Let’s face it, as talented as they are on the court, basketball players can be pretty hit-and-miss when it comes to their dress sense.
So often snapped up by teams straight out of college (or even high-school), the sudden injection of big bucks into their bank account doesn’t always translate to a well-thought-out wardrobe. After all, a thousand pairs of rare Jordans aren’t worth a thing if you can’t pick a solid outfit to match…
But among those players still struggling to leave their teenage dress sense behind are a few doing it right. Setting an example for all those to follow, we’ve compiled a list of seven of the most stylish individuals in the NBA right now.
Forget about which shoes they’re rocking on court or which brand they signed a seven-figure sponsorship deal with. This list is about celebrating good style where it really counts — out in the real world.
7. Serge Ibaka — Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
Playing alongside the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would make it tough for anyone to stand out, but the Thunder’s towering big man has managed to carve out his own niche as one of the league’s best defensive players. What’s more, Ibaka has also earned a name for himself thanks to his impressive sense of style.
Earlier this year he was spotted at a show previewing the 2015-2016 collection by Balmain, which isn’t the kind of place you usually find professional b-ballers! Yet, while his contemporaries are busy shopping sports clothing and streetwear, such luxury French labels seem to exemplify the big man’s more exclusive style preferences, with their emphasis on rich leathers and flamboyant fabrics. When it comes to setting the standard, Serge really raises the bar.
6. Nick Young — Guard/Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
NBA fans are usually too preoccupied with Nick Young’s headline-grabbing footwear to notice the rest of his style choices, which is a shame, because the Lakers’ scoring guard doesn’t disappoint in that department either.
Compared to Ibaka, Young plays a far braver kind of game (from the fashion perspective, at least), mixing up styles and stepping away from any one specific, pre-defined “look”. While he has a notorious love of the brash and expressive silks of Versace, he is just as happy nailing grungy biker getup and has been known to throw on a Saint Laurent suit when needed… like at his recent outing to the ESPYs.
5. Kevin Durant — Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
Nicknamed ‘The Slim Reaper’ — among other, equally cool things — Kevin Durant is another player who cuts a long and lanky figure. His seemingly never-ending wingspan, coupled with narrow shoulders, really makes him stick out, and no-doubt makes it pretty tricky when it comes to choosing an outfit. Nevertheless, Durant has shown himself to be a confident and savvy dresser, not letting his size hold him back in the style stakes.
While he errs more on the conservative side of things, opting for cleaner and more coordinated looks, one thing unique to his style is his penchent for backpacks. What may have once seemed like a practical consideration has since become a real hallmark of his wardrobe. And, several press conferences later, he is perhaps the one person most commonly associated with the “backpack look”.
4. Tyson Chandler — Center, Phoenix Suns
Being a seven-footer can present a unique set of challenges for the fashion-conscious. At that size, all of a sudden measurements and fit take on an even greater importance. Yet, within that, Suns big man Tyson Chandler has found a way to maximize the style potential of his unique build (bulky torso and slight legs) through a more minimal, tonal look.
The dark, layered stylings of designers like Rick Owens, with their innately elongated silhouettes, manage to balance Chandler’s size well, matched by some expertly tailored (presumably bespoke!) suiting. Naturally, at his height, he’s keen to avoid too many bright colors, but the occasional accented flourish provides a neat contrast now and then, and avoids him looking too much like an extra in the Addams Family!
3. LeBron James — Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
When you’ve got cameras on you for 90% of your daily life, it’s not surprising you feel the need to show off a little from time to time. Yet, what makes LeBron James’s fashion sense so interesting is its evolution over the years.
Like many members of his draft class, James’s most consciously “stylish” wardrobe choices when involved loose-fitting blazers and baggy trousers. But that all seemed to change when he took his talents down to South Beach, where things took a turn for the more adventurous.
Bold color choices, graphic streetwear prints, stylish eyewear — all of these things helped bring us to the LeBron James of today: a 6’8”, 250 pound mass of extravagant-yet-grown-man style, almost always accompanied by an interesting bag.
While he’s undoubtedly a divisive figure, simultaneously ranking as the “most loved” and “most hated” player in the NBA, if there’s one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to LeBron, it’s that he knows how to work his wardrobe.
2. Dwyane Wade — Guard, Miami Heat
When considering style in the NBA, Dwyane Wade is certainly one of the first names to spring to mind.
Much like his former teammate, LeBron James, Wade has seen his sense of style evolve from his days as a budding superstar into something that really reflects his character. What was once baggy and loose-fitting eventually made its way to being form-fitted and complimentary, with the help of celebrity stylist Calyann Barnett.
While he’s certainly not shy of a bold bit of streetwear, Wade’s fashion sense tends to favor extravagant suiting and formalwear with a colorful twist. When it comes to fearless dressers, few can match his bravery, successfully working everything from powder blue to canary yellow and intense, fiery orange into his wardrobe.
This love of outrageous color also translates to his signature footwear line — somewhere else he’s going against the grain. While other athletes of his stature signed deals with the likes of Nike, adidas and Under Armour, Wade opted to side with Chinese label Li-Ning, with whom he is developing a signature line of his own called Way of Wade.
Whether his fans will follow where he leads remains to be seen. One things for sure: he definitely does things his own way.
1. Russell Westbrook — Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Another client of über stylist Barnett, Russell Westbrook epitomizes the “science fair look” that has come to grip today’s NBA fashion scene. With every fresh press conference it seems that Westbrook reveals an interesting new set of frames and an outrageously busy shirt, most of which boast patterns so bold you’d think they were once used as curtains in a kindergarten.
Westbrook is also one of the few NBA players so confident in their personal style that they feel comfortable experimenting far beyond the boundaries of their contemporaries. At the 2013 Teen Choice Awards he rocked a sleeveless tunic with a pair of drop-crotch sweatpants, cementing his reputation as a man absolutely unafraid to do something different.
In fact, there’s little doubt that Russell Westbrook is the most stylistically adventurous player in the NBA right now, and he’s even turned that attitude towards a footwear line of his own, produced in conjunction with Barney’s.
While it’s true that basketball players get a pretty bad rap for their fashion choices a lot of the time (some of that very much deserved!), with players like Russell Westbrook in the public eye there’s hope for anyone looking to branch out from boring sportswear and endless pairs of Air Jordans.
- Cover Image: Benny Bonsu
- Words: Mohamed Abdihakim & AJ Gwilliam