The National Basketball Association season promises to be a little weird. Why? Because the biggest story before the season started this week was the new NBA dress code.

That's right, the league is requiring that players wear jackets and dress shoes -- not throwback jerseys and sneakers -- on game days and at official public appearances. Oh yeah, the players also have to wear their gold chains under their shirts, not over their clothes.

Some of the league's biggest stars are not suit-and-tie guys. High-scoring Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers likes baggy hip-hop clothes and lots of bling (flashy jewelry). Steve Nash, the passing whiz of the Phoenix Suns, prefers the surfer-dude look of a T-shirt and jeans. Nash is so casual he looks like he slept on the beach.

Plenty of people, many of whom make a lot less money than NBA players do, have to wear certain clothes when they go to work. Police officers, park rangers and even kids at certain schools wear uniforms. So do the folks behind the counter at McDonald's and Burger King.

In the real world, if the boss tells you to wear a certain kind of clothing, you do it if you want to keep your job. I don't see why NBA players should be any different.

But this isn't a fashion column, it's a sports column. So let's move on to the most important question of the 2005-06 NBA season: Can anybody beat the San Antonio Spurs?

The defending champs still have Mr. All-Everything, center-forward Tim Duncan, as well as guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The Spurs added scoring off the bench by signing free agents Michael Finley (15.7 points per game last season) and Nick Van Exel (11.1). The team's defense, best in the NBA last year, should be plenty tough. If the Spurs stay healthy, they are a good bet to win their fourth title in eight years.

Only the Miami Heat, with superstar center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Dwyane Wade, can match up with the Spurs. But Shaq is slowing down and still can't hit his free throws (46.1 percent last season). The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets could challenge for the top spot if the Spurs slip.

How about the Washington Wizards? Guard Larry Hughes took his 22 points a game and tough defense to Cleveland to help LeBron James and the Cavaliers. But the Wizards reloaded with veterans Caron Butler (15.5 points per game), Antonio Daniels (11.2) and Chucky Atkins (13.6).

Last season, the Wizards won their first playoff series since 1982. I expect them to repeat that success this season.

But whatever team wins the title in the new-fashioned NBA, its players will be dressed for success.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Clothes-minded: Rules have changed since last season. NBA players now have to dress more like Shaquille O'Neal, left, than Allen Iverson. Of course, O'Neal can accessorize with three championship rings.Dude, the maverick 2004 look of guard Steve Nash just doesn't cut it.