February 24, 2016

DENSON | Hoops and Suits

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Paul George scampered into the postgame pressroom. You could tell something divine had just happened because of his tall blue and black-checkered suit, flamingo pink silk shirt, and thick-rimmed black glasses that even Buddy Holly would gawk at.

A quarter way down the busy halls of Quicken Loans Arena is the visiting team’s room. Still looking like an icon out of Esquire’s fashion section, Lebron James walks into the visiting team’s pressroom. His light blue beret precisely matches his faux-fur lined royal blue leather jacket. He stumbles at the mic, at a loss for words- partly because the Pacers just trounced his Cavs in Cleveland, and partly because he never went to college.

Since the NBA’s image-conscious crusade began 20 years ago, the league has flourished into a showcase for some of the best male models in the world. With the dress code came an entire wave of players looking ready for the runway.

6-foot-3 OKC guard Russell Westbrook enlightened GQ about his fashion interests: “If I get bored after working out, I’ll find some shops and go check it out and see if they have some new stuff. See what’s good. I go to Barneys; I go to Gucci, Louis, YSL. I go everywhere — Rodeo Drive, Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs, Joyrich. I’m all around.”

You heard the man. He goes everywhere. He knows what’s good. Westbrook has taken the reigns that Wilt Chamberlain and Walt Frazier once tightly held on to. The second greatest point guard in the game has become an icon of black masculinity — mixing confidence, fashion, and athletic ability into one phenomenal persona.

With the most flamboyant athletes in the world comes confidence in style — a style that would make GQ’s fourth best-dressed British man David Beckham seem pedestrian. Is that Dwayne Wade in a neon red turtleneck? Why, yes it is. Fluorescent turtlenecks, classic fedoras, Jon Lennon-style sunglasses, skinny ties, teal capris-it’s all about risk-taking off the court now. For some fans, such as my Mom, the excitement from these marquee matchups is not the game itself, but the fashion show after the game. I hope The Sun publishes some pictures of Westbrook, Griffin…with this piece, just so you can get an idea of how ostentatious these get-ups really are — especially the one from this All Star weekend with Westbrook wearing a green plaid suit. The balding Lebron James looks something like an Allen Ginsburg beatnik, pseudo-hipster, geek chic type, finding the perfect mix between trying too hard and not trying at all and screaming, “I’m the best at what I do and I always look the best doing it.”

At the post-game pressroom you have the usual — ESPN, Sporting News, local papers — but then in the corner — not so much concerned with the score — GQ, Esquire and Flaunt Magazine, are huddled with cameras. Remember, Russell Westbrook is the first and only athlete to be on the cover of Flaunt, joining the likes of Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hutcherson, to name a few.

Congrats David Stern. As commissioner in 2005, your allegedly racially motivated dress code policy has created a new world in sports. The NBA is not only a stage for the best basketball players; it has become a runway for the some of the best-dressed men in the United States. Is that the new Dolce & Gabbana model? Is Derek Zoolander up next? Nope, sorry — that’s Anthony Davis wearing the newest collection in men’s-over-6-foot-10 style, sporting a unibrow and well on his (eventual) way to winning an MVP trophy.

My hot take for the week: in ten years Russell Westbrook — the “Kate Moss of the NBA” — will have a fashion line run out of New York with Kevin Durant as his creative director. Carmelo Anthony will get jealous, miss the attention he used to garner, and create a rival line with Wade and LeBron, specializing in off-color Fedoras and deep cut V-neck silk shirts that can only be worn once. Get ready for the most athletic fashion war ever — this is just the beginning.