When the NBA started enforcing a dress code more than a decade ago, it was largely seen as a thinly-veiled plot to dial down the prevalence of urban street-wear so that the league could preserve its image among its white viewership. No one could’ve anticipated then that it would help launch a whole new subset of the fashion industry.
NBA players have embraced high fashion the way few could have expected when baggy shirts, jerseys, and jeans were the norm, but today basketball players tend to stay on the leading edge of top trends and designers.
Today, when NBA stars arrive at their respective arenas, it’s its own form a red carpet debut, with photographers and camera-people lining up to find out what kind of audacious outfits they’ll be wearing. So it’s no surprise that on Sports Illustrated’s annual Fashionable 50 list, which polls stylists, fashion experts, and others, NBA stars landed four of the top 10 spots.
10. Maria Sharapova
9. Andre Iguodala
8. Lewis Hamilton
7. Dwyane Wade
6. Henrik Lundqvist
5. LeBron James
4. Roger Federer
3. Serena Williams
2. Victor Cruz
1. Russell Westbrook
None of these are terribly surprising, especially Russ seizing the No. 1 spot, especially after the year he’s had. He’s consistently been of the sports world’s boldest taste-makers throughout his career. As for LeBron James landing at No. 5, it’s pretty impressive considering where he was back in, say, 2004.
And basketball players weren’t just top-heavy on the list either. James