Category Archives: Custom Jerseys

Spike Lee pays tribute to Kobe Bryant in custom Oscars suit

Spike Lee paid a colorful tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Oscars by arriving in a purple-and-gold Gucci suit marked with the late basketball star’s jersey number.
The legendary director had “24” embroidered on his back and across his lapel, while his custom outfit’s colors nodded to the LA Lakers, where Bryant spent his entire professional career.

Lee’s Instagram account was filled with tributes to Bryant in the days following the helicopter accident that killed the former player and eight others just over two weeks ago. Among the victims was Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The filmmaker had a longstanding association with the star, having directed “Kobe Doin’ Work,” a 2009 documentary following a whole day in his life.
Arriving Sunday night at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater, where he is set to present an award at the 92nd Academy Awards, Lee completed his look with a purple hat, glasses and a pair of Nike Kobe 9 Elite “Strategy” sneakers, one of the many designs to emerge from Bryant’s long-standing collaboration with the brand.

Asked how he was doing by Ryan Seacrest during E!’s live red carpet coverage, the director was unable to summon a response. Seemingly lost for words, he shrugged before the interview shifted focus.
The look was reminiscent of Lee’s outfit at last year’s Oscars, where he paid tribute to pop legend Prince. Then nominated for his movie “BlacKkKlansman,” the director paired a purple Ozwald Boateng suit with a necklace bearing Prince’s symbol on the red carpet.

Marshawn Lynch & Aaron Rodgers Swap Jerseys Following NFC Divisional Game

The conclusion of the NFC Divisional Round ended with a nice moment between two former college teammates, Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and Seahawks‘ running back, Marshawn Lynch. The former Cal Golden Bears swapped jerseys following Green Bay’s 28-23 victory over Seattle. Lynch and Rodgers had previously played one season together at Cal in 2004.

Following the game Lynch walked into the Packers’ locker room with his signed game jersey that he gave to Rodgers. The future hall of fame quarterback signed his own jersey and gifted it to Lynch. The two were then seen talking privately in the corner of the room, according to ESPN.

“He is one of my all-time favorite teammates, and I only had to play one year with him,” Rodgers told the media. “But he has just an incredible personality and charisma, and he’s just so fun to be around. There was, obviously, conversation years ago about picking him up in a trade that fell through that would’ve been a lot of fun to play some more years together. But I just have a ton of respect for him in his career. He’s one of those transcendent players that is so likable and so respected by so many people, and I’m just fortunate to have gotten to play with him for a year. And so we were just catching up, talking about some silly stuff that happened back in the day and seeing where he’s at. He’s a lot of fun to be around, and it’s fun to see him.”

Lynch signed with Seattle for the last game of the season following the team’s loss of three running backs due to injury including Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise. In three games Lynch finished with 12 rushes for 26 yards and four touchdowns.

Lynch was asked about his future with the team but danced around the question and said, “It’s a vulnerable time for a lot of these young dudes, you feel me? They don’t be taking care of their chicken right, you feel me? If they was me or I had the opportunity, the opportunity to let them know something, I say, ‘Take care of y’all money because that s— don’t last forever.’ Now I’ve been on the other side of retirement, and it’s good when [you] get over there and you can do what the f— you want to, so I tell y’all right now while y’all in it: Take care of y’all bread so when you’re all done, you go ahead and take care of yourself. So while y’all at it right now, take care of y’all bodies. Don’t take care of y’all chicken, don’t take care of y’all mentals, ’cause we ain’t lasting that long.

“I had a couple players that I played with that they no longer here no more, they no longer — so you feel me? Start taking care of y’all mental, y’all bodies and y’all chicken for when you’re all ready to walk away, you walk away and be able to do what you want to do, but I appreciate it. Thank you all and have a good day.”

Joe Burrow to Drew Brees: ‘I’m a Saints fan because of you’

The New Orleans Saints opened the doors at their team practice facility to the visiting LSU Tigers ahead of Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship game with the Clemson Tigers, and it allowed some big names in the football world to interact for the first time. The most notable meeting of the minds featured Saints quarterback Drew Brees shaking hands and exchanging words with his LSU counterpart Joe Burrow.

