It all started with sneakers. A fantasy draft about sneakers, that is—an idea pilfered from Rotoworld writer Mike Gallagher—one that I instantly knew me and my Sports Chat* homies had to duplicate, especially during a pandemic that’s suspended professional sports and decimated social interaction, along with life, as we know it.
The premise: in standard fantasy draft format, you pick b-ball shoes instead of players—albeit without a season, playoffs or any other element of fantasy sports other than the “fantasy” or “draft” parts. Because we all love the game—but we also care deeply about the game within the game: the kicks, the trash talk, the culture, the stories, and of course, “sauce” (on- and off-court). And how else are you gonna keep yourself occupied socially isolating for months on end?
With eight “players” (four Sports Chat alumni, and a mix of other dudes I’ve either played, watched, or discussed basketball with) over 12 rounds, we ended up drafting 96 sneakers in total (Jordans took the first 6 picks in a row (I, III, IV, XI, V, XIII), with the first round ending in Foamposites and AF1s. [Round-by-round and by-team picks here, respectively, if you’re curious.]
Thus began what I now call the Pandemic Fantasy League: fantasy drafts in a time when both sports—and fantasy sports— are effectively nonexistent.
After the rousing success of the Sneaker Draft, chatter turned to the idea of a Sports Jersey Draft next. Jersey designs were already in the zeitgeist, as the Score counted down the 100 greatest jerseys of all time (all sports), and ESPN listed their Top 74 Bball Jerseys of all time. While ESPN’s was legitimately terrible and the Score’s list not quite as bad, I obviously disagreed with many a pick. The jersey draft would be the chance to set the record straight and right their many wrongs, celebrate personal favorites and shine light on unsung gems.
After some discussion among the Sports Chat members, we decided to limit the draft to ball jerseys to both narrow our options and make it more excited—and also more fraught with tension. And this way, we could table Other Sports Jerseys for a later draft.
That said, ANY basketball jersey was eligible. That meant pro, college, all-star games, fictional teams (like Teen Wolf’s jersey, or the Fresh Prince’s Bel Air Academy joints), whatever. As long as it was a basketball jersey (questionable picks would be discussed as/if they occurred).
We also said specifics matter, in both year and colorway. But once a jersey is picked, no one else can pick the other (“home” or “away”) colorway. And we expanded the number of teams to 10—including our old one-time Toronto homie and Spitgan head honcho Nick Chan—to make this a truly international affair.
While clearly Toronto-centric, the draft was fun, unpredictable and a great way to explore the unintentional history of basketball jerseys through time and space—as well as our friends’ weird-ass taste. Here’s the results. Commentary and analysis follow every round.
Rick: the author, founding Sports Chat member and unofficial PFL commissioner
Gerry: founding Sports Chat member, elated Kansas City Chiefs fan, businessman, DJ
Ray: founding Sports Chat member, DJ, bball big man
Brian: founding Sports Chat member, DJ YBB, owner of the most sports jerseys we know personally, period.
Jed: Friend of Brian’s, DJ/musician, picked multiple non-Nikes in the Sneaker Draft
Jody: Former fellow ball player, entrepreneur, dad
Steve: Friend of Brian’s, ball and jersey aficionado
Nick: Friend of ours from Van-City via Toronto; founder of Spitgan Magazine
Wadds: Member of our Fantasy Bball League, member of our Basket Bizzle What’sApp group
Russ: Fellow hooper in the Scadding Court Recreational Bball League, Nike Employee Store hook-up
* What’s a Sports Chat? A weekly video Google Hangout with a few pals and one of their dad’s—fuelled by pandemic-fuelled isolation, a subsequent lack of actual sports, and discussion around The Last Dance. And also because it’s awkward and rude to talk sports in a group chat that includes many a non-sports fan…