In launching a new line of Ohio State men’s basketball shirts, local clothing line Homage zeroed in on memorable duos from program history. The final product, designed to look like a screen grab from the classic NBA Jam video game, would feature pairings of Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd and Jim Jackson and Chris Jent.
Then another twosome was suggested. It picked up steam via social media and, now, has officially joined the ranks. As of this week, Homage is selling a shirt celebrating the unique relationship between 2010 national player of the year Evan Turner and occasional nemesis, three-year teammate and former walk-on Mark Titus.
A relationship that can best be described as unique has been permanently memorialized.
"We live in crazy times," Titus told The Dispatch. "If we’ve learned nothing these last few months, it’s that anything is possible, good and bad, in this world."
The initial idea for the shirt came from social media. According to Homage founder Ryan Vesler, it was being discussed when Titus stopped by in February en route from Los Angeles, where he hosts the "Titus & Tate" podcast, to a game at the University of Dayton. While on his visit, Titus recorded a tongue-in-cheek video imploring Turner to acquiesce to the idea that was shared via Homage’s official Instagram page.
Soon, he was on board.
"A bunch of people suggested that we do Mark Titus and Evan Turner because of their, we’ll call it, Matt Damon-Jimmy Kimmel-esque rivalry," Vesler said. "He would often give Evan grief, so nobody was quite clear if they liked each other or not. It’s par for the course with Mark poking Evan. When we talked to Evan, he said let’s do it."
The ultimate decision to go ahead with the project shows the true nature of the relationship between Turner and Titus, who were approached separately about the idea. While at Ohio State, Titus started a blog called "Club Trillion" that told behind-the-scenes stories of life as a college basketball benchwarmer. They would eventually prove to be the foundation of his book, "Don’t Put Me In, Coach," which often detailed pranks played on Turner and jokes made at his expense.
"Not sure what those two are up to, but all I can say is I’m so happy they have made a truce and have decided to get along finally," former coach Thad Matta said, adding an emoji of a face laughing so hard that it’s crying.
It’s created a relationship that has improved with time.
"Evan’s always been protective of me riding his coattails," Titus said. "That’s what he says literally every time I see him: ‘You rode Greg Oden and Mike Conley’s coattails until they left and then you started riding mine.’ And he’s not wrong."
The shirts feature ratings for each player in four categories: speed, three-pointers, dunks and defense. Turner has high marks in all four categories, while Titus has just a tiny green bar for speed. He said he was told they couldn’t leave all the bars empty, otherwise it would look like his skills were maxed out in all categories. Titus also said he jokingly suggested his three-point rating be maxed out in green or that they ax the bars completely and replace them with "N/A."
Vesler had a laugh about that.
"We were intending to add a little green to three-pointers and just messed up," he said. "One of those things that got lost to the craziness of the last few weeks, but I guess that’s just additional humor. We could probably spin it that it takes a little bit of speed to move from one end of the bench to the other."
For his part, Titus said he’s still amazed that fans were clamoring for a shirt featuring a player who scored nine career points in 32 games. That it came about is a testament to the unlikely, evolving relationship forged with Turner.
"We don’t have any animosity toward each other," Titus said. "If he was in L.A. and there wasn’t the whole quarantine thing and our schedules allowed, I would 100 percent grab dinner with him and talk and we’d have a great time. If I bump into him, it’s like seeing an old friend you went to high school with or something."
And now one that he shares a T-shirt with.