Tacko Fall needs a tuxedo.
The 7-foot-5-inch Celtics center was invited to be a guest conductor for a Boston Pops holiday concert. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single size-48 double-extra-long tuxedo with tails to rent anywhere in Boston.
With Fall scheduled to appear with the Pops Tuesday, the search started last Friday night when the Celtics started making urgent phone calls.
They contacted Alan Gibeley, the owner of Zareh Boston, who has fitted many Boston athletes.
“So I’m thinking this is insane,” said Gibeley. “How am I going to get a tuxedo for Tacko for Tuesday, because he clearly needs one custom-made?”
Celtics public relations vice president Heather Walker provided Fall’s measurements. After a series of phone calls, Gibeley located a wholesaler in Philadelphia willing to make a stitch in time.
At 8 a.m. Monday, tailors in Philadelphia cut fabric from other garments and added 4 inches to the sleeves of a 48-extra-long jacket to meet the length of Tacko’s arms. In Boston, another tailor added 4 inches to the pants.
But with the Christmas season in full gear, Gibeley didn’t want to risk shipping anything from Philadelphia.
“It’s horrendous this time of year,” he said. “What if it came a day late? We had one of the people that works in the factory down in Philadelphia drive it up right to the store.”
Gibeley even camped out to save a parking spot for him in Liberty Square.
“I got a few bad looks,” he said, “but I was holding bags and I just waved them on.”
The tuxedo arrived at 3:45 p.m. The driver got a $250 tip.
. . .
At 4 p.m., Fall unfolds out of the back seat of an Uber into the December drizzle wearing size-22 sandals, a black hoodie, and green Celtics warmup pants.
Gibeley is waiting outside for him.
Fall, who grew up in Senegal wearing traditional dress, has never worn a tuxedo. In fact, he wasn’t exactly sure what a tuxedo is.
“I heard about tuxedos, but I thought it was just a suit,” he says with a smile.
The big center, who is on a two-way contract this season and will split time between the Celtics and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA’s G League, is a hard guy to dress. Everything has to be custom-made.
Fall takes one look at the leprechaun-sized changing room, and in the spirit of Filene’s Basement, he drops trou in a quiet corner.
Soon there is a flurry of activity. The 5-8 Gibeley stands on a parquet step and helps dress Fall. Others stand ready to make alterations.
Gibeley gives him a quick tuxedo tutorial.
“You have the tails tuxedo, which is the dressiest you can get,” he says. “The difference between a suit and a tuxedo is it has a glossy finish on the lapel, typically a stripe down the side of the pants, and is designed for the dressiest occasions.”
Everything fits, and Fall smiles sweetly. He especially likes the white pique bow tie.
“It is so elegant,” he says. “Can you take a picture? I want to send it to my mother.”
Fall later discloses that he knows how to sew.
“In Senegal, I used to rip my jeans all the time and sew them up by myself, playing soccer,” he says. “I taught myself. I saw my mom do it.’’
Meanwhile, Walker is poring over schedules for the Pops, the Celtics, and the Red Claws.
There is a change of plans. The Celtics need Fall to accompany them to Indianapolis for Wednesday’s game. He will then join the Red Claws for the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas. Then fly to Boston to conduct the Pops on Dec. 23.
Gibeley sighs, but the change doesn’t fluster Fall. He insists he’s not going to be nervous leading the Pops.
“Oh no,” he says. “I’m shy but I’m not afraid to do it. I love music.”
Walker plays some Boston Pops Christmas music on her iPhone, and Fall starts playing air conductor, using cashmere scarfs as a baton.
“I know I’m going to have to move my hands real fast,” he says. “Can I pick a song?”
He already has studied clips of Shaquille O’Neal conducting three songs with the Pops in 2010.
“Maybe I’ll reach out to him,” he says. “It looks really exciting. I’ll watch a couple of videos on YouTube and see how they do it. “
He also purchases a Hugo Boss coat for $995 (Gibeley had to ruin another coat to make this one fit). The tuxedo rental, with alterations, costs $425.
On the way to TD Garden, there is much laughter. It is just hours before Fall’s 24th birthday, and he is happy. He’s a Muslim man thrilled to be dressing up for the Christmas holiday.
He’s asked if he has heard the saying, “Clothes make the man.”
Shoehorned into the back seat of a reporter’s Mazda, Fall is smiling.
“I’ve heard that,” he says. “I don’t believe it. It’s character. Character makes the man.”
New Year = New Clothes !
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