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The Fashion World of the NBA

In honor of the National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season starting last week on Tuesday, now seems like the perfect time to break down the sport that holds an incredible connection to the fashion world. The NBA has proven to be more than just a game, it’s a lifestyle.

Photo Courtesy of nba.com


On game day, players usually go through a tunnel and are able to show off their fashion when they show up at their arena. NBA players have the most leeway with what they can wear on game day; not every professional sports league has that luxury. For example, NHL Players have to wear suits on game day, and while they still do their best to express their personality and style, there’s only so much you can do when you are required to wear a suit.


Impact of Fashion


NBA fashion pulls from mainstream trends in society but also creates new trends that society eats up. This attire has always been very important, dating all the way back to the 70’s. NBA players had a strong impact in solidifying streetwear in the mainstream.



From Then to Now


As previously stated, NBA fashion got its start in the 1970s with key players like Walt Frazier and Wilt Chamberlain. These players were the pioneers when it came to NBA fashion. The fashion during this time reflected everything the 70’s outfits were, filled with vibrant colors and patterns.


Moving into the 80’s, players were given some restrictions on what they could wear. However, this meant they needed to get creative and they decided to express their style with fashion decisions on the court. This era is when we started to see short shorts and high socks on the court. Key players from this time are Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.


The late 80’s and 90’s were huge decades for the NBA. Part of this came from the Chicago Bulls drafting Michael Jordan in ‘84. This decade,

known as the “hip hop era,” was when streetwear started to take off. Baggy pants, chains, oversized shirts, and jerseys were staples.

Photo Courtesy of medium.com


We continued to see some of these fashion choices carry into the 2000s. For example, all the baggy suits in the 2003 Draft are pictured to the left. In 2005, NBA Commissioner David Stern enforced a dress code that would help promote the image of the NBA. This dress code forced players to wear business casual attire.


Courtesy of Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images


Once we hit the 2010s, we started to see players pushing fashion boundaries to truly express their personalities. This is also the era where fashion partnerships start to increase and designer attire starts to become more normalized.



Fashion Partnerships within the NBA


Photo Courtesy of nba.com



Partnerships between NBA players and teams with fashion brands are widespread and always growing. It started with shoe brands and the latest wave is with luxury brands.


Some recent partnerships are

  • When the Cleveland Cavaliers hired artist Daniel Arsham in 2020. Later on, Arsham helped plan a collaboration with Tiffany & Co. in 2022 for the All-Star Weekend. This collab included a $575 basketball in the signature Tiffany blue.

  • The LA Lakers collaborated with Rhugi Villasenor’s LA-based company RHUDE to create a line of vintage Lakers shirts that represent the lifestyle and culture of Los Angeles.


While the NBA is taking the lead, other sports are slowly taking after this. An example of this is when Major League Soccer (MLS) hired designer Guillermo Andrade to be a creative advisor. Andrade specializes in luxury streetwear.


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