PANDEMIC FANTASY LEAGUE: THE BASKETBALL JERSEY DRAFT ROUND 1


Photo of Kobe 'Bean' Bryant grabbing his yellow 24 Lakers jerseyHosted, written and dissected by Rick Kang @Kangski_sez.

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.

THE RULES
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.

Article continues after advert. Ball-heads involved, Round 1 results and analysis.

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THE DRAFTERS
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…

PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 First Pick : Georgetown Hoyas Home Greys 95/96PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 First Pick : Georgetown Hoyas Road Blacks 95/96
1. RICK – GEORGETOWN HOYAS HOME 95/96
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Second Pick : Miami Heat Miami Vice Road BlackPFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Second Pick : Miami Heat Miami Vice Home Teal
2. BRIAN – MIAMI VICE BLACK
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Third Pick : Chicago Bulls Road Red 96/97PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Third Pick : Chicago Bulls Road Red 96/97 B
3. GERRY – CHICAGO BULLS AWAY 96/97
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Third Pick : Chicago Bulls Road Red 83/84
4. JED – CHICAGO BULLS AWAY 83/84
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Fourth Pick : Toronto Huskies 46/47 PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Fourth Pick : Toronto Huskies 46/47 B
5. RUSS – TORONTO HUSKIES 46/47 
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Sixth Pick : All Star East '96PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Sixth Pick : All Star East '96 B
6. WADDS – ALL-STAR GAME EAST '96
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Seventh Pick : New York Knicks Road Blue 92/93PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Seventh Pick : New York Knicks Road Blue 92/93 B
7. RAY – NEW YORK KNICKS 92 AWAY
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Eighth Pick : Raptors Jersey Road Purple 95/96PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Eighth Pick : Raptors Jersey Road Purple 95/96 B
8. JODY – TORONTO RAPTORS INAUGURAL SEASON 95/96

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PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Nineth Pick : Utah Jazz Sunrise JerseysPFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Nineth Pick : Utah Jazz Sunrise Jerseys
9. STEVE –  UTAH JAZZ SUNRISE
PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Tenth Pick : Seattle Supersonics Road Green 92/93PFL: Basketball Jersey Draft. Round 1 Tenth Pick : Seattle Supersonics Road Green 92/93 B
10. NICK – SONICS AWAY 92/93


REFLECTIONS ON ROUND 1.

Biggest Reach: Georgetown Hoyas at #1. 
Maybe it was a reach—but I had to have it. In the sneaker draft I picked 4th, which turned out fine (got one of the three Jordans I absolutely needed: XIs, after IIIs and IVs went prior)—but who knew how this one would turn out? 

So when I ended up with the first overall pick (using a random sequence generator to decide draft order),  I was hella relieved—but also a little guilty. After mentioning this sorta-guilt to my wife she asked, “Was it random?” Yes, I said. “Then who cares?”—and she was right. Gerry said he’d have taken the G’town kit in the first round, but I’m not so sure...

2nd Biggest Reach: Toronto Huskies (46/47) at #5. 
I love Russ—who’s also a great hooper— but I bet he could’ve picked this bad boy up in the 10th round, easy... Still, picks like these are what make a draft so interesting in the first place, amiright!?!

Biggest Surprise: The infamous Chilli-Pepper All Star Game Jersey (1996)! 
I knew it would be a hot item—but still pleasantly surprised to see it go so early. First All-Star jersey taken, too.

THE BIG PICTURE
Just like Jordans dominated the Sneaker Draft, Mike ran this one, too. Overall, MJ-worn jerseys numbered 7 (two Chi, one Italian summer tour(!), Dream Team and three All-Star Teams)—outnumbering even the 76ers, the franchise with the most picks overall (6). Runners-up for jersey picks with 5 apiece were the Blazers… and the Jazz?!? I mean, they’re nice—but I wouldn’t have expected them to exceed the Raptors (4 picks overall) in this heavily Toronto-mans draft. 

As for Mike’s dominance? At least he had to wait until picks 3 and 4 to start his run…

Few jerseys featured non-legendary, non All-Star caliber players. The ones that did were mainly worn by players with cult-like followings, at a minimum. Mainly, but not always (looking at you, #88 Baylor Bears. And if we’re being honest, the Blue Devils at #31. But look at those shorts! Top 10, all-time—as high as 6th overall…)

For the record, I believe Brian owns almost every jersey featured in the first round (minus the Hoyas and Huskies)... While the rest of us shared pictures of our jersey picks, Brian simply went into his closet and pulled out his selection — for like, 9 straight rounds. By then he was out of jerseys (for his own selections. He still had a few other peeps’ picks...).