Banding Together

Inscribed 'baller ID bands' let players wear their feelings on their wrists
Magic guard Steve Francis doesn't know who Ave Maria Green is but he sure wishes he had her business foresight.

In 1999, Green created what has turned into the latest NBA rage and one that gets a green light from the league's fashion police: the silicone rubber "baller ID bands" that were put on the global map thanks to cyclist Lance Armstrong and his yellow cancer awareness LIVESTRONG bands produced by Nike.

"I wish I would have invented them," Francis said. "I wish I would have patented them a long time ago."

Francis is among the many NBA players who buy a supply of the wristbands before each season and have them specially colored and inscribed with a message of inspiration or the name of a loved one. Francis wore a band last year that had the name of his sister, but this year's band sports the name of his newborn daughter who's with Daddy every dribble of the season.

"Everybody's wearing them now," says teammate Jameer Nelson, who has bands with the name of his son and girlfriend and another that reads King Of My Kingdom. A third band he wears is inscribed Smashmouth, a nickname he shares with a younger cousin. "It's just one of those things that happens," he says of the band trend.

Count Green among the most surprised. Her St. Paul, Minnesota, company specializes in rubberband jewelry. She noticed the popularity of the "What Would Jesus Do" bracelets and saw unlimited and unique potential.

"I thought, 'Wouldn't it be funny to put something crazy on there, like 'What Would Scooby Do?' " she said.

Green is a big NBA fan and noticed many players wearing the basic office-style rubberbands during games. About six months after founding her company, she ran into Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett at an airport and presented her concept of personalized bands to him. Garnett, who has worn regular rubberbands since he was in high school, was immediately hooked on the personalized concept and the "KG 21" baller band began fueling the trend among NBA players.

Not long after, Garnett brought the bands to a new level of awareness when he had specialized bands made for Dream Team 2000 members. As a show of team solidarity, Garnett had gold bands created that said "Dream Team 2000" on the front and "Nothin' less than gold" across the back.

Green's company, Wordstretch, has earned "Officially licensed Rubberband of the NBA" status. Versions of the bands are now manufactured by a variety of top shoe companies and have found a strong market in fashion-conscious players who are forbidden to wear metallic jewelry during games. The baller ID bands have more than filled the void. Their effects are felt everywhere, especially Orlando, where they are a routine part of a player's wardrobe.

"I don't mess with them when I'm wearing them [during games] but I do notice it when I don't have them on," said DeShawn Stevenson, who wears identical "2 Family" bands on each wrist. "2 Family" is a reference to his jersey number as a rookie and the people he says who most deserve credit for him being where he is today. Stevenson wears blue bands at home games and switches to black on the road, but he always wears a fresh pair every game.

First-year Magic player Keyon Dooling also is hooked on the bands but then again that isn't much of a surprise.

"I've been wearing rubberbands, headbands, wristbands and any kind of bands you can put on since I got in the league," he says with a laugh.

His Magic-color-coordinated baller bands carry the initials of his wife's and children's names and another has his favorite Bible verse, Isiah 54:17, that begins, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper ..."

"Not only do they look nice, they're something that really motivates me to go out there and play every time I go out on the court," Dooling said. "I'm representing my family, I'm representing my community, I'm representing everything that I am, so I think the scripture and my wife's and kids' names is fitting."

Players sometimes use the bands to bring attention to a particular cause they may be representing as Grant Hill did in April with a band aimed at raising awareness for child abuse prevention. Hill joined other professional athletes and entertainers supporting a new campaign featuring blue wristbands during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Hill and his wife, Tamia, are longtime supporters of child abuse prevention and serve on Prevent Child Abuse America's honorary board. Proceeds from the sale of the wristbands supported Prevent Child Abuse America.

The band trend isn't exclusive to star athletes, though. Employees of the Orlando franchise now can be seen wearing bands inscribed with the words "Magic" and "Commitment." The bands were distributed to employees at a retreat this year as part of the team's "Commitment" campaign.
"It's a reminder to us all that we have a commitment to the fans in town," said Joel Glass, Director of Communications.

Get 'em while they're hot, Dooling advises.

"It all goes in cycles and everyone tries to keep up with the Joneses," Dooling said. "First, it was headbands back in the day and then they abandoned that and now guys are back wearing them and it's a trend.

"But this [wristband trend] is cool and it's something fun. You want to look kinda different."

This story originally appeared in the January issue of Magic Magazine. Get your favorite Magic fan a subscription to Magic Magazine! To subscribe call 1-877-841-7070 or e-mail and specify you want Magic Magazine. A one-year subscription is $18.95 and two-year is just $24.95.