For all the things that might reasonably freak out a basketball player in what's likely to be the most important game of his life, looking up into the stands and seeing 15,000 or so people wearing identical size XXL white T-shirts wouldn't seem to rank especially high. Players, even the San Antonio Spurs who've been there before, carry with them the expectations of millions of humans, the crushing confluence of their own lifetimes' aspiration and effort in one game, and the knowledge that this game's outcome will define their season, and to a certain extent their careers. Also they're exhausted. Also whenever they make a mistake, Gregg Popovich yells at them. Given all that, how terrifying is it, really, to be surrounded by Miami Heat fans modeling the indoor-sunglasses/oversized-white-T-shirt look? And how is an arena full of Heat fans dressed like they're participating in a DJ Khaled Lookalike Contest any different than any other Miami Heat game, really?
It depends on the T-shirt in question. Here is the one that the Heat are giving to fans attending Thursday's Game 7:
"A Miami Heat Gem!" raves the Miami Herald. "A glowering version of A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders album cover, but with Juwan Howard in the Kool Moe Dee role!" raves ... well, anyway, that's what I think it looks like. The shirt is overstated, and a little presumptuous -- that is the Larry O'Brien Trophy on the lower right, not a member of the Heat's active roster -- but also nothing compared to the glowering CGI shirtlessness on display in the Heat's online roster page. But this shirt reveals multitudes upon further examination. So: let's take a closer look at this thing.
Here we see the challenges of making a T-shirt like this work. Dwyane Wade's naturally rectangular head fits perfectly into the format, but Joel Anthony -- besides looking like a headband-less LeBron James with Sonny Chiba's eyebrows -- has seen his cheekbones devoured by some dubious lighting/cropping. Whatever cropping work was done around Udonis Haslem's jawline left him with a frankly implausible chin-knob; he looks like an inverted Lego-head. Birdman, honestly, is just always going to present a pretty significant visual challenge. So consider some slack cut, there, and thanks for airbrushing his tie-dyed throat.
Again with the all-devouring glare/predatory Hanes Beefy-T fabric. Much of Jarvis Varnado's face is just missing from this picture of Jarvis Varnado's face, which is a bummer given how difficult it would be for Heat fans to recognize him even if his full face were depicted. Also notable is the squaring off of Chris Bosh's head, giving him a crisp low-top fade that would've been the envy of any member of the 1992-93 Charlotte Hornets. Perhaps most impressive is that, on a T-shirt full of people making their tuffest faces, Mike Miller's face is clearly broadcasting the message "I'm late for jury duty."
LeBron, again, holds up pretty well to the crop-job, as does Ray Allen. Mario Chalmers seems to have lost some of his right ear to THE LIGHT, but probably appreciates this, as it spares him having to listen to LeBron and Wade chastise him relentlessly for not looking intense enough. "RIO," Wade barks from the top row, "focus, and try to look meaner." Chalmers, happily, can't hear a word. Also ... actually, let's give Rashard Lewis his own paragraph.
The impulse to do something about Rashard Lewis' disconcertingly robust face merkin is reasonable enough. There are Major League relievers rocking Rick Rubin-ian bro-goatees with encrusted Arby's horsey sauce and bits of cake in them who think that Rashard Lewis' current chin-thing is excessive. They are correct in this. But of all the ways to manage it, there has to be a better way than gently rounding it off with an airbrush into a perfect semicircle.
This T-shirt is hungry, and Norris Cole's cheeks have paid the price. Juwan Howard seems angry about what's happened to his teammate's face, but James Jones -- played here by a lieutenant angrily demanding Michael Madsen's badge and gun in a Cinemax movie called either Erotic Fatality or Gun Cop -- is incensed. Whether with Madsen's loose-cannon approach to justice (to be fair: he's a good cop, but he was specifically instructed to do this one by the book) or his role in this T-shirt is tough to say. No great work of art, be it Gun Cop or this T-shirt, gives up its secrets easily.