When I was seven years old I played in a YMCA basketball league with some of my friends. I don't remember much about the games, but I do remember thinking how awesome my jersey was at the time. "NICK" was screen printed on the back in big bold letters. My buddies had names on their jerseys as well: "BO," "ANDREW," "BANKS" and "RICKY" ... I think we won two games that year, but the jersey was all that mattered.
I thought first names on the backs of jerseys ended after you hit age ten at the Y leagues. That's when you made the jump to start wearing your last name on the back of your jersey. It was a big step in the growing up process. Obviously for some members of the Spanish basketball team, things are a little different.
If you're like me, you've noticed that some of the Spanish players have their first names emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys. I couldn't figure out why this was the case. Was this a trend that most Spanish players followed? Then I read an interesting article from Pete Thamel about Spanish guard Ricky Rubio and I understood a little bit better.
He is brash enough to wear a game jersey that is simply labeled “Ricky” on the back and flashy enough to be a YouTube sensation. At least six of the nearly 500 Rubio clips that come up on the site have been hit on more than 100,000 times, and comparisons to Pete Maravich have arisen because of his looks and ability.
Ok, so Rubio thinks he's the next "Pistol" Pete, but what about some of the other players? Why does Marc Gasol have "MARC" on his back while bigger star, and brother, Pau opts for "GASOL"? Is it a personal preference, superstition? I still don't know the real answer.
All of this got me thinking whether or not the NBA should give players the choice to put their first name on the backs of their jerseys. I actually think it would be a good marketing tool for the league to break the first name jerseys out a few times a year, but I think it would get old fast during the course of a season. If the NBA decided to go the "RICKY route" I think they should award first name status to only three players: Shaq, Kobe and LeBron, the biggest stars in the league. Having your first name on your jersey would become the ultimate staus symbol, in a league that is full of them.
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