KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the minutes after Kansas’ 91-63 victory over Texas Tech on Thursday afternoon, Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self faced a minor decision.
His team had played well, shooting a scorching 66 percent from the field. The Jayhawks had also achieved this while wearing shorts that could have been mistaken for any number of garish clothing items. Pick your pop-culture reference: 1990s Zubaz pants, maybe something from M.C. Hammer’s closet,maybe even a summer swimsuit.
“They feel like swimming trunks,” KU senior Elijah Johnson said.
This was the moment when pragmatism met superstition. Self, ever protective of his program’s tradition, had agreed to let Adidas outfit his players with these specialized camo uniforms for at least one Big 12 tournament game.
But, no, Self did not like the uniforms. Now he wondered if KU should wear them again against Iowa State today. Hey, his team had shot 66 percent.
“I don’t like them at all, but we shot good in them,” Self said.
“I’ll ask our guys what they think, but I have no idea.”
In an otherwise quiet blowout, the Jayhawks made history of another sort of Thursday. This had nothing to do with Naismith or Chamberlain, Manning or Pierce. Instead, the Jayhawks joined the annals of suspect uniforms, and there wasn’t much debating that. Uniform style, of course, is open to interpretation. But Kansas’ camo uniforms could certainly hold their own against an infamous list that includes the 1970s Houston Astros, the U.S. men’s soccer team in the 1994 World Cup and really anything from the ill-fated XFL.
Not that there wasn’t room for debate.
“A lot of people think that,” Johnson said, sticking up for the new duds. “I feel like ours actually look a little different. I don’t know if it’s our (colors), or if gray goes with red and blue better, but it doesn’t look that bad to me.”
By the end of the day, there was some question whether the jerseys were even the worst Kansas had worn this year. The Jayhawks wore all-blue road jerseys at West Virginia, inspiring similar cynicism.
And if not those, the Jayhawks once wore beak-yellow jerseys in a game at Western Carolina in 1988. Kansas struggled that day, and coach Larry Brown made sure they were buried in the Jayhawks’ equipment closet forever.
“Larry was so (ticked) at the way they played,” longtime KU broadcaster Bob Davis said, “that I don’t think (the uniforms) ever saw the light again.”