The NBA has long produced the most famous athletes in America. There are many reasons for this. There are fewer players on each team than other sports and the athletes don’t wear hats or helmets so fans get to see the players’ faces more than any other sport. The players themselves have something to do with it as well. The NBA has long been a league that has encouraged flair, personality, and individuality more than any other professional North American sports league.
This personality and style shows up on the court and off it as well. NBA players are and have been for a long time, trendsetters in the world of fashion. From baggy shorts to black socks to modern sneaker culture, American fashion trends have always followed NBA fashion trends.
The NBA has produced more style icons over the years than any other sport with players who were truly on the cutting edge of fashion. Today, that Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook holds that mantle. He has a one-of-a-kind fashion sense and even has his own fashion line. With his sartorial choices, Westbrook is the latest to join a prestigious list of NBA styles icons.
The pure variety and adventurousness of Westbrook’s style over the years are what make him a style icon. He has seemingly tried every type and style of outfit and made it look cool. Westbrook has taken individual style elements and made them into incredible outfits. He will wear shorts with suits, shiny jackets, nerd glasses, denim on denim, camouflage leopard pants, or even capris with green socks. No matter what the elements, he always looks like a million bucks.
From his college days at UCLA through his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder and now in Houston, he has brought his unique sense of style around the country and has been unapologetically Russell Westbrook from day one. This is what has made him the NBA style icon of the last decade.
You cannot have a list of the NBA players with the greatest style of all time without having the Greatest of All-Time. Jordan is still the GOAT (sorry LeBron lovers) when it comes to on the court play. He is also in the conversation for the NBA GOAT style icon as well. Throughout the 1990s, Michael Jordan was pure dominance on the court, winning 6 championships. Off the court, he was the most marketable player in NBA history and a hero to people around the world. It is not a coincidence there was a whole marketing campaign based around wanting to “Be Like Mike”.
From a style standpoint, almost everything Jordan did ended up in the American fashion culture. His biggest contribution though was the sneakers. His line of Air Jordan Nike sneakers set the tone for modern sneaker culture and showed that basketball sneakers could also be high-fashion footwear. This concept was summed up best by the Spike Lee character Mars Blackmon in yet another Jordan marketing campaign when he said, “It’s gotta be da shoes!”.
New York is the fashion capital of the U.S. and along with Paris and Milan, arguably the fashion capital of the world. No New York player has ever had more style in this fashion mecca than former New York Knicks guard and current television announcer Walt “Clyde” Frazier. It is no surprise that GQ magazine has referred to him as “The NBA’s Greatest Style God”.
Today’s NBA fans might only know Frazier as the Knicks announcer with the crazy, loud suits. And, while this is definitely an aspect of his style, his outfits in the 70s are where he really shined. The man who made Puma sneakers popular was known to wear a dapper pinstripe suit, a fedora and a hug mink fur coat around New York City. A look like this could only be pulled off by a true Style God.
It is hard to stand out as a style icon on a team with Michal Jordan on it but for Dennis Rodman, standing out has never been the problem. “The Worm”, as he is affectionately known is the best rebounder in NBA history and probably its most outlandish dresser as well. In the 1990s, his biggest claim to fame though was his hair which he died a different color every week or so to fit his style and mood at the time.
Rodman’s outfits defied convention as well. With piercing everywhere, Rodman loved leather, chains, and metal. He was also known for barely-there shirts which showed off his wide array of tattoos. And, sometimes, Rodman’s outfit even defied gender. He was so comfortable in his fashion choices that he was even known to wear a dress on occasion.
While the other players on this list have elevated style to a very high level, Iverson took the style of the streets and brought it to the NBA. In his one year at Georgetown and his decade with the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen Iverson’s clothing truly reflected the street, hip hop style that was so prevalent in the culture. While this earned him millions of fans, it also drew the ire of NBA commissioner David Stern who implemented a dress code to stop Iverson and others from “tarnishing” the NBA image.
Baggy sweatsuits, dew rags, old chains, and sagging jeans were what the kids in the inner cities were wearing in the 90s as were the rappers who were influencing style. Iverson unapologetically brought this style to the NBA as a reflection of what was happening in fashion and fans loved him for it.
While he may not have won as much on the court as his rival Bill Russell, Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain won off the court more than almost anyone else in history. The 1960s were a hugely influential time in fashion and not many people had more influence on men’s style at this time than Wilt. Wilt always looked good and, allegedly, there are over 20,000 women who agree.
There are not many 7-foot tall fashion icons but hey, there are not many people in history like Wilt Chamberlain The NBA’s only 100 points in a game scorer was known for rocking the most stylish leisure suits of the day with funky shirts underneath open down to his navel. It is bold choices like these that made Wilt a trailblazer for all NBA fashion icons to follow all the way thought NBA history and up to Russell Westbrook today.