Middle School Basketball Uniforms

Yesterday, with the help of my team managers, I handed out basketball uniforms to the twelve seventh-graders who have been invited to be on the team. It’s an experience similar to seeing a kid in the toy section of a store. There are a lot of comments that begin with the words, “Can I have…?”

Going back in ancient history to when I was in tenth grade, I remember getting my uniform. In terms of my physical appearance, it was like I had bypassed the line where height gets handed out. As a sophomore, I was still only about 5’2″ and had not even come close to a weight that included three numbers in it. I was one of the last boys on the JV team, closer to the water fountain than I was to the coach, and the uniform I received looked like it had been in the rummage sale “free pile”. The JV team got the old varsity jerseys, but there weren’t enough of them, so two or three of us received uniforms that were tattered, unimpressive, and with different styled letters and numbers. We were, as my parents would say, “a sight for sore eyes!”

My seventh-grade players started requesting numbers. My friend and co-coach, Ron McKinney, who has the same sarcastic humor as me, asked if anyone wanted #8? One boy raised his hand, not realizing that in basketball (excluding the NBA) legal uniform numbers never have 6, 7, 8, or 9 in them. I explained to the boy that an official reporting a foul uses his fingers to communicate the number of the player and that there are only five fingers on each of our hands.

“Coach, could I have number 11?”

“Coach, could I get 32?”

“Is there a 23?”

“Hold it! Is there anyone here whose name is Isaiah Thomas?” Clueless faces that make me realize most of them don’t even know who Isaiah Thomas is. “How about Michael Jordan? Anyone whose name is Michael Jordan? Any Magic Johnson’s here?”

Twelve faces that convey the answer no look at me.

“So, boys, the uniform you are assigned is more about the size that fits you than it is the number on the front. We have five smalls, and a bunch of mediums. If you are smaller in size you need to understand that if the number you desire is a medium-size jersey, it’s going to fit you like a chicken wearing a bearskin. Coach McKinney and I don’t want anyone running down the court and leaving their shorts behind.”

Everyone gave me looks of understanding. Better to have a uniform that fits you like a glove than a jersey number that keeps falling down to your ankles. Our first game is this coming Wednesday. We may have difficulty making a left-handed layup, but at least we’ll look good.

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