The long history of NBA accessories added a new, unexpected chapter this week in the Mile High City.
Kareem Abdul-Jabar had his stretchy goggles, Bill Laimbeer his clear plastic mask, and Dennis Rodman his endless array of hair colors (among other things).
Now we can toss Nuggets center Nikola Jokic’s red headband into the Association’s annals.
Or maybe we just toss it aside? The Grading the Week staff isn’t sure what to do with it quite yet.
Nikola Jokic’s headband — B+
If we were to construct a list of NBA superstars least likely to randomly accessorize, the Joker would almost certainly be near the top. This is a man, after all, whose signature style point up until this past week was his unabashed affinity for compression pants (aka tights).
Yet there we were on Thursday night, watching the soon-to-be two-time MVP lumber up and down the Ball Arena court against the Memphis Grizzlies sporting a garishly red headband that perfectly matched his tights.
The Grading the Week staff couldn’t help but giggle, if only because the adornment so obviously went against Jokic’s greater sartorial instincts.
For as much as Jokic’s game might contain notes of artistry and flare, there’s no questioning that at his essence, his spirit is rooted in utility.
The no-look passes that dot Nuggets highlight reels on a nightly basis? Acts of subterfuge meant to confuse. The spinning post moves, behind-the-back dribbles and subtle feints? All methodical movements designed to inch closer to the hoop.
Even the Sombor Shuffle fade-away — at first glance, an overt act of basketball nonchalance — has more to do with the shot’s unblockable nature than any sort of showmanship.
Thus, if you’re going to ask Jokic to do something like, say, throw on a headband in the middle of a must-win game, it better have a legitimate purpose. Thanks to an unlikely turn of events, that happened to be case after Jokic suffered a gash across his right temple early in the game.
Much like former Suns great Steve Nash once wore a ridiculously large band-aid across the bridge of his nose during a playoff game — a memory Nuggets coach Michael Malone referenced postgame — Jokic covered his wound with a comically loud red headband during a playoff-clinching victory.
That he could barely wait to take it off after establishing himself as the first player in NBA history to notch 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season tells us everything we need to know about Jokic’s regard for the garnishment.
Among the list of most surprising accessories in NBA history, the Grading the Week staff would rank the headband somewhere between LeBron James’ black facemask and Paul Pierce’s “accidental” wheelchair.
It came out of nowhere — and maybe that’s where it should stay.
Tiger’s return — A+
Under normal circumstances, Tiger Woods making the Masters cut would barely qualify as noteworthy. But for the 46-year-old to do so a little more than 500 days after his last tournament, and 14 months since a horrific car crash nearly cost him his right leg, is a minor miracle.
We call it “minor” only because it’s Tiger. With him, the miraculous is to be expected.