Attention, holiday shoppers! Especially you, stragglers and foot-draggers. Salvation has come in the form of the NBA Store's December Catalog, where you'll find your favorite team's logo slapped on everything from onesies to whiskey glasses. Of course, you could get something sensible like a pair of shorts or an NBA-branded compression sleeve, but why do that when you could throw away both money and good will on the following officially-licensed travesties?
What follows is no mere hater's guide. For each mistake-in-waiting I mock mercilessly, I'll attempt to steer you towards a more appropriate and cost-effective means of spreading holiday cheer. It's the principle of Good-to-Better applied to Christmas. It's how Pop would shop.
Ugly Sweater $64.95
My, how quickly the ugly sweater party has moved from niche to mainstream. If you're one of the unfortunate many who've had a U.S.P. forced upon you, you know the correct response is to go down to the Salvation Army and drop $6 on whatever woven atrocity most resembles the Griswold house, an aggressive strain of bacteria, or the surface of Jupiter. The solution is not to spend $65 mocking your own team with a sweater that, on balance, is barely even ugly enough to qualify as a joke. (Unless you actually get the Knicks sweater. There's no way to make that pretty.)
Instead, you should buy...
Christmas T-Shirt $21.95
Classy, and can be worn year-round, especially in more southerly climes. Also, you can get three for the price of one ugly sweater. Beautiful.
Legends Collection Socks $13.95
Sure, I get it. With your foot sweat soaked into Bill Walton's weirdly-stretched out face, you can't help but feel like part of the Legend. Or perhaps you started watching basketball during the second Jordan Epoch: Now you can simulate Dennis Rodman's infamous cameraman strike with your very own foot. Participant trophies all around!
Instead, you should buy...
Hardwood Classics t-shirt $19.95-$23.95
You can get one with a specific player number and name on the back (i.e., Gervin or Robinson) or a simple vintage screen print logo (i.e., Fiesta colors.)
Mitchell & Ness Replica Jersey $224.95-$299.59
I'll give the Philadelphia-based jersey artisans credit, since they have a huge variety of throwback jerseys. Clyde Frazier, Bernard King, even Reggie Lewis. Just know that by wearing it, you'll always give off that Allen Iverson pre-dress code vibe, and that for the price of one M&N you could buy 2 or 3 of the adidas replica jerseys one page over. I'll admit I'm not the best person to judge a fashion choice like this, since I'm one of those curmudgeons who sees age 15 as a sort of statute of limitations for casual sports jersey wear. And if you're saving it for an actual game, you have to ask yourself "Do I really want to wear a jersey that costs the same as a plasma television into a bowl filled with 20,000 beer-sloshing hooligans?"
Instead, you should buy...
Mitchell & Ness Replica Snapback Hat $29.95
Spend a tenth as much on something you'll actually wear, and look cooler doing it.
3-pack Basketball Tank Creeper Set $34.95
We started with a Knicks ugly sweater, and now come to this, a package of kid livery destined to act as artillery range to a load of half-digested creamed corn. There is no "instead", other than getting your Tiny Archibald something he might actually enjoy, something like the Coyote doll I gave my 3-year old last year. Oh, and not raising your kid a Knicks fan. Too harsh? Well, look what happens to Mr. Varejao-hair by the time we get to page 27...
Hey, I understand. Kids are treacherous little sonofaguns. It's why LeBron wore a Yankees hat to a Cleveland playoff game. We all know kids are prone to jumping on another team's bandwagon, but that doesn't mean you should give them a foothold.
Player-Autographed Shoe $399.95-$899.95
Like the Mitchell & Ness jersey, no one will be impressed that you bought this, but even more people will laugh at you for how much you spent on it.
Luckily, PtR is here to help, not to judge. I'm sure your heart or the heart of your loved one is in the right place. You want to prove you're a serious basketball aficionado? Want a subtle but effective means of displaying your team loyalty to strangers and acquaintances alike? Do you work in a building with controlled access? I have some good news! You can save $400 and buy this instead...
Premium Badge Holder $8.95
I have some bad news. There is no Spurs badge holder. That's right, THERE IS NO SPURS BADGE HOLDER. Come on, NBA! This is the one thing in the catalog that I was actually going to buy! Does the NFL Store have a badge holder featuring the logo of its current defending champions? Of course it does! Attention, Adam Silver: this is why the NFL is more popular than the NBA. Get with the program! Gratuitously leaving the Spurs off of merch is such a David Stern circa-2005 move.
We need to move on. Let's check out the ladies' section.
College Concepts Ladies Sublime Burnout V-Neck Long Sleeve Top $34.95
Most of these product names are too cumbersome for your average college-ruled letter to Santa, but gosh, this one really sucks the wind right out of you, doesn't it?
touch by Alyssa Milano Audrey V-Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt $39.95
Wait, this is worse! And more expensive. And, let's face it, your lady probably hates Alyssa Milano. I'm pretty sure mine does. She's never said anything, but I'm just picturing them both trying to enter/exit an elevator at the same time and it not going well. Also, she once mentioned she doesn't like those Pepperidge Farm cookies. In any case, my wife has worn the same men's cut '07 Spurs Championship t-shirt since before we got married, and it still looks great on her. Besides, 9 out of 10 guys who I surveyed in my head yesterday said they prefer their women wear team t-shirts like the team t-shirts they'd wear, not ones specially formulated to appeal to women with plunging neck lines and glitter and pink filigree. (Whether or not he wants her to look like Alyssa Milano is a different conversation.)
Yoga Bag, Mat, and Ball $34.95-$39.95
The choice of the Lakers versions for the catalog is inspired, along with the Miami Heat golf club covers. This is the opposite principle from the autographed shoe/badge holder: Fandom shouldn't be superficially displayed in public, screen printed on a $40 yoga mat; it should exist in places where only your most intimate companions are likely to witness it. Like the kitchen.
ProToast Elite Toaster $39.95
Never has "You are what you eat" been so appropriate a cliche. (Bonus points if your holiday guests or in-laws are Mavs fans who fail to notice the Spurs toast you just fed them.)
Help me! My wife/girlfriend/daughter can't get enough of ladies' pro basketball. In the past year, I've been to more Stars games than Spurs games. The only Bird we talk about is Sue. Constantly playing one-on-one with a small ball has tricked my brain into thinking I can palm! I know if don't get her something from the WNBA Store I'm gonna be in the dog house faster than you can say 'Monique Holdsclaw.' Help me out, buddy. Find me something NBA that she'll appreciate! Anything! Anything to break this curse of below-the-rim summer hoops.
Oh, you got something? Awesome! I really owe you one, bud...
High Heel Shoe Wine Bottle Holder $35.95
You know what, Santa? You're a real jerk.