Iman Shumpert and Russell Westbrook (Getty)Iman Shumpert and Russell Westbrook (Getty) © Copyright

Dress like a baller

How NBA rules inadvertently helped turn the swag level up to 100.

The NBA is the sharpest-dressed league in world sport, and today’s players adhere to a businessmanlike dress code. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Through much of its history, players just attended games in tracksuits, and only donned dodgy, ill-fitting suits and baseball caps on the night they were drafted into the league.

This was all pretty unproblematic and straightforward until Allen Iverson arrived in the league. The first pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Iverson rose to prominence as both a player and a style icon around the turn of the millennium, and led a widespread hip hop-inspired movement of players arriving at games in do-rags, big chains, and quadruple XL NFL jerseys.

Dwayne Wade (Getty)

 Dwayne Wade

In 2004, the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers had a ten-man brawl in which players climbed into the stands and fought with spectators. This fight, nicknamed ‘The Malice at Palace’ served as the turning point.

The league, keen to reassert its image as family-friendly, became increasingly image-conscious. The NBA clamped down on players arriving at games in casual clothes, and enforced a dress code. From the start of the 2005-06 season, players were to attend games in business attire: a collared shirt and an optional tie.

The dress code regs are pretty seriously enforced, but NBA players are NBA players; they are super rich, and many still like to flaunt their wealth. They want to swag out rather than look like stuffy businessmen at a convention.

This generation of NBA stars have worked within the confines of the dress code to pioneer a smarter, sophisticated approach to menswear. Some still get it very wrong, but stars like Tyson Chandler, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook work closely with designers and stylists and have become style icons in their own right.

Tyson Chandler (Getty)

Tyson Chandler


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