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Defining Moments of the NBA Season: “What About Scarves?”

How winter neckwear divided, then brought together, the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors/Ringer illustration

The NBA is on hold for the foreseeable future. To help fill the void, we’re looking back at the defining moments of the 65-ish games of the 2019-20 season so far.


The pages of history are loaded with grand questions contemplating the many slings and arrows the universe has thrown humanity’s way. Are we alone? If not us, who? If not now, when? Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. What would you do for a Klondike bar? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Who let the dogs out? Who let those dogs out? Who let those little mutts go?

Another inquiry was added in February of this year. It was posed by OG Anunoby during a taping of Holt Renfrew’s Avec Classe, a show hosted by Serge Ibaka on Uninterrupted’s YouTube channel. The question consisted of three words. Three words to change the world.

What about scarves?


The full episode of Avec Classe is great, but what I really want to focus on is a sequence that lasts one minute and 49 seconds. It starts at the 3:34 mark, and ends at the 5:23 mark. It is iconic. The video I linked to above shows one minute and 34 seconds of the exchange, but not the 15 seconds prior to Ibaka’s London question. I think these 15 are crucial. The point of the episode is for Anunoby to build an outfit from the racks of clothes Holt Renfrew is providing them. Ibaka is then supposed to judge the look. Now, knowing that, and knowing what you saw above, we’re going to start 15 seconds earlier. I transcribed the entire interaction because it deserved to be written down.

Anunoby: What about these pants?

Ibaka: It’s nice. But remember, you have to choose. You cannot ask me, OG. I cannot help you.

Anunoby: OK. OK. You’re right.

Ibaka: You know what I’m saying?

Anunoby: I don’t want your opinion.

Ibaka: That’s the game, yeah.

Anunoby: I don’t even want your opinion.

Ibaka: So, it’s about how you put the outfit together.

Anunoby: Yeah, I’m good at that.

Ibaka: That’s how—you good at that?

Anunoby: Yeah.

Ibaka: So, do you, do you think because you come from London, that’s why you good at fashion?

Anunoby: Probably a little bit. I was born with it. I think it just happened.

Ibaka: Well, you know, I know me and you got different style.

Anunoby: No, we have the same style.

Ibaka: No, we don’t have the same style.

Anunoby: We have the same style. I put you on how to dress.

Ibaka: You put me on?

Anunoby: Yeah.

[Ibaka scoffs.]

Anunoby: You know I did. I put you on Valentino. I put you on, uh, denim jackets. Balenciaga ones.

Ibaka: OG. Stop, OG. You better stop, OG.

Anunoby: Uh, I put you on Heron Preston.

Ibaka: OG, you say you put me on fashion? Wow.

Anunoby: Your Balenciaga hoodie. I put you—

Ibaka: I think I’m done here.

[Ibaka slams down the cards he’s been holding. I assume they held questions he was planning on asking.]

Anunoby: I put you on—

Ibaka: I’m done. I don’t do, I don’t do the—I’m done.

Anunoby: I put you on scarves.

Ibaka: You know what? We’re done here today, OG.

Anunoby: Did I put you on scarves?

Ibaka: If you say you put me on fashion, then we’re done for today.

Anunoby: What about scarves?

Ibaka: We’re done.

Anunoby: But what about scarves?

Ibaka: OG, I’m telling you, if you think—

Anunoby: But what about scarves?

Ibaka: —that you put me in fashion, then I’m done.

Anunoby: But what about scarves?

Ibaka: I guess I’m done.

[Ibaka begins to take his coat off.]

Anunoby: But what about scarves?

Ibaka: I guess I’m done.

Anunoby: But what about scarves?

Ibaka: What do you mean about scarf, OG?

Anunoby: You saw me in my scarf. You were like, “That scarf’s fire. I’m gonna get one too.” And then you got one. And next time, when I was wearing mine, you had one too. You acted like you did it first, but I had the scarf first.

Ibaka: OG, let me tell you something, OK?

[Ibaka pulls his shirt sleeves up.]

Ibaka: This your second, second year in the league.

Anunoby: Third.

Ibaka: Third year in the league, OK. I be in the scarf game 10 years now.

Anunoby: You haven’t, though.

Ibaka: Yes, one, and two, OG, I don’t dress, man.

Anunoby: But you saw me in my scarf.

Ibaka: OG, I don’t dress, OG. I do art, bro.

Anunoby: But you saw me in my scarf.

Ibaka: No, no. Tell me, please. You know I do art, right?

Anunoby: I like my scarves a lot, and you copied that.

Ibaka: You got me sweating.

This is one of the most entertaining things the West has ever produced. There are multibillion-dollar movie franchises that can’t get one-tenth of this kind of sizzle. People are in their homes right now trying to convince themselves they’re going to write some great script that will forever change whatever medium the script is intended for and not one of us will be able to get anywhere within the same galaxy as “I do art, bro.” I honestly don’t know why people kept talking after this. The same way there should’ve just been no more television after Friday Night Lights, there should’ve been no more talking after this interaction between Ibaka and Anunoby. We should all be silent.


The next Raptors game, after all this went public, well, GQ called it a Scarf-Off and that feels exactly right.

Ibaka showed up like this:

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

Anunoby showed up like this:

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

The day after, Ibaka came through with some casual art.

View this post on Instagram

Art

A post shared by Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) on

Then the whole team got in on it.


