Lately it seems NBA players are recognized more for their fashion than their ability to play basketball. Have you witnessed the trend? In the last few years the once popular Nike Dri-FIT t-shirt worn by the NBA’s elite has been replaced by old school Converse shoes, plaid button-up shirts, suspenders, and wide-rimmed glasses that are reminiscent of Steve Urkel from the popular 90’s show Family Matters.
Take Russell Westbrook for example: He’s unquestionably one of the best point guards in the NBA—ruthless, dedicated to the game, and one of the fiercest competitors in the league, but after a contest you’ll likely find him donning a polka dot polo, short pants, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses that hardly fit on his big-boy nose, and a child-size backpack, which makes Westbrook look more like a school boy than an NBA all-star guard. Fans and media representatives might not think too much about the nerdy get-up, but there is most definitely a strategy present here. Instead of focusing strictly on Westbrook’s success or lack thereof, the suspenders and backpack suddenly become the prime topic of discussion at the post-game conference, no matter how poorly Westbrook or the Thunder performed. Once the spotlight is shifted elsewhere, these players wearing nerdy clothes can relax and focus on winning basketball games instead of talking to the media about the anxiety of facing the San Antonio Spurs in their upcoming game. Considering the Jazz will likely face quite the media blitz this year in response to drastic roster changes, could they implement a similar fashion-based strategy?
Evidence suggests that Russell Westbrook and his star teammate Kevin Durant began the trend of wearing clothes that are, quite frankly, better suited for adolescents than adult professional basketball players. Evidence also suggests that players who have willingly embraced the new era of fashion are highly successful on the basketball court, something the Jazz organization needs to look into. The Heat have represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals for the last three years, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013—championships which came after Lebron and D-Wade copied the attire of Westbrook and Durant. The Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, but undoubtedly would have made a return this year if not for Westbrook’s playoff injury. The Jazz, on the other hand, have not implemented a team-wide fashion change in the last several years, but they also haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs for a number of years. The new trendy fashion brought on by NBA stars has spread to cities all over the league—except Salt Lake City.
When is the last time you witnessed Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, or Derrick Favors wearing a school boy outfit at the post-game conference? Unless my eyes are deceiving me, this has never happened. I guess I’m saying it’s a shame that it’s never happened, because I think female fans would like to see Mr. Hayward in a pair of thick-rimmed Ray Bans. It might also ease the tension he’ll feel when taking on the leadership role this upcoming season. The more the clothes become the focus, the better it will be for the team. Just you wait.
Maybe I’m taking a shot in the dark here. It’s possible the Jazz organization is a little bit too professional for this sort of fashion statement. But perhaps the Jazz’s inability to let go and have fun is translating to rigid, stagnant play on the court. Don’t fashion experts always say the clothes make the man? Or was that a promotional plug to get me to buy new clothes? If so, I’ll gladly sell the $1000 worth of clothes I purchased to look more like Kevin Durant. My wife keeps reminding me that I’m 5-10 with no vertical jump, not exactly a carbon copy of KD. Maybe Jeremy Evans needs some new pants.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of professionalism in pro athletics, but a flashy button-down shirt and a pair of nerdy glasses never hurt anyone. I’m not sure how clothes translate to immediate success in the NBA, but everything I’ve mentioned clearly shows they do. It’s not like anyone is recommending going the Dennis Rodman or Birdman route. We’re just asking for a little more plaid and a little less leather. It’s about time the players treated the fans to some revived fashion anyway, especially if it will help the team avoid answering that all too common question from reporters,“How can this young Jazz core survive against an NBA full of all-star veterans?”
Maybe it’s time to follow Russ and KD’s lead on this one.