'Raising the Roof' Is Back And Better Than Ever


Somebody my age is always likely to tell you the 1990s were the Golden Age of whatever it is you’re talking about at the moment. But even adjusting for inflation, it would be difficult to top the period from about 1988-96 when it comes to athlete celebrations.

You had the Bash Brothers.

You had Shawn Kemp.

But most distinctively, there was “raising the roof,” a piece of 90s sports folk culture that has become popular once again.

“Raising the roof” is where you put your hands over your shoulders, like you’re doing a shoulder press, and with open palms you push upward, thereby “raising the roof.” This could be done either as an invitation for the crowd to get louder, or as an indication the player had just done something so great that he had blown the roof off the joint.

Clips of athletes “raising the roof” are incredibly difficult to find, as it turns out. YouTube and Twitter were still a decade away when “raising the roof” was peaking, and most people who have uploaded 90s sports content to the internet have not tended to mention “raising the roof” in their descriptions.

You can’t learn much about “raising the roof” academically. It’s not something you explain or research. You learn how to do it and what it means just by seeing it done.

Today’s players have exaggerated the move in a way that seems intentionally nerdy.

Hunting around for these videos on Twitter, it became clear there is an entire generation that is only just now getting introduced to this move. Except now, there’s an unmistakable sense of irony associated with it. I get the sense Klay Thompson and Karl-Anthony Towns are doing this not because they think it’s cool, but because they think it’s hilarious. It’s like when 90s kids found out about disco moves.

Which makes perfect sense.

There was always something funny about “raising the roof,” especially after a decade or so passed. In the early-late 00s, everything 90s was considered hopelessly lame. The 90s hadn’t been gone long enough. We hadn’t missed their charms yet.

But everything old is new again, and “raising the roof” is enjoying a second life, 25 years later.

Let’s do the Wu-Tang Clan next.