Another extraordinary exchange took place between the two later in the show. This was during a segment in which Ibaka asked Anunoby to answer as many questions as possible in 24 seconds. When the first question below was asked, there were 16 seconds left on the clock and Anunoby had answered two questions.

Ibaka: What is the best thing you ever wear?

Anunoby: Best thing I ever wore? Uh, like my favorite thing I ever wore?

Ibaka: The best thing you ever wear.

Anunoby: Favorite or the best thing I ever wore?

Ibaka: The best.

Anunoby: The best thing I ever wore? So, my favorite thing I ever wore?

Ibaka: OK, you can—you can interpret it the way you want.

Anunoby: Or the best?

Ibaka: The best or yeah—

Anunoby: The best to me?

Ibaka: Yeah.

Anunoby: Or my favorite thing I ever wore?

Ibaka: The best thing you ever wear.

Anunoby: So, my favorite thing I ever wore.

[Ibaka slams his cards again and the 24-second clock buzzes.]

As a piece of cinema, there is honestly no difference between this and Goodfellas to me.


In the end, Ibaka was not pleased with Anunoby’s look. His exact words when Anunoby came out of the dressing room were “What the F is this, OG?” He specifically said F and avoided saying the word. I don’t know. Keeping it PG, I guess. Fun for all ages. Anunoby’s in some blue cargo pants (he says, “Blue pants, always nice”), the off-white Dunks, something he calls “a summer shirt.” It’s one of those especially lightweight short-sleeve button-downs. Or, I mean, that’s what it looks like. I have no idea how much it weighs. The camera is a trickster. And I have bad eyes, but I think there are Eiffel Towers in assorted colors all over it. That shirt’s worn over what looks like a black hoodie, and over the top of everything is easily one of the loudest coats I’ve seen this year. It’s an orange Moncler jacket. He also has another shirt in his coat pocket because, “I need a new shirt? So I got this. I put this on. But if not I’ll just keep it in here. And I’m gonna use it, wipe my forehead, whatnot.” To say that Serge was confused during all this would be an understatement. The way he was looking at OG, you’d have thought Anunoby was showing him, like, his pet alien or a tree growing out of his chest. This is right after Anunoby pulled the shirt out of his pocket.

Uninterrupted

A short while later, this happened.

Uninterrupted

I enjoy and appreciate both of these men. Ibaka has long felt himself a sartorial god. There’s a reason his show is called Avec Classe. Those who have been following him on Instagram for a while know well his favorite hashtag, #avecclasse. Avec classe. French for “with class.”

View this post on Instagram

Just relaxing about to order dinner #avecclasse

A post shared by Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) on

Ibaka does not look at a menu. He surveys it.

Going into the way back machine, though, Ibaka’s Instagram account began with this post on March 12, 2012.

View this post on Instagram

#avecclasse

A post shared by Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) on

What’s going on here? What’s this? At first glance, it’s a scarf. But then you spend time with the photo. You talk to it. Ask it questions. Try to find out its likes, dislikes, what makes it tick. And you realize no, I once was blind but now I see. It’s not a scarf. It’s shinier than a scarf. There’s a sheen present. Obviously, again, I have no idea if this is true or not, but at the very least it’s an accessory that appears smooth to the touch. Is it an ascot? He’s not wearing it like how I’ve come to understand people who wear ascots wear ascots. I’m not wildly familiar with ascots, but I am dumb enough and bold enough to push past that little detail and shout about them anyway. I’m American. With an ascot, there’s usually sort of like a—you know what it’s like? It’s like a frog’s neck when it croaks. For the sake of thoroughness, I’ll reiterate that I’m not comfortable calling what Ibaka’s wearing an honest-to-goodness scarf, but this is certainly premium-quality decorative neckwear. And the polka dots! My God! Look at them! A lovely teal. The same color as the package for Tropical Skittles, the best of all the Skittles. Wild Berry Skittles, or the purple bag, are good, too. The yellow-bag ones, where it’s like Brightside Skittles or whatever they’re called, is just stupid. As a Skittles fan I’m deeply disappointed in their existence. What a stupid idea. Sour Skittles, while initially an unbelievably fun time, you’re just absolutely drained by the time you get to the end of the pack. My mouth starts looking like a cave. I will not disparage the red-bag Original Skittles because, as Stephen A. Smith recently tweeted, pioneers ought to be revered. Even way back in 2012, #avecclasse was around. I’m not going to work hard enough to figure out whether Ibaka wore scarves in 2010, so we can’t say for certain that his statement that he’s been in the scarf game for 10 years is true. What we can say for certain—what we know—is that for eight years, one month, and two days, that has absolutely been true. It’s a fact. Let’s think about this some. Not a lot. But just a little. As someone who has tried and failed on two separate occasions to become a scarf guy, I feel pretty comfortable saying you don’t begin with the polka dot ascot-looking thing. Same way you don’t begin with an Ironman. The polka-dot ascot-looking thing, that’s something you work up to. You have to train your body and your mind and your heart first. Maybe in the beginning it’s just a simple black scarf. Then you work your way to gray, then blue, then red, and so on and so forth until you arrive comfortably in the land of the dots. Picture a young Ibaka, in the 2010-11 season, in Oklahoma City, and Jeff Green has been traded for Kendrick Perkins. Ibaka is now the Thunder’s starting 4-man. He shows up for a game. It’s February in Oklahoma. A light snow falls. Can you picture him in a scarf? Me too.

Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.