Since the NBA moved away from square buzz cuts and, well, white people, clothing and cool have been cornerstones of The League. From Bill Russell wearing a cape and growing a goatee as a sign of cultural defiance, to Shaq’s array of mid-90s Mafioso Rap suits, to the millennial fashion explosion, the NBA has pushed the envelope of fashion.
In honor of the NBA’s avant garde style, We look back at the 10 best — or worst, depending on how you look at it — fashion statements in league history:
10) The Jheri curl brought to you by Michael Cage:
The best way to describe Michael Cage, circa 1991 is all shoulder and jheri curl. While a hairstyle isn’t necessarily a fashion choice, Cage’s Jheri curl was a lifestyle decision that embodies everything right with the crossover between basketball and pop culture.
The ‘do was a statement that screamed astro-glide, female lamentation and sex panther. The only thing missing for Cage was the purple revolution suit.
9) Mel Bennett. Hipster Pioneer:
Long before Russell Westbrook started flossing the strobe light-colored, prescription-free, hipster glasses during press conferences, there was Mel Bennet. Bennett’s 31 career NBA games are long forgotten; his afro and specs are, however, eternal.
It is hard to figure why Bennett played in the glasses in some games and didn’t in others — I mean, it’s not like his vision changed one game to the next.
8) A.I., in the words of Biggie, likes black tims and black hoodies:
Allen Iverson was the ultimate crossover between hip-hop and basketball in the early 2000s. The problem was the landscape of early 2000s rap was awful; in the void of Biggie, Tupac, Big L and Big Pun was the guttural noises of ugh and what, as well as the inaudible screams of DMX.
A.I. rocked gear that put him in central casting for Belly – a bad fashion choice, but an important one for his persona of fiercely anti-establishment.
7) Nick Young a Wild and Crazy guy:
“Swaggy P” is the absolute worst of the crossover – the fact that he forced Iggy Azeala upon the basketball world is nearly unforgivable. His ‘70s regalia buys him forgiveness.
Where are Dan Akroyd and Steve Martin though?
6) Boogie Cousins dresses himself, that’s for damn sure:
Boogie is the best center in the universe right now – if he wants to make fashion gambles, he’s earned that right. Not sure about the whole knee high boot thing, but it seems like (maybe, but probably not) a social commentary on gender fluidity – pretty sure Kim Kardashian wears the same boots.
5) Spencer Hawes X-mas warrior:
Pretty sure Spencer Hawes is an ardent supporter of Infowars and Fox News. Given his place as the lone dissenting NBA voice in support of Trump, it wouldn’t come as a shock if Hawes has said this verbatim before:
There is a war on Christmas.
Despite his occasional toeing of the ass-hat line, Hawes is up there with the biggest personalities in the league – never on greater display than last Christmas.
4) Dennis Rodman Demolition Man:
Rodman has had a lifetime of bad choices and moments. Sad considering most of them have overshadowed what a good ballplayer he was.
The pinnacle of his fashion career came when doing his best futuristic Wesley Snipes impression.
3) The mullet, brought to you by Dwayne Schintzius:
If Michael Cage’s Jheri curl was a lifestyle signifier, than what does that make the Schintzius?
Part Appalachian God, Part lion tamer, I submit to you, Dwayne Schintzius had the most epic hair game of anyone that has ever spent any time on a court in the 100 plus years basketballs have been put in baskets. (Tom Chambers Mullet was probably second only to Schintzius.)
2) Clyde Frazier Renaissance man:
Before Clyde Frazier was just an old paunchy guy in a bad suit, he was the best-dressed player in NBA history – as well as the ultimate symbol of New York City cool.
In chapter 6 – A General Guide to Looking Good, and Other Matters – of his 1974 book Rockin Steady: a guide to basketball and cool, Frazier writes:
Everybody has to have a hang-up. Mine is clothes. Some guys have drinking or smoking or cattin’ around. I’ve got clothes.
The single most important moment in NBA fashion history occurred when Frazier wore his all-black getup of a Fedora hat, turtleneck and buttoned over-coat-cape thingy.
The book and Frazier himself served as the original catalyst to the metrosexual revolution that has taken the NBA by storm over the past several decades culminating with:
1) Russell Westbrook’s 2013 Teen Choice Award sailor outfit:
All white Capri pants, floral cutoff with a white cummerbund thing. Russ hasn’t been out the game; Russ is the game.