Skip to Content

When did Basketball Shorts get Longer?

I was a child of the 1990s and when basketball came to my attention in the late 1990s the look to copy was to get long or baggy shorts. I regularly wore shorts three times too big for me as I felt like I was imitating the NBA star’s. However, it was only in the early 1990s that long basketball shorts had become a thing. Check out the video below on players views of the 1980s basketball shorts.

When did Basketball Shorts get Longer? There are two reasons that basketball shorts are long. Firstly Michael Jordan wore extra big shorts so he could wear his UNC shorts underneath as they gave him luck. The second reason is the fab five of Michigan State.

You’re probably wondering how can six players change the whole culture of the NBA. It’s safe to say that the NBA is a counter culture in sports. Where other sports fail to be inclusive the NBA does not and it’s unlike the NBA to follow the norms. Most sportsmen want tight fitting clothes to ensure the best athletic performance. However, not in the NBA. In this article we look at Michael Jordan and the Fab Fiver introduced baggy shorts.

Why did Michael Jordan wear baggy shorts?

In 1983, Michael Jordan won the NCAA national championship with the university of North Carolina. Jordan hit the game winning shot in the last few seconds to win the title. Jordan believed his shorts in that game were lucky. Going forward Jordan wore the shorts out of superstition as he believed they were lucky. When Jordan was drafted to the NBA he realised that he would be unable to wear the current hipster basketball shorts without showing his UNC basketball shorts underneath. Therefore, Jordan asked the kit man for a larger pair of shorts which meant he could cover his UNC shorts.

Jordan was a breakout success and everything aspect of his game was wanted to be copied by the youth. Including his baggy shorts. However, although Jordan was the first to introduce longer shorts it was the fab five of Michigan state who wore baggy shorts and made them mainstream.

Why did the fab five wear baggy shorts?

At the same time as Jordan was making waves with his bigger shorts, there were five college athletes from Michigan university who making the waves in basketball. The Fab Five, as they were known, was made up of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. The Fab Five were the talk of NCAA and basketball. They wore baggy shorts and black Nike socks, with black Nike high tops, which was the complete opposite to what everyone else was wearing in basketball at that time . They made playing basketball effortlessly cool. They also made brands such as Nike effortlessly rich, just look at the revenues made below.

People copied the fab fives style so much that as a protest the fab five only wore plain blue t shirts in warm ups. This was to highlight the struggles of armature athletes who were not allowed payment or to sign contracts for apparel.

Do NBA Players still wear baggy shorts?

NBA players adopted baggy shorts through the 1990’s, with the exception of John Stockton, who kept with the tight shorts. Usually sports people wear tight fitting uniforms to ensure the best physical performance. An example of this is rugby players switching from baggy shirts to tight fitting shirts in the 1990s. Whereas the NBA players were able to achieve supreme athletic performance whilst wearing baggy shorts. Allen Iverson was a player who wore baggy shorts in particular and was also a great player in the NBA.

However, times have changed and baggy shorts are not seen as much in today’s league. Lebron James went from the baggy look to a professional look in 2015, CBS reports that:

This season he trimmed his uniform shorts by a couple inches, and had his jersey made snugger than in years past. He had expressed to those close to him he wants to leave the baggy look behind and place a renewed emphasis on professional appearance when it comes to the size of his uniform as well as his pregame and postgame attire.

CBS Sports

A professional look is adopted by all teams today to make it easier for players to reach the athletic ability that they need to hit in games. If not having baggy shorts gives a player an advantage then a player will take this advantage. Therefore, in today’s game baggy shorts have become obsolete.