Stick With the Goggles, Anthony Davis!

When photos of Anthony Davis with protective glasses first appeared on social media yesterday afternoon, it seemed like a point of no return. The glasses are not new to Davis. In high school she shook her lenses (and here’s the photographic evidence that was helpful to her!) But this was different. It was transformative. Anthony Alcindor. Anthony Jabbar-Davis. A retrofit full of feeling and stimulating.

Anthony DavisCourtesy of Los Angeles Lakers / @lakers
Anthony DavisCourtesy of Los Angeles Lakers / @lakers

Look at these pictures. The shiny afro, the diamond studded earrings and the disheveled black beard are a harmonious atmosphere by themselves, but when accented by those Oakley it turns into a symphony.

It took me a couple of minutes to unzip exactly why this seemed significant. Davis is not only more beautiful than he ever has, but the glasses give him the distinctive feature that his career has sought. Man is not boring per se, but his distinctive personality trait is his eyebrows. The glasses could provide the perfect image on the field.

They project a firm and responsible hand, sprinkled with a pinch of mystery. Davis is famous but isn’t “is this the best basketball player on the planet?” famous, which is what we could ask very well in the fall. The glasses provide an alter ego that would make it instantly recognizable to someone like my mom.

It is unclear whether Davis will attack with glasses. But they could do more than improve his image: they will also keep him safe. In the early 1990s, ophthalmologist Dr. Bruce Zagelbaum decided to investigate eye injuries in the NBA. After studying the players for a period of 17 months, he concluded that everyone should wear glasses, stating that almost all eye injuries sustained on the pitch were preventable.

If Davis chooses to shake them for the rest of his career – which he should! – will enter a unique fraternity, ironically occupied mainly by former Lakers such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kurt Rambis and James Worthy. Yesterday I called another member, former Utah Utah striker Thurl Bailey, who decided to wear glasses after Worthy’s nail scratched her cornea during a game in the mid-1980s.

Bailey remembers pain and blood. But he also remembers what happened when he left the locker room and passed the Lakers’ bench. “Kareem looks at me,” said Bailey. “He holds his protective glasses and says ‘Young man, you have to get some’.”

So did Bailey. And apart from the occasional fog, he had no problem wearing glasses until his career brought him to Europe, where the cigarette smoke of fans, coaches and teammates who lit up in the locker room during the interval was too much. But by then his reputation was already cemented. Even today, when Bailey introduces himself to people, they say, “Oh, you were the one who wore glasses, right?”

Glasses have evolved since then. They are less invasive and designed not to fog up. The elegant blades Davis wore appeared noticeably cooler than Abdul-Jabbar’s clunky shields. There are limits, however, to how colorful their goals can be – as Dwyane Wade discovered in 2011 when the NBA did not allow him to wear a particular tint because it prevented defenders from seeing his eyes.

When I asked Bailey if he had ever worn glasses off the pitch, he started laughing. “Please. Please. Look at what Kareem wore and tell me it’s something you would wear as a fashion statement.”

But Davis is probably best known in terms of style for the deaf “That’s All Folks” shirt he wore in his latest game of pelicans, and the subsequent claim that a stylist chose him. Glasses could change all of this. “Think about it. You can be calm with glasses,” Worthy – a graceful eyewear practitioner of all time – said recently. Lakers coach Frank Vogel went one step further: “It looked better than anyone else has ever worn them.”




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