Top Ten Athlete Accessories

by Paul Knepper

At the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on August 6th, inductee Deion Sanders concluded his speech by placing his signature bandana on his Hall of Fame bust. Throughout Prime Time’s career the all pro defensive back wore a bandana under his helmet during games and often kept it on for the post-game interviews.

Over the years, many other athletes have been known for their use of a specific accessory, something above and beyond the normal uniform, which they regularly wore either during competition or on the sidelines.

These are the top ten trademark accessories in sports.

10) Patrick Ewing’s wrist bands

Ewing took the phrase “breaking a sweat” to a whole new level. Minutes after tipoff, the Knicks center would be as drenched as Ted Striker trying to touch down on the runway in the movie Airplane! Some players use a headband to stem the flow of sweat, but Patrick opted for enormous wrist bands. One of the most enduring images of Ewing’s career is him standing on the foul line, dabbing his forehead with those gigantic bands, while the sweat continued to drip from his chin.

9) Pete Maravich’s socks

The Pistol was known for his flashy passing, infinite shooting range and dazzling ball-handling, though no description of the basketball prodigy would be complete without a reference to his floppy hair and scraggly socks. For a period during his time with the Utah Jazz  Maravich wore high socks with green, yellow and purple bands, though for most of his career he weaved his magic in raggedy loose socks that looked like they came off the feet of Woody Harrelson’s character Billy Hoyle in White Men Can’t Jump.

8)  Deion Sanders’ bandana

It wasn’t clear if Prime Time’s bandana served a purpose during the game, such as keeping the sweat out of his eyes, or was merely a fashion statement. Occasionally, Deion would change it up and arrive for an interview with a do-rag on or go Tupac style, with the backwards bandana, but he always returned to his signature look. The Hall of Fame should have left the bandana on Deion’s bust, which looks nothing like him and instead bears a strange resemblance to a mix between Vince Lombardi and Troy Aikman.

7) Jim McMahon’s shades

The colorful quarterback of the ’85 Bears developed an extreme sensitivity to light in his right eye after damaging his retina in a childhood accident. He became one of the first football players to wear a tinted visor on his face mask and often wore sunglasses on the sideline, which developed into a signature look for the rebellious signal caller. McMahon even sported his famous shades in the Bears epic Super Bowl Shuffle video (link below).

6) Bjorn Borg’s headband

Borg is probably one of the five greatest tennis players of all-time, though his personality on the court was as bland as rice cakes, especially when compared to his rambunctious rivals John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. What sports fans remember most about the talented Swede is the striped headband he wore just above his eyes to keep his long blond hair in place. The image has been imitated by everyone from Luke Wilson’s character in The Royal Tannenbaums to my lovely goddaughter Janie Paisner.

5) John Olerud’s helmet

Olerud suffered a brain hemorrhage and aneurism in 1989 while a student at Washington State University. Doctors advised the first baseman to wear a helmet in the field for protective purposes and he continued to do so for superstitious reasons long after he needed to. Over his 17 seasons in the Major Leagues, he was the only non-catcher to wear a helmet in the field.

That brings me to the funny story about Olerud and the notoriously absented-minded Rickey Henderson. Supposedly, when Henderson and Olerud were teammates with the Mariners, Rickey asked Olerud why he wore a helmet, then told him that he had a teammate the season before who also wore a helmet in the field. Olerud responded, “That was me.” Sadly, sources have confirmed that the exchange never happened, but it’s still a great story.

4) Richard “Rip” Hamilton’s mask

Hamilton broke his nose in 2002, then twice more during the 2003-2004 season, so a doctor recommended that he wear a customized plastic mask over his face to prevent it from happening again. The mask was certainly good luck, as Rip led the Pistons in scoring during the playoffs that season on their way to an NBA title. He’s worn it ever since. I always thought Jason’s mask from Friday the 13th would have been a lot more intimidating.

3) Andre Agassi’s hair piece

What makes this accessory so remarkable is that we had no idea it was an accessory at the time. Agassi’s long blond hair and his colorful clothes were the centerpieces of his rebel persona and “Image is everything” Cannon campaign. It wasn’t until the former tennis star’s autobiography Open was published in 2009 that we learned he was wearing a hair piece all along. We were duped!

2) Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ black gloves

Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals respectively in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, though it was their courageous black power salute on the medal stand which lives on in the American consciousness. The black glove on their hands remains one of the enduring symbols of the African-American civil rights movement and their defiant salute was recently immortalized in the form of a statue on San Jose State’s campus.

1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s goggles

Plenty of basketball players have competed in sports goggles, though none embraced the look or became identified with them quite like Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He began wearing his specs while attending UCLA – when he was still known as Lew Alcindor – after scratching his cornea in a game against the University of Houston.

