Green is a fixture of the postgame playoff podium these days — a perch reserved for teams’ most important and visible stars. It’s become a platform for players’ individual styles and fashion statements. “I have a clothing stylist now. I wore mostly suits last season, whereas this season I’ve been mixing it up a bit more. My stylist is Victor Michel. He does a great job. He’s out of L.A. It’s something I wanted to try out and it’s been great for me. I enjoy it. I love fashion. It keeps me out of the stores — which is where I always used to be — which is cool. I actually met him my rookie year and we became close friends. This season I crossed that bridge.”
Allen Iverson left a big imprint on the NBA. Basketball fans remember his reckless playing style, his devastating crossover and his liberal views on “practice.” But it has become clear that his biggest legacy is this: Now everyone wears sleeves. The NBA’s sleeve revolution began in the early 2000s when then Philadelphia 76ers trainer, Lenny Currier, thought Iverson needed added compression. He obtained a roll of “tubular sleeve” and measured a length that would stretch from Iverson’s bicep to his wrist. Before long, Iverson was sporting sleeves that matched his jersey. “He started to wear it and felt very comfortable with it,” said Currier, who is now the director of sports medicine at Villanova.
Today, 65% of NBA players who have played this season wear at least one shooting sleeve or one legging, according to a Wall Street Journal photo analysis of 424 players. The Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat lead the league in covering up appendages, with 28 sleeves or leggings worn by players on their respective rosters.
Westbrook was born to dress people in the same way he was born to drop 40 points on opposing teams. “It’s funny. If you go to my house and look in my closet – I’m not lying – I have seven different piles of clothes, each for a different friend,” Westbrook says, sipping a juice at Fred’s, the sleek restaurant above the Barneys Madison Avenue store. When he isn’t playing ball or designing clothes, Westbrook is outfitting his buddies, operating as a sort of Santa of style. “All my friends, I send it to them, and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah. This is me.’ They don’t have to ask, I just send it to them: That’s for you, that’s for you, that’s for you. …A lot of times, we’ll go out, and I’ll think to myself, ‘Damn, I used to have a shirt like that.’ Then I realize, that’s my shirt!” Until recently, the dominant fashion in the NBA was a rejection of fashion, or at least high fashion. Players tended to favor jerseys, T-shirts, warm-ups, and do-rags. Then, in 2005, NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to institute a dress code to clean up what he regarded as the league’s thuggish image. His decision, which some criticized for its undercurrent of white paternalism, initially caused a furor. But it worked better than he could have imagined and sent the league rocketing off in a new direction.
Ten years ago on Oct. 17, 2005, NBA players received a surprising memo from then-commissioner David Stern. A league-wide dress code was going into effect. No more baggy jeans. No fitted baseball caps. No XXXL white T-shirts. No Timberland boots. Oversized necklaces – even ones with religious pendants – were also out. Players were not happy. Some jokingly called it the “A.I. rule” after Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson. Some thought it was racist toward black players or a slap at the hip-hop community. “I remember a lot of guys being upset with it,” said San Antonio Spurs forward David West who was then playing for the New Orleans Hornets. “A lot of guys thought they were being too intrusive. … I just remember felling like, ‘Damn, I’m a grown man and someone is telling me what to wear.’ ”