North Carolina State may be the first team to wear a jersey with an inspirational quote on the back where players' last names typically would be.
The Wolfpack will don special jerseys honoring former coach Jim Valvano next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden when they face UConn in this year's Jimmy V Classic. The red jerseys look similar to the ones N.C. State usually wears except they feature a trimmed basketball net around the shoulders and Valvano's trademark rallying cry, "Don't ever give up" on the back.
Of course, Valvano's quote is from the memorable speech he delivered at the 1993 ESPYs eight weeks before he died of cancer at age 45. Those inspirational words led to the founding of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which has awarded more than $90 million to more than 100 facilities nationwide.
Why the net around the shoulders? Well, that's also an homage to NC State's past.
N.C. State coach Everett Case popularized the tradition of teams cutting down the nets after a championship-clinching victory in 1947 when he decided to take home some souvenirs after his team's Southern Conference title win. There were no ladders readily available for the big moment at that time, so Case had his players hoist him on their shoulders as he did his trimming.
Credit NC State for coming up with an alternate jersey that honors its history in a creative way. In an era when most third jerseys are created merely to tantalize recruits or to boost merchandise sales, these are pretty awesome.
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