Abdul-Jabbar and his goggles reached a wider audience through his classic role as co-pilot Roger Murdock in Airplane! (Yes, that’s two Airplane! references in one article. I don’t care if I’m dating myself, it’s arguably the funniest movie ever made.)

Ten Greatest NBA Duos

by Paul Knepper

Basketball is a team game, though often performed at the highest level when two players work in concert. The pick-and-roll remains the most productive offensive set and no play is more enthralling than an alley-oop. Rarely has a lone superstar carried a team on his back to an NBA championship. Shaq needed Kobe, Jordan needed Pippen and Isiah needed Dumars.

During past this season LeBron James and Dwyane Wade distinguished themselves as the most dynamic duo in the league, even though they fell just short of a championship. Before they can be considered among the elite duos to ever player the game they have to do it for more than one season.

These are the ten greatest NBA duos ever.

10) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson (Milwaukee Bucks)

“The Big O” and Lew Alcindor teamed up for the 70-71 season and led the Bucks to a league best 66 wins. They rolled to the NBA Finals, where they defeated a Baltimore Bullets team led by Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld 4-0. The next day Alcindor announced that he’d changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The two hall of famers played just three more seasons together and never returned to the finals, as Robertson’s skills declined in his mid-30’s.

9) Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons)

Isiah and Dumars teamed up four nine seasons as the starting bakcourt for the Detroit Pistons. Isiah handled the ball and Dumars knocked down jumpers, while locking down the best shooting guards in the league. The “Bad Boys” won back-to-back championships together in 1989 and 1990. Dumars won the 1989 Finals MVP and Isiah took the award in 1990.

8)  John Stockton and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)

Stockton and Malone mastered the pick-and-roll over their 18 seasons together and went to the playoffs in every one of them. The NBA’s all-time assist leader and second all-time leading scorer led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals five times in seven years, including back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, but weren’t able to get past Jordan and the Bulls.

7) Tim Duncan and David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs)

Robinson’s injury during the ’96-’97 season was a blessing in disguise for the Spurs. With the first pick in the ’97 draft they landed Tim Duncan, creating the twin towers that would lead the Spurs to the promised land. San Antonio defeated the Knicks in five games in the ’99 Finals and after a three-peat by the Lakers, Duncan and company delivered Robinson a second ring as a retirement gift in 2003. Duncan was named the MVP of both finals.

6) Wilt Chamberlain & Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers)

West and the Wilt played together in L.A. for just five seasons, though they advanced to the NBA Finals in four of them and defeated the Knicks to get “the logo” his first ring in 1972. That season West and “The Big Dipper” led the Lakers to 69 wins, including 33 consecutive wins, a record which still stands today.

5) Larry Bird & Kevin McHale (Boston Celtics)

Bird and McHale made five trips to the NBA Finals during their 12 seasons together in Boston, winning championships in ’81, ’84 and ’86. Larry Legend ripped teams hearts out with his long range shooting, while McHale dominated inside with a vast array of post moves. Were their careers not derailed by injuries (McHale never fully recovered from playing on a broken foot in the ’87 playoffs and Bird’s back gave out on him), they may have won more rings.

4) Bill Russell and Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics)

Russell and Cousy were the first dominant duo in the league, both innovators who changed the way their positions were played. They won 6 championships in the late ’50’s and early 6o’s before Cousy retired in 1963. They don’t rank higher on this list because they had so much talent around them, especially Russell. In fact, you can argue that Cousy wasn’t even Russell’s greatest wing man. Slick-shooting Sam Jones was by Russell’s side for 10 of his 11 rings and Havlicek joined him for the later years of his career.

3) Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (Los Angeles Lakers)

Shaq and a young Kobe joined forces to form an indefensible inside-outside punch which carried the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000-2002. Shaq won the Finals MVP each time. Ultimately, the only thing that stood in between this dynamic duo and several more rings was their own egos.

2) Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls)

No two players have ever controlled the perimeter on both sides of the court like MJ and Pippen. Together, they led the Bulls to 6 championships, by way of two different three-peats, ’91-’93 and ’96-’98. Had Michael not walked away from the game for nearly two seasons they likely would have won eight in a row.

1) Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers)

They’re two of the top five players to ever to play the game, the flashy point guard, with the no-look passes and the dominant big man with the unstoppable hook-shot. Magic and Kareem won five championships together and appeared in 8 NBA Finals over their ten seasons as teammates. Kareem led the way in the early years, then Magic carried the load as Kareem grew older.

Honorable Mention:

Jerry West and Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers)

Moses Malone and Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers)

Willis Reed and Walt Frazier (New York Knicks)