Evolution of Ball

Andy Bergmann

Featured on Flowing Data and NPR.

Evolution of Ball

Every time a classic highlight flashes on the screen, we’re hit with a strong dose of nostalgia, followed by a healthy aftertaste of humor. The game was less aggressive, the video definition was low, and the shorts were tight. Really tight.

I started digging through scores of vintage images, looking at patterns of on-court apparel over the last several decades in hopes to map them out in a simple graphic. Some clear trends began to appear almost immediately.

The most obvious of which is the progressive attempt to cover up more and more skin. Those form-fitting speedo-esque shorts of the 60’s have morphed into something more akin to Italian capris. Inseam length seems to have maxed out around the All-Star game of 2006, but has since climbed back up above the knee.

The arm-length “shooter sleeves” that Lebron, Carmelo and Pierce sport on a regular basis are one of the most interesting of recent accoutrements. These covers can directly be traced back to former 76ers point guard Allen Iverson, who by legend wore one to conceal a controversial tattoo, but in actuality had bursitis in his right elbow. Somehow the sleeves caught on and are now believed to improve your shot. I guess I should get one.

Today’s norm will most certainly be tomorrow’s chuckle. When shorts drag on the ground like wedding gowns in 2030, I’m sure we’ll all look back at the hysterically classic replays of Dwyane Wade exposing his calves in the finals.

Added: I have screenprints available of this graphic printed on 12″x18″ archival 80lb stock. Let me know if you’re interested. Thanks!