Swag can be defined in an almost infinite number of ways. It is an abstract term taken by some to mean confidence, skill or style. Most abstract concepts need to be applied in a consistent manner in order to have any relevance, but swag can’t be boxed in like that. It has to be different. It has to be infectious.
You can always look at a player and tell they have it, but you might not be able to say why. Swag exists in a Blake Griffin posterization, in a Kobe Bryant game-winner, and in an Andrew Bynum afro. It makes the NBA tick by making its players accessible and giving fans something to emulate. But who has the most swag? Is it the best players, the superstars or the players who have the best off-court demeanor? For me, on-court play has more importance. But you can’t ignore the off-court swag, either.
Here I will discuss the 10 players who I consider to have the most swag in the NBA. Remember that this list is anything from definitive. Disagreement is encouraged, but try to think about as you read, what is swag to you?
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10. KYRIE IRVING
The next generation face of NBA swag. You could say this is a homer pick, but I wholeheartedly believe that Kyrie Irving has all the talent and the balls to take over the league in a few years. He’s managed to become commercially relevant outside of Cleveland without being LeBron in his Uncle Drew campaign for Pepsi MAX. He forced media attention to a Cavaliers team that didn’t have one single nationally televised game last year by steamrolling the league, establishing himself as a fourth-quarter stud and winning the Rookie of the Year. Then he turned 20. Irving, if he can just stay healthy, will end the season as a top-five point guard. He’ll spend the rest of his career fluctuating between numbers one and five while giving the entire city of Cleveland its greatest shot at national media relevancy in years. The only modern athlete to be able to do that is currently the best basketball player in the world, which is good company for a 20-year-old to find himself in.
9. JEREMY LIN
Lin’s inclusion on this list speaks to the tremendous ability society has to create an image of swagger in a player. The Linsanity movement took a Harvard grad off of riding pine and into prime time faster than I’ve ever personally witnessed. A lot of it has to do with the media market of New York City, of course, and the classic underdog profile that Lin brought along with his sudden success. But credit him for playing as big as his profile became long enough for him to become a household name.
He’s a point guard that’s wonderful at running the pick-n-roll, and is the player that sunk a thousand columns over the summer when he ended up with the Houston Rockets. He will always be followed, to some degree, by those who saw even part of his rise to fame. He has the base following to display that he has his own swag, but the situational swag given to him by his rise will never leave him. His ascent was too dramatic.