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Sunday, March 26, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Percy Allen

Pop the jersey like there's no tomorrow

Seattle Times NBA reporter

Brandon Roy did it after an emotional victory that sent the Washington Huskies to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, and no one accused him of being a self-promoter.

So did Tennessee's Candace Parker after she became the first woman to dunk in a NCAA game, and we all thought it was a cute gesture.

Everywhere in college basketball, the most fashionable and trendiest celebration involves a player "popping their jersey," as the kids like to say.

Forgive me, but I'm a little late to notice the latest fad. Like eight years late. That's what Sonics guard Earl Watson said, and he should know. He started this whole thing.

According to a New York Times account published last year, Watson performed one of the first documented acts of jersey popping in December 2000 when the then-UCLA star tugged at the top of his jersey in front of the student section at Pauley Pavilion in a game against North Carolina.

Watson turned sheepish when told he's the father of jersey popping. He doesn't remember it that way.

"I'm not that creative, so I won't take all the recognition for that," he said. "It first started off as pop your collar. Guys used to do it all the time in videos, in the inner city. It's like a form of showing off. It's kind of like a look-at-me type of thing. Then guys were doing it in college. Everyone did it. You dunk on somebody, you pop your collar.

"I used to do this all the time after a big game. Just to show UCLA and what it represents. It's like holding up a banner. You have so much pride and so much tradition. It's harmless. It's fun. When you're in the game, it's something to do."

But why should the kids have all the fun? You, too, can pop your jersey or whatever it is that you're wearing. Follow me. It's simple.

Take your index finger and thumb and pinch the front of your shirt, sweater or blouse. Pull slightly. Now hold it there. Wiggle it a little back and forth. Faster. A little faster. Now give it a good yank until you hear a "pop."

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There you go. You've done it. Feels good, doesn't it? Now you can hang with the cool kids like Roy, Parker and Watson.

If you finally finished your taxes, completed that spring-cleaning project or got rid of those stubborn 10 pounds that you've been trying to lose, then go ahead, pop your jersey.

"I know old-school cats have problems with some of the celebrations going on out there, and I'll admit it can get a little ridiculous," Watson said. "But this isn't all in your face. Like I said, guys have been doing it since like '98, so it's been around for years. It's just being taken to a national level with the tournament."

Some trends can be traced to their roots. Take, for instance, Michigan's famed Fab Five of the early 1990s, who are credited with ushering in the era of baggy shorts, shaved heads, black socks and black shoes, even though members of the 1989 llinois men's basketball team that advanced to the Final Four claim they were the original trendsetters.

With other fads, however, it's impossible to determine their genesis. Whoever started the high-five, the low-five, chest bumps, giving dap, fist bumps and the assortment of other congratulatory expressions will never be known.

In this case, popping jerseys has a face, although Watson said he picked it up from former Bruins teammate Ray Young, who grew up in the Bay Area and mimicked those around him.

As with many trends that are popular with the college kids, they soon matriculate into the NBA.

When Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points, along with pounding his fist on his chest and extending his index finger high in the sky, he grabbed a handful of fabric and framed it for adoring fans at Staples Center.

It's hard to know whether he was showing off the "Lakers" across his chest or the No. 8 below it. More likely the latter, but that's beside the point.

Bryant isn't alone in the jersey-popping category. Paul Pierce and Kenyon Martin have joined in, and I'm hoping others follow suit.

Now don't put me in the category of cankerous old-timers who yearn for the days when players simply ran back on defense after a blocking a shot, draining a three-pointer or stuffing a monster dunk.

I'm all for self-expression, and if I had to choose a favorite celebratory dance, I'd pick Antoine Walker's creative shoulder shimmy — even though he stole it from Mark Jackson.

But if Darius Miles bops the top of his head or Stromile Swift does whatever idiotic gesture he does one more time, I'm going to scream. This isn't "American Idol," people, and you're not Terrell Owens.

If you must showboat, then take a lesson from the college kids and keep it simple. Pinch and pull the polyester. Show it to the fans and "pop" the jersey before getting back on defense.

At least give the pretense that you're paying homage to your team. Even though we all know that's not the case.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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