Burrow, the Heisman Trophy-winning leader of maybe the best team in school history, was a little starstruck.

“I know you hear this a lot,” Burrow told Brees, “but growing up looking up to you, you’re the reason I’m a Saints fan.”

It’s a nice sentiment to share. After LSU’s walkthrough session on Sunday, Brees and Burrow caught up with each other again — this time to swap jerseys. Brees also introduced Burrow and LSU coach Ed Orgeron to his three rowdy sons, each of them wearing Tigers jerseys of their own.

Now that’s great synergy. You can tune into the national title game on ESPN at 7 p.m. CT on Monday, Jan. 13. It’s clear that Brees and the Saints will be pulling hard for their Tigers.

NBA Properties Files Counterclaim in Custom Jersey Case

NBA Properties is countersuing a New Jersey company that sells custom sports jerseys designed to for autographs.

Hall of Fame Sports Memorabilia, incorporated in Delaware but with an office in Mullica Hill, NJ, filed a federal lawsuit in October after NBA Properties reported them to eBay for trademark violations and selling counterfeit goods. HOFSM claimed its products don’t violate league trademarks and that the NBA’s move to end its listing privileges, one that was granted by eBay, had significantly damaged its ability to make money.

“Custom sports jerseys have been part of the sports memorabilia market since long before HOFSM began selling them in 2012,” HOFSM’s lawyers claimed. “They are generally accepted and understood among consumers to be collectible items that are distinct from NBA-licensed jerseys, and there is no likelihood that consumers of collectible sports apparel will be confused or led to believe that HOFSM’s custom jerseys are made by or affiliated with the NBA.”

Last month, attorneys for NBA Properties answered that suit with a counterclaim, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition.

In a strongly worded 37-page claim, the league called HOFSM’s NBA jerseys “knock offs” that are “intentionally designed to confuse the consuming public and fans.”

“Many of the Knock-off Jerseys do more than merely incorporate the Team Color Schemes; they closely mimic the layout of the colors as they appear on official NBA team jerseys and the overall design of the official jerseys,” the NBA’s legal team wrote.

HOFSM’s suit against NBA Properties stated that its eBay listings included a lengthy disclaimer, stating that the jerseys are “autographable collectible items” rather than “affiliated with or connected to any professional sports organization.” The NBA disagreed, citing HOFSM’s use of the NBA and team names in its online listings as well as social media posts.

“HOFSM is deliberately free riding on the success of the NBA Jersey Trade Dress and trading—without a license or permission—on the substantial goodwill associated with the NBA Jersey Trade Dress,” the countersuit claims.

NBA Properties is asking the court to stop HOFSM from distributing, marketing and selling its basketball jerseys. They’re also asking for any remaining inventory to be surrendered and for damages and court costs.

Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to convene January 30 to “focus counsel’s attention on the issues actually in dispute and arrive at a schedule to manage discovery, ” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Camden, NJ on Tuesday.

UW’s Halliburton can’t help but laugh at now famous jersey typo

The misspelling across the chest of Alijah Halliburton through the 2019 football season was as shocking to him as it was to any of his University of Wyoming teammates.

More importantly: How had no one noticed?

The senior safety was named the defensive MVP of the Cowboys’ 38-17 Arizona Bowl victory over Georgia State on New Year’s Eve. Two days later, Hallibur- ton achieved internet in- famy when teammate Dontae Crow uncovered the misspelling.

Crow quote-tweeted a UW football post about the bowl win by tagging Halliburton and adding the commentary: “How (did) you manage to get the jersey with WYOMIMG…?”

Sure enough, Wyoming was spelled “Wyomimg” on Halliburton’s white jersey. And, perhaps more amazingly, it had been that way all season.

“I looked at my jersey and I was like ‘Oh my god … that’s the jersey I’ve been wearing all year,’” Halliburton said with a laugh. “I’m just astonished … how no one caught it.”

