Basketball jerseys make the man

Mark Twain once said “ clothes make the man.”

(“ Naked people have little or no influence on society,” he continued.)

Easy for him to say. He wore the same seersucker suit and Mississippi string tie every day of his life.

I would agree with that on a certain level, putting my own special slant on it. Can a basketball jersey be considered clothes?

I query because I happen to have quite a collection of sports t-shirts, jerseys and caps, both of the professional and college brand.

I call them a collection, the ex-cheerleader I live with calls them something else which cannot be printed in a family newspaper.

It always amazes me the reaction I get when I am wearing any one of two dozen jerseys which possess the logo of a range of teams from all over the United States.

Wearing my Austin Carr/ Cleveland Cavalier throwback jersey in a mall bookstore once, just a glance brought the guy behind the counter to tears.

He was from Cleveland, he thought I was too. As he approached me for what seemed like a possible hug, I explained that I bought the jersey in a thrift store, but I did know who Austin Carr was.

Disappointed, he stopped in his tracks and sulked back behind the counter.

I will be attending my 39th consecutive state basketball tournament next weekend and as would be expected, basketball jerseys are in fashion.

This is the perfect venue to sport my throw back jerseys and the most popular one by far, is my Wes Unseld/Baltimore Bullet jersey.

When I wear it, all these old guys—which strangely are the same age as me—flock to me as if I were Gandhi.

(A short hoop history lesson: Wes Unseld was an undersized 6-foot-7 center in the 60s who led the NBA in rebounding for several years and was tough as a bar of iron.)

These old guys—most with graying hair—approach me with misty eyes, hoping to just lay hands on the holy relic.

Some have rested their hand on my shoulder, shaking their heads and saying, “They just don’t know.”

One guy made his son come over and look at the back of the jersey.

“You see that No. 41. Unseld. Remember it.”

Biting his lip, he shakes my hand an moves on.

Some reel off his career stats (“led the league in rebounding eight times”). Others give me smiles and knowing glances as I pass them in the Erwin Center corridors.

Surprisingly, the jersey that has brought the most reaction is my Louisiana-Lafayette basketball jersey.

I actually picked it up at a Walmart in Lafayette on my latest trek to Cajun country to watch an LSU football game.

I lived in Louisiana for 10 years of my youth and have a fondness for the city and the state.

Since wearing it for the past six months I have met an incredible amount of people that used to live in the city.

Just last weekend, I met someone at an estate sale, who had lived there for 10 years.

Once while travelling to a football game near Houston, I stopped off at the world’s largest Walmart in Montgomery and had three people accost me.

One guy was walking out as I was walking in with his young daughter, as he began pointing at me and shouting.

“You see, I told you that’s where I went to school.”

Seconds later, the greeter smiles widely at me.

“I lived in Lafayette for 35 years. My wife is from there.”

Once inside and shopping, a guy comes running down the aisle, screaming at the top of his lungs, “Homeboy, that’s my hometown, born and raised!”

Everybody’s hometown it seems.

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2012-03-01 digital edition

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