NBA players are uniquely visible athletes. As baseball dwindles in popularity and football remains a helmeted and faceless sport, basketball players remain some of the most recognized people in the U.S. and in the world. They are constantly in the public eye, and, subsequently, so are their clothes.
Famous people have always driven fashion trends, but perhaps no group has pushed and reflected what’s hot in menswear more than NBA players. From Allen Iverson in the early aughts to now, basketball has influenced men’s fashion for the last 25 years and then some. In that spirit, here are 10 of the most memorable NBA looks of all time.
Allen Iverson’s NBA Dress Code, 2004
Iverson’s looks were considered “controversial” at the time, like this oversized Milwaukee Bucks jersey and hat while he was employed by the Philadelphia 76ers, but we’d argue that he essentially spearheaded NBA players’ off-court style.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James’s Oversized Suits, 2003
The NBA Draft is the first chance for new prospects to show off their off-court style, and old photos don’t disappoint if you’re looking for comedy over inspiration. LeBron’s all white and Melo’s strange, almost linen-looking gray are so odd, and made even more so given that they fit like extra-oversized trench coats. Imagine how much material, how much fabric it would take to visually shrink someone who is 6’8”.
Kevin Durant Nerd-Core Backpack, 2011
In 2011, “Geek Chic” was the prevailing style amongst NBA players. This usually meant thick frames without prescription lenses and pattern button ups buttoned to the top, but Kevin Durant took it a step further with his backpack. What a choice to wear a backpack while sitting, and to lock it up across your chest like there’s homework in the back.
Russell Westbrook’s Photographer Vest, 2016
Russell Westbrook arrived wearing an "official photographer" vest.
— ESPN (@espn) November 4, 2016
Speaking of Durant, Russell Westbrook here, in 2016, trolled his former teammate with this outfit he wore to their first game as opponents. Kevin Durant had shown a public interest in photography, and Russ took that to heart apparently. Russ is a man of many looks, but this one sticks the most for its pettiness alone. The style — which also featured a tastefully fitted white ensemble — stands out, though.
Latrell Sprewell’s Spinner Shoes, 2001
Latrell Sprewell did plenty wrong in his career, but one thing he did right was include spinning rims on his signature sneakers. The Dada Supreme’s — the original Supreme — left a spinning wheel on the back. Fun, funny, whimsical, and oh so memorable.
JR Smith’s Supreme Shooting Sleeve, 2017
Speaking of Supreme… JR Smith was one of two players in the 2017 season to rock a Supreme shooting sleeve, along with Kelly Oubre Jr. The crackdown from the NBA, again, came pretty quickly — JR, along with the rest of the league, was never allowed to wear a branded sleeve like this one again, but it remains one of the memorable moments where streetwear got into the league.
Tim Duncan’s Jean Shorts, 2002
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 12, 2016
Tim Duncan, one of the most respected and accomplished basketball players of all time, has a famously infamous style. When accepting the league’s MVP Award, he sported knee-length jean shorts and Air Jesus belt sandals. You have to respect it!
Kobe Bryant’s All-White Outfit, 2010
It's really the 10 year anniversary of the Kobe Bryant 'White Hot' photo shoot & story for the LA Times
(photographer: Ruven Afanador) pic.twitter.com/RoAPIhSsTy
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) May 3, 2020
Kobe Bryant wore this for a feature shoot with the Los Angeles Times in 2010, when he was at the height of his powers, under the theme of “White Hot.” Social media was not yet at its height, and still this photoshoot has managed to live on because of how eye-catching it was. The headband under the hat, the unexplained wristband. A bowtie. So many questions here.
LeBron James’ Suit With Shorts, 2018
In 2018, presumably as an act of camaraderie, LeBron James bought the entire roster of the Cleveland Cavaliers Thom Browne shorts suits for the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. At the very least, between the shorts, tall socks, and combat boots, it is very bold.
Nick Young’s Yeezy Sneakers, 2015
Speaking of bold choices, Nick Young made one to wear the Yeezy Boost 750s during a 2015 game. Kanye West claimed to have designed these shoes with athletic activity in mind, and Young certainly performed that night, but it’s hard to see anything besides Moon Uggs on a professional athlete here.