Halliburton proceeded to go through his pictures from throughout the season to make sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him. They were not. Teammates, coaches, staff and family – none of them had noticed. Halliburton is the only player on the team with the mistake, he said.

UW signed an equipment contract with Adidas before the 2018 football season. Halliburton’s Adidas jersey last season, however, did not have the typo. UW was previously a Nike school.

“The whole year? Come on now? That’s pure comedy. I don’t even know if the equipment staff noticed,” Halliburton said. “It just has to be me.”

Halliburton, who was named first team All-Mountain West after the 2019 season, his first full-season as a starter, said he had already planned on framing the jersey. After all, 66 of his team-high 130 tackles came in the team’s road white jerseys. After showing the jersey to his mother in-person, however, there might be more to the plan: she wants him to sign it before framing it, he said.

Halliburton had 11 tackles and an interception in the Arizona Bowl.

Halliburton said he plans on signing with an agent in the next few days as he prepares for what he hopes is a future in professional football. The finality of his collegiate career being over has sunken in to an extent. Halliburton started having moments of nostalgia at practice, he said. But he has accepted that his Cowboys career is over and is at peace with the how it turned out.

“It doesn’t get much better than that … I’m just happy that I had a game like that. But it does suck though. I am emotional about it,” he said. “It’s kind of sad right now, but it is time for me to move on.”

And, if nothing else, he will always have a piece of history with him in the form of a white UW jersey from his senior season. Halliburton has been a good sport about the miscue.

“I’m the only one probably in our history to have a mistyped jersey, especially the word ‘Wyoming,’” Halliburton said with a chuckle. “I don’t even think fans that have knockoffs have typos.”

Heat target Dwyane Wade jersey retirement for Feb. 22 vs. Cavaliers

The Miami Heat are targeting the Feb. 22 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena for the retirement of Dwyane Wade’s iconic No. 3 jersey, a source familiar with the planning confirmed to the Sun Sentinel.

However, unlike the Heat’s previous jersey retirements, the team is preparing for a more reserved ceremony at that game, with plans for a celebration of Wade at AmericanAirlines Arena the night before, when the Heat are idle on Feb. 21, after returning from a Feb. 20 game in Atlanta.

Wade’s No. 3 will become the fifth Heat player jersey retired, joining the No. 33 of Alonzo Mourning, No. 10 of Tim Hardaway, No. 32 of Shaquille O’Neal and No. 1 of Chris Bosh.

Wade retired at the end of the last season as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, part of all three of the team’s NBA championships, in 2006, ’12 and ’13.

Wade will become the second member of the franchise’s Big Three to have his jersey raised to the rafters, with LeBron James’ No. 6 eventually expected to be raised. Wade, James and Bosh helped lift the Heat to four consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals from 2011 to 2014.

A Feb. 22 timing of a Wade jersey ceremony would come in the middle of a set of home games for James’ Los Angeles Lakers, including an afternoon game on Feb. 23 at Staples Center.

Ticket prices already had been elevated for the Feb. 22 game, amid speculation of that being the date targeted for Wade’s moment. In the wake of the Sun Sentinel’s report, TickPick reported Friday that the get-in price for the game had increased from a minimum of $95 to $171, highest of the remaining games on the Heat’s home schedule. By midday Friday, the average ticket price for that game had reached $183.60, according to TickPick, with pricing at $1,356 for tickets directly behind the Heat bench.

The Heat’s first jersey retirement came on April 11, 2003, when the Heat retired No. 23 in honor of Michael Jordan’s contributions to the NBA, with that jersey since moved to a separate spot in the AmericanAirlines Arena rafters.

No. 33 was retired on March 30, 2009 in honor of Mourning, No. 10 on Oct. 28, 2009 in honor of Hardaway, No. 32 on Dec. 22, 2016 in honor of O’Neal and No. 1 on March 26, 2019 in honor of Bosh. The Heat have not issued James’ No. 6 since he left the team to return to the Cavaliers in 2014 free agency.

In addition to Wade, No. 3 has been worn with the Heat by Anthony Taylor, Scott Haffner, Steve Smith, Khalid Reeves, Bruce Bowen, Jamie Watson and LaPhonso Ellis.

Wade also wore No. 3 when he played in 2016-17 with the Chicago Bulls and No. 9 when he played with the Cavaliers for the first half 2017-18, before he returned to the Heat for the final 1 1/2 seasons of his career.

Wade only wore No. 3 during his dual Heat tenures, the first one running from his No. 5 selection in the 2003 NBA draft to his 2016 free-agency departure to his hometown Bulls.

Wade’s No. 3 Marquette jersey was retired by the school in 2006 and then raised to the rafters last January at the school’s new home, Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

2020 NHL Winter Classic: Schedule, jerseys, matchups and predictions

The 2020 NHL Winter Classic is being held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. This season’s matchup sees the host Dallas Stars take on the Nashville Predators in the NHL’s first event to feature two teams from the American South.

Whether you’re a die-hard follower of pucks, someone who just watches the Stanley Cup playoffs, or are brand-new to the sport, we’ve got you covered as you get ready to watch the event on New Year’s Day. Why were these teams and this venue chosen? What do the special uniforms look like? Which players are the ones to watch most closely? And who’s going to win?

Which teams are playing this year?

Kaplan: The Stars host the Predators at the iconic Cotton Bowl — it’s the first outdoor game for both franchises and the NHL’s first foray of outdoor games in the South. There have been other warm-weather contests in the past, with Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles) and Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara) both hosting Stadium Series games. There was an initial fear of rain in Dallas on New Year’s Day, but fear not: The latest forecast calls for a cloudy day with a high of 50 and low chance of precipitation. Take this with a grain of salt, though; I late-dropped my meteorology class in college.

Dallas and Nashville are the 24th and 25th teams to have played an outdoor game. Now the only teams without an appearance are the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights.
When and how do I watch?

Kaplan: The game coverage starts at 1:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC.
Why was Dallas chosen, and what kind of crowd is the NHL expecting?

Kaplan: Since these cities entered the league — the Stars relocated from Minnesota in 1993 and the Preds were founded in 1998 — the fan bases have proven they’re hungry for the spotlight. Nashville will get to host an event eventually — just imagine the optics of fans tailgating down Broadway — but for now, it’s an homage to hockey in Texas. And there is history there. Before the Stars came to town, the Dallas Black Hawks of the Central Hockey League played home games at the State Fair Coliseum from 1967 to 1982, and get ready to see plenty of nods to Dallas’ original professional hockey club. After the Black Hawks folded, the Freeze (of the CHL revival) came to town briefly before the Stars stayed for good.

The Stars’ bid for an outdoor game was boosted after they received great reviews from hosting the 2018 NHL draft. The NHL and Dallas Sports Commission have predicted that the event will bring in nearly $30 million in economic impact.

The NHL says it has already sold 84,000 tickets and is expecting a crowd of 85,000. That would be the second-largest crowd for a Winter Classic, trailing only the 105,491 that filled the Big House in Ann Arbor in 2014 to watch the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs face off (rescheduled from a year earlier, when the game was cancelled due to the lockout).

Tell me that there’s a Texas-themed musical act playing …

Wyshynski: You’re darn tootin’, there is! (Do they say that in Dallas?) Texas band Midland will perform before the teams hit the ice at the Classic, declaring that “whether we’re playing a honky-tonk or at the Cotton Bowl, just know you’re about to get 100 percent boot-stomping country music.” Please note that one of their biggest hits is a song called “Drinkin’ Problem,” which seems wholly appropriate on New Year’s Day.

Between the second and third periods, things are going to get wild. There’s going to be a tribute to the State Fair of Texas that’ll feature jugglers, rodeo clowns, a sword swallower, a fire breather, livestock and cowboys ropin’ them, all around the rink in the middle of the field. But not on the rink, as that would make it as challenging for the horses as it would make it potentially hilarious for the jugglers.

The impossibly named Jake Hoot, who coincidentally won a reality singing competition show on the very network that’s broadcasting the Winter Classic, will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Mr. Hoot is born of both worlds: a Corpus Christi, Texas, native who is currently living in Cookeville, Tennessee.

The big-name act for the show is Dan + Shay, the Grammy-winning country duo performing in the first intermission. They’re actually quite popular in 2019 by Winter Classic standards and just did a song with Justin Bieber, which at least makes them hockey-adjacent.
I heard a nasty rumor that they weren’t going to allow people to tailgate. Doesn’t that break some sort of law?

Wyshynski: Things got a little weird for the NHL when it was announced that tailgating wouldn’t be allowed at the Winter Classic. Banning tailgating for an outdoor hockey game played at a college football stadium in Texas is akin to banning prayer for tourists to the Vatican, so the NHL reversed course.

“We heard the fans, have worked with the venue & will now allow tailgating at Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium in pre-purchase parking lots only for the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” the league said in a tweet.

Tailgating is restricted to pre-purchased lots and will not be permitted during or after the Classic. But before the game? That parking lot’s going to be like a Texas-sized Arby’s: They’ll have all the meats.
What do the special Winter Classic jerseys look like?

Wyshynski: Besides giving two teams outside the Original Six (plus Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) a chance to take the Winter Classic stage, these two sweet jerseys are the best thing about the event so far.

These jerseys are the same victory green and white as the Stars’ current gear, but the front logo was inspired by the Dallas Texans, a team that played in the USHL in 1945-49. There’s a Texas patch on the shoulder, and the star in the middle of the “D” is meant to evoke the Texas state flag. The white shoulders … well, we’re not sure what inspired them, but whatever it was, we wish it hadn’t.

Overall, it’s a striking look for Dallas, as long as you can avoid reading the front of the jersey as “STDrs.”

The Predators are also paying homage to their city’s hockey heritage. These sweaters are reminiscent of those of the Dixie Flyers, an Eastern League team that played in Nashville in the 1960s. That’s the inspiration for the horizontal stripe and the script lettering.

The real winner with these jerseys is the retro version of the team’s saber-toothed tiger’s head logo on the shoulder, which should be reprinted on a series of slightly distressed T-shirts and sold to people who overpay for designer sneakers as soon as possible.
OK, so tell me about the key players from each team.

Kaplan: The Predators’ strength has long been their defense, and captain Roman Josi is leading the team in points and putting up a solid case for the first Norris Trophy nomination of his career. Ryan Ellis is also excellent, and another key blueliner to watch. The goaltending situation for Nashville has been shaky this season, with the team slowly transitioning from 37-year-old Pekka Rinne (who has manned the net for the entire decade and is just two years removed from his Vezina Trophy season) to 24-year-old Juuse Saros. Both are Finns, and good friends. They’ve been splitting starts lately, but I’d be shocked if Rinne doesn’t get the start considering all he means to the organization.

Nashville’s offense has some exciting talent, including Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, but expect to hear a lot about Matt Duchene. He was Nashville’s splashy free-agent signing this summer (for seven years, $56 million) and had long wanted to go to Nashville because he loves country music. True story.

The Stars are often identified by their two star veteran forwards: Tyler Seguin and captain Jamie Benn. Seguin leads the team in points, but the 30-year-old Benn hasn’t been as productive as usual the past two seasons (he’s on pace for only 40 points this season; two seasons ago, he finished with 79). The team has a nice mix of young and older players. Roope Hintz, a 23-year-old winger, is having a breakout season, leading the team with 13 goals, and you can never sleep on 33-year-old Alexander Radulov, especially when he’s on a hot streak (the Russian enters the game on an eight-game point streak). Longtime Sharks captain Joe Pavelski signed with Dallas this summer, and he’ll get plenty of airtime on the broadcast.

The Stars also have a deep blue line — Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and John Klingberg are all excellent — and their goaltending is solid too. Ben Bishop probably will get the start, but he has one of the best backups in the league in Anton Khudobin.

Nike selling LeBron James Ohio State ‘alumni’ jersey

As has been well documented, LeBron James didn’t attend college.

But if he did, the 4-time MVP claims he would have gone to Ohio State.

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t have gone nowhere else,” James said during an appearance on ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Columbus in 2008. “I would have been right here wearing this red and this gray, baby.”

But while James said he would have been a Buckeye and has been one of Ohio State’s most public supporters and fans, it’s again worth noting that he never actually attended the school, opting instead to jump straight to the NBA out of Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003.

Nevertheless, Nike — which has ties to both James and the Buckeyes — is now producing a replica James Ohio State basketball jersey, which is available for purchase on Fanatics.com for $119.99.

While Nike has expanded its “Alumni” football jersey collection in recent years, the James Ohio State jersey is just one of two basketball jerseys currently available for purchase in the line. The other is a Vince Carter North Carolina jersey, which serves as a nod to the 8-time All-Star’s college career in Chapel Hill.

Despite James having never actually played for Ohio State, that hasn’t stopped the Akron native from proclaiming himself a Buckeye. And it also likely won’t stop his new replica jersey from becoming a popular item in Columbus and perhaps all across the country.

While Nike has expanded its “Alumni” football jersey collection in recent years, the James Ohio State jersey is just one of two basketball jerseys currently available for purchase in the line. The other is a Vince Carter North Carolina jersey, which serves as a nod to the 8-time All-Star’s college career in Chapel Hill.

Yet despite James having never actually played for Ohio State, that hasn’t stopped the Akron native from proclaiming himself a Buckeye. And it also likely won’t stop his new replica jersey from becoming a popular item in Columbus and perhaps all across the country.

Zion Williamson Is Not Invincible and That Is Okay

For years, he wasn’t human, he was just Zion—a one-name prodigy, who possessed such a magnificent talent that no one could be blamed for re-thinking Newton’s laws of gravity.

In high school, we were mesmerized by his countless rim-shocking dunks that filled our Instagram feeds. We watched as Drake and Odell Beckham Jr. wore his Spartanburg Day jersey, and we observed how a singular talent made a small private school in South Carolina one of the hubs of the college basketball recruiting circuit.

He joined Duke, a school with a history of hosting college basketball’s most villainous figures, and made it not only must-watch, but nearly must-love. As he stat-stuffed box scores, we learned that at one time he was a “hell of a poet,” that he enjoyed studying the history of hip hop and that he undertook a semiotic analysis of Disney films. He became the third freshman to win the Naismith National Player of the Year award. Accolades, however, don’t describe the visceral excitement of watching him play.

“Zion Williamson seems like an outstanding young man as well as an outstanding basketball player,” President Obama tweeted about future No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson in February of last year.

But consider, the context of that tweet. The fact that it came on Feb. 20, 2019, the night that with America watching, Williamson blew through his left Nike shoe, spraining his right knee. “Wishing him a speedy recovery,” President Obama added in the same message.

It was on that night, that it became crystal clear that the man who might have been from Mount Zion, was more mortal than we once thought. Months later, as the calendar turns over, it’s even more apparent that behind the multiple facets of Zion Williamson the person, there are multiple facets of Zion Williamson the player. Among others, there is the high-flying, gravity-defying freak coupled with the player who is rehabbing an injury akin to any layperson—or at least normal NBA player.

At the start of NBA Summer League, the Pelicans prepared to face off against the New York Knicks. A sellout crowd entered the Thomas & Mach Center expecting to see one kind of earthquake, and ended up witnessing another. But besides the literal tectonic shift, the Pelicans also felt the slightest of waves. In the first half against the Knicks, Williamson took a knee-to-knee hit and suffered a minor knee bruise. He was shut down for the rest of the competition.

A few weeks later, the NBA announced that New Orleans would be booked for a franchise-record 30 national TV games, including on opening night and on Christmas. Excitement justifiably persisted.

When the preseason began, Williamson’s summer hiccup was overlooked almost immediately. His generational physicality was on display as his strength and explosiveness led him to perform as few rookies ever had—albeit in the preseason. But Williamson was held out of the Pelicans’ fifth exhibition game with knee soreness.

A third of the regular season has progressed and the NBA world is still waiting on an arrival years in the making.

On Dec. 18, it was reported that Williamson had returned to full weight-bearing exercises and had participated in a shootaround. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said that Williamson had made “really good progress” in his rehab process after needing a late-October meniscus surgery on his right knee. “I think we’re a little ways away yet, but today was a really big first step,” he said on Pelicans’ TV broadcast that night.

It was one small step for a man once considered not to be from mankind.

At 9-23, the Pelicans have one of the worst records in the NBA. They are again in the bottom third of league attendance. When Williamson hurt his knee at Duke, countless pundits and NBA players alike told him to end his college career months in advance. Isaiah Thomas tweeted “Zion sit you a** down lol…” Trae Young wrote “Zion Need to Chill Out the Rest of Season.”

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to feel that way again—or at least that the team ought not to rush him back—as we enter 2020. A surprising number of former top picks have missed large portions of their rookie seasons in recent years: Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Blake Griffin, to name a few. Plus, New Orleans is seemingly out of the playoff hunt, forcing the team to weigh the short-term with the long-term.

Any conversations about Williamson ending his rookie season before it even begins are likely for naught. Last year, he showed last season that he doesn’t care what the national punditry says about his status. Despite the countless calls for him to rest, he continued playing. Even after Duke lost in the NCAA Tournament, Williamson was spotted days later rocking the basketball support of a campus gym.

Plus, it’s clear from recent news he wants to play this season. ESPN’s Jorge Sedano reported Christmas night that the team is teaching Williamson how to walk and run differently, “working on the kinetic chain of his body.” He’s eager to return, Sedano and ESPN’s Andrew Lopez add, but the team needs to him to partake in a few full practices before he sees game action. He hasn’t participated in 5-on-5 drills yet, but the increasing number of video clips showing him shooting around show a debut will be coming down the line.

When he does return, whenever that day comes, he will again re-claim his one-name status and will likely continue flooding Twitter and Instagram with electrifying moments.

Williamson will soar again, but any aura of invincibility has vanished. When he does put on his No. 1 Pelicans jersey, there will be no debate, Zion Williamson is human after all.

Detroit Pistons done in by Blake Griffin’s stinker of a game vs. 76ers, 125-109

Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose were available Monday night.

The result was the same for the Detroit Pistons.

And it was a former teammate doing significant damage in the Pistons’ fifth straight loss.

Former Piston Tobias Harris scored 35 points in leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 125-109 victory at Little Caesars Arena.

After missing two straight games — he has missed 15 total — Griffin’s struggles continued this season, as he had eight points on 2-for-14 shooting.

Griffin’s frustrations grew as the game wore on.

After getting tangled with Harris — the main player in the 2018 trade that sent Griffin to the Pistons — both players were hit with technical fouls.

On the Pistons’ next possession, Griffin was fouled while driving to the basket.

Praying for the plus-one opportunity, he yelled, “Make a (expletive) shot, Blake” as the ball rolled off the rim.

The 76ers (22-10) controlled the game from the outset, fully taking control in the fourth quarter.

Furkan Korkmaz scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 17 assists.

Andre Drummond outplayed his tormentor, Joel Embiid, on the stat sheet.

Drummond, who didn’t start because he missed the morning shootaround, finished with 27 points and nine rebounds while Embiid scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

The Pistons were out-rebounded by 18 — the third straight game they have been out-rebounded by at least 15.

The Pistons’ average margin of defeat during the five-game skid is 15.2 points.

The Pistons (11-20) were missing Luke Kennard (knee) and Bruce Brown (calf).

Slow start

The 76ers are a quick-starting team so Casey mentioned the first quarter as key.

“We’ve got to be very conscious of taking care of the ball, making sure we throw it to the same-colored jerseys,” Casey said. “There’s so many fundamental issues we’re fighting through with team — who’s playing, who’s not playing, who’s in, who’s out — that we have a lot to take care of.”

The Pistons still started slowly.

They committed five turnovers, which led to seven points for the 76ers, who also shot 50% in the quarter.

But Morris and Mykhailiuk were a combined 3-for-3 from 3-point range to keep the Pistons within shouting distance.

Harris’ 10 points paced the 76ers to a 30-23 lead.