On Friday, For The Win spoke with three of the men who helped Sager look his sharpest. All of them focused on the same thing: How good of a person the Turner sideline reporter was and how he made each of them feel like a part of his family. “He always came in here with an amazing amount of energy,” said Pablo Zepeda, the purchasing manager at Miami’s Rex Fabrics, where many of Sager’s zany jacket patterns came from. “He always had a particular vision for what he wanted.”
Are you aware of your team’s record when you wear a tie this season? “I don’t know my record with the tie, but I know that’s being bantered about,” Stevens said. “I also know that, when you lose however many games good teams lose in this league — what is it, if you win 50, you lose 32 — like that’s 32 ways to screw up being superstitious. I’ve lost all my superstitions. If I had any coming in, they’re all gone.”
Fair enough, Coach. But your tie usage rate is off the charts this season. Stevens wore a tie only 17 times during the 81 regular-season games he coached last season or a mere 21 percent of Boston’s schedule. This year, he has gone with a tie in eight of Boston’s 17 games. So why the uptick? “I just really enjoy formal attire,” deadpanned Stevens, who probably would coach in windpants and a team polo if the league allowed it.
You also presumably have enough money now that you don’t really have to wait. Iman Shumpert: Yeah [laughs]. The piece has to be super dope for me to get it knowing everybody’s probably gonna have this or everyone’s hunting for this. I pass on so many of those things because one of my worst fears is coming to a game dressed like somebody else. Has that ever happened? Iman Shumpert: Oh, I’ve seen it happen with multiple teammates. With you? Iman Shumpert: Hell no! Not with me.
Do you think there are any current athlete or celebrity clothing lines that can compare to yours? I think [Oklahoma City Thunder star] Russ [Westbrook] is doing a good job with his Barneys line. It’s what I expect out of Russ and I can appreciate that. At first, people thought he was just doing it for attention, but nah, that’s really how he likes to dress, bro. And I feel that. Iman Shumpert: I remember when I was in New York, Melo would be like, “C’mon, Shump, man! Don’t make me walk into the arena with you like that.” But people started complimenting me all the time, so he left it alone. He was like, “Damn, that kinda opened my eyes. I ain’t realize so many people liked how you dressed. I thought people was gon’ laugh at you. You my little bro, so I was tryna help you out. But I gotta let you rock.”
NBA owners and executives have always walked a tightrope in selling a mostly black league to white America. But the events of the mid-2000s created a perfect storm that threatened the association. “Among the many factors, there were two that help us understand ‘why then?’,” Dr. David J. Leonard, professor of critical culture, gender and race studies at Washington State University and author of After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness told UPROXX. “First, the retirement of Michael Jordan created a racial vacuum in the league. The NBA, and its media partners had successfully created a narrative and image around Jordan as both the face of the league and the embodiment of post-raciality. His retirement left the league without a player who embodying these colorblind narratives. Second, the rise of hip-hop. The NBA wanted to take advantage of the cultural and economic popularity of hip-hop. Over several years, they sought to manage and control this relationship, so that they could simultaneously profit off hip hop while not alienating white fans.”
The new fashion statements from NBA players in the era of the dress code were unique and fascinating. But critically for NBA executives, they weren’t threatening. “Hip-hop’s place within corporate America, it signified streets, ‘ghetto,’ and pathology,” Leonard says. “Westbrook, and others, through their connections with the fashion world, have been able to connect their sartorial choices with industry, with fashion, and with a world of art. Westbrook has been able to paint his sartorial choices as an artistic intervention, a sign of creativity, whereas Iverson and others were seen as expressing ‘thuggery’ and ‘danger.’”