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As literally everyone now knows, the NBA playoffs are all about fashion, which is great, because everybody who blogs about basketball for a living is obviously a skilled style professional with a keen sense of couture who is definitely not wearing an 11-year-old T-shirt and mesh shorts right now/always. One player who has become a focal point for roundball runway talk is Russell Westbrook, who celebrated a fantastic performance in Game 1 of the Oklahoma City Thunder's second-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers by sporting a fishing-lure-flecked T-shirt and bright-red glasses (or, rather, frames without lenses, because he sees better without them) in the postgame press conference.
The look got laughs and, more importantly for Westbrook, national attention. He has continued to sport the frames and wear routinely outlandish shirts, prompting commentators like Jeff Van Gundy to rock the red on TV, leading to OKC coach Scott Brooks weighing in on his point guard's fashion sense and spurring a hilarious disagreement over who started this important, important trend.
Now, though, it seems the national dialogue on the glasses has reached its zenith (or nadir, depending on your vantage point). Sally Jessy Raphael, noted red-spectacled talk show host of the '80s and '90s, has been tapped for comment about the style choice of a player whose look reminded many of hers.
When reached by Sean Gregory from Time magazine's Keeping Score blog, Raphael said she did not know who Russell Westbrook was. Which is reasonable, because there are probably a lot of 77-year-old ladies (and lots of non-basketball fans in general) who do not know who Russell Westbrook is. Which, obviously, is the reason he is wearing red glasses and brightly colored shirts all the time in the first place. (But we digress.)
Anyway, even though she's not familiar with the Thunder point guard's body of work or his wardrobe, Raphael was kind enough to offer him some words to the wise: "The basketball player better be careful."
"When you become known for the cigar in your mouth, like comedians do, or glasses, or pink hair, or whatever it is, if it's an external thing, it begins to own you," Raphael says. These days, Raphael doesn't wear the red rims while doing basic errands, and she gets badgered about it. "If I go out to a mall where I live now, and anybody recognizes me, they say, 'oh, why don't you have your red glasses?" says Raphael. "Like I'm doing something illegal."
As I have said many times in my life, Sally Jessy Raphael is right on the money here. One downside to wearing something that gets the public's attention and becomes the kind of thing a boardwalk caricaturist might accentuate in a portrait of you is that, when you don't wear it, people notice. That's the downside of ... y'know ... trying to get noticed.
Raphael says she didn't put any thought into her red glasses — she claims she "bought the cheapest pair she could find in a discount store" to be able to read the teleprompter while taping her show, and "they happened to be red." That seems like it might be a fib — at the very least, she certainly kept wearing them once they became A Thing — but even if you believe it, it seems pretty clear that "happened to be" is not part of the pre- and postgame attire choices being made by basically any young NBA star these days.
Given the fact that Westbrook spends much more time on TV sans glasses and in a jersey and shorts than he does wearing them and pajama shirts, he's probably not in too much danger of being as boxed-in as Raphael claims she feels. But if Russ becomes a prisoner of the look, well, he designed the cage.
Of course, one bonus to having to wear the glasses all the time so that people aren't upset to see you without them is that it's harder for people to steal them, which, I guess, is something that people did to Sally Jessy Raphael a lot?
"People swipe them," Raphael says. "If I was at a restaurant and was wearing the darn things, and put them down and went to the ladies room, they'd be gone. And I really need glasses to see." [...]
"So you tell your basketball player, a), be careful of what he's doing, and b), be careful of thieves. This guy better watch it."
No matter what happens over the next two weeks, it's hard to envision anybody delivering a better piece of advice in the NBA Finals than, "a) be careful of what you're doing, and b) be careful of thieves." Let's all tuck that one away. Thanks, as always, Sally Jessy Raphael, for your guidance.
Hat-tip to Tony Manfred at Business Insider.