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by Mike Fisher    Wed, Nov 30, 2005, 11:29 PM

Allow me to present "My Three Thugs'':

Thug No. 1 is a 7-feet-plus non-conformist, is unconventional in so many ways, is a sort of misfit, and favors untucked plaid shirts, blue jeans and work boots.

Thug No. 2 is an offense-first superstar, is a believer in oddball training methods, has artsy facial hair, has a best friend facing prison time, and favors ratty sweatpants.

Thug No. 3 is a radical MVP guy, is a student of Marxism, is the creator of two children out of wedlock, is a foreigner who is vocally anti-war, has a scary haircut, and wears faded jeans and T-shirts that look like he extracted them from his glove compartment.

Who are My Three Thugs? Who are these NBA players whose existence (and sensibilities about fashion and more) proves that both sides of the NBA dress-code argument are wrong?

Thug No. 1 is Shawn Bradley.

Thug No. 2 is Dirk Nowitzki.

Thug No. 3 is Steve Nash.

NBA players, in their thinking, in their conduct, and yes, in their appearance, should be cognizant of the impression they leave on the customers. Commissioner David Stern should have simply urged them in that direction.

Instead, Stern's stance comes off as a silly overreaction to what is essentially simply a generation gap; if Tupac Shakur had always worn Brooks Brothers, it's likely that more kid basketball players would, too.

And then, Mr. Stern, would the league outlaw Brooks Brothers?

And as an equal and opposite response, there are now inflexible and overreacting players. Players who are claiming that their bling-bling represents their religion. (Wouldn't your 6-inch cross be just as appropriate INSIDE your shirt? And by wearing a 6-inch cross, are you saying you are six times more devout than I am?) Players who are claiming baggy jeans are a "cultural statement.'' (Which reminds me of kids in the 60's who "rebeled'' by wearing jeans, failing to understand that by the time Levi had sold 100 billion jeans, all the rebels were suddenly "uniform.'') Players who are claiming the dress code is "racist.''

Said Celtics star Paul Pierce: "When I saw the part about chains, hip-hop and throwback jerseys, I think that's part of our culture. The NBA is young black males."

Really? So if a black man wears a nice suit (as is the case with a majority of Mavs players), is he "less black''? "Less part of the culture''? Meanwhile, isn't it "racist'' to claim that "the NBA IS young black males''?

What is Bradley? What is Nowitzki? What is Nash?

Stern has since backed off the original hard-and-fast rules, and is even joking about the ramifications. Asked recently during a visit to Miami about the racist implications of the jewelry ban, the Commish answered that when he visits South Beach, "Most of the people I see with chains are elderly Jewish gentlemen."

The new rules bisect all lines of NBA players, so much so that even the supposedly elightened minds like Lakers coach Phil JackZen seem a bit foggy. Phil was quoted as saying, "The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it's like gangster, thuggery stuff."

Is this the same soul-patch-wearing, motorcycle-riding Phil who, in his playing days, was very much the radical T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing non-conformist? (You know what they say about them long-haired, egg-headed, Hell's Angels hippies!)

This is silly enough that naturally, a certain NBA owner you might know might dig deeper into his closet to some night go full-neon "Saturday Night Fever'' on us.

Because clothes make the man, right? No.

You can wear a suit and run Enron. You can own every CD every made by 50 Cent and be charitable.

You can be Shawn Bradley in "hip-hop'' garb and be "good.'' You can dress up Kobe Bryant in the finest Italian suits and be. ... whatever.

Adolf Hitler owned suits. Jesus Christ, not so much.

What we've got is the rare argument in which both sides are wrong. "My Three Thugs'' prove that both sides' conclusions regarding fashion and race are misguided.

Nevertheless, clean it up, "My Three Thugs.'' Yes, you, Shawn Bradley. And you, Dirk Nowitzki, And you, Steve Nash.

Damn white-boy wanna-be gangstas.

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