ... I don't even know. Nothing really crazy has happened. LW: And you expect me to believe that.
Ohio State's Greg Oden couldn't make a move without Al Horford or one of his Gator teammates hounding the Buckeye freshman.
Jimmy DeFilippo/US PRESSWIRE
Three things learned from watching No. 5 Florida's 86-60 rout of No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday ...
1. Al Horford delivered one of the gutsiest performances you'll see all year.
I think Billy Donovan was being honest Thursday, when he told reporters his leading scorer and rebounder, Al Horford, was a no-go for the Ohio State game with a high (left) ankle sprain. "It's just obvious right now with what he has movement-wise, he can't play," Donovan said. And this was a buzz-kill: We had worried for so long that the Buckeyes' frontcourt phenom, Greg Oden, wouldn't be available for this clash -- and now we were getting Oden, but likely having to watch him against a shell of a Florida team.
By Friday, though, we were hearing that Horford -- who had missed the Gators' previous two games -- was feeling good enough to practice. Then on game-day (once team doctors had said the injury couldn't be worsened by playing) it was announced Horford was available, although he wouldn't start. At that point, the realistic expectation was he would be able to offer a few, adrenaline-fueled stretches off the bench.
Horford went and did something else instead: He entered the game at the 17:44 mark of the first half, went on play 25 minutes and was the unquestioned star of the afternoon, delivering an 11-point, 11-rebound performance on his bum ankle. He thoroughly outplayed Oden, who had seven points and four rebounds in 28 minutes. He logged four more minutes and had four more points than healthy teammate Joakim Noah. Never mind what Donovan or the doctors said earlier in the week -- it seemed as if Horford came in believing he could still take over the game.
His biggest moments all occurred in the second half, when Florida turned a reasonably close game into a slaughter. After Oden picked up his third foul -- and went to the bench -- at the 16:47 mark, Horford threw down two dunks to extend Florida's lead to double-digits. When he grabbed his 10th rebound with just under 12 minutes left, he turned into a 6-foot-10 point guard, dribbling the ball up the floor and feeding the Gators' actual floor general, Taurean Green, for a 3. That put Florida up 15, at 60-45, and when Ohio State called a timeout, a fiery Noah came flying off the bench to greet Horford at half court, hugging him and screaming in his face in vintage Noah fashion.
"I was able to be aggressive, like I always am," Horford said. "I definitely felt more comfortable in the second half."
Minutes later, Horford bulled his way into Oden in the lane, drawing the freshman 7-footer's fourth foul. By that point, Ohio State's young star looked defeated. He was unable to make aggressive defensive moves in the paint, and was lagging far behind his teammates in running up the floor. Battling with Noah, Chris Richard, and especially the hobbled Horford had simply been too exhausting.
"It had to be hard on Greg," Donovan said. "We were throwing two and even three guys at him and he had to guard different people each time. Our guards also drove to the basket and made him leave the inside guys defensively. So we really made him work."
2. Contrary to popular belief, you can zone Ohio State.
Three days before Oden was healthy enough to make his debut, the Buckeyes established an early rep as one of the nation's most dangerous perimeter teams by hitting 13-of-26 3-pointers against North Carolina on Nov. 29. Florida bucked conventional wisdom Saturday, playing large stretches of the game in a 2-3 zone -- and OSU couldn't capitalize, especially in the first half, when they shot just 2-of-9 from long distance (the Buckeyes would finish 6-of-24).
Corey Brewer and Green extended the edges of the zone out far enough to put pressure on OSU's best shooters, and yet the strategy still allowed the Gators to contain Oden. Early in the game, while guarded by Richard and Horford, Oden was surprisingly passive about finding gaps and demanding the ball in the lane. Now, not every team is going to be able to get away with zoning Ohio State. But if you have athletes like Florida does, who can ensure the Buckeyes won't get wide-open looks from beyond the arc, throwing a zone at them isn't a death wish.
3. After struggling early on, Florida is finally playing like a title team again.
I had been harsh on the Gators, leaving them out of this week's Power Rankings -- but not because I didn't think they were capable of being one of the nation's elite teams. They had only played two games against decent opponents (Kansas and Florida State), and lost both. I was just waiting for Florida to play like ... well, Florida.
That's what finally happened Saturday, when the Gators thrashed a team that will likely finish the year in the top 10, and shot 58.6 percent from the field in the process. Horford's gritty showing helped Florida dominate OSU on the glass by a margin of 37-20, and Florida's three perimeter starters (Green, Brewer and Lee Humphrey) combined for 54 points.
"These games are a test and Ohio State was like the exam," Noah said. "For the first semester, we passed it. We get an A. We're going to do it all over again in the second semester."
What was one of the most highly anticipated games of the regular season didn't turn into a thriller, but it served a different purpose. For all of us who lauded the Gators' stars for staying in school after winning a national championship, and then recently had worried that they might not make a run at another title, those doubts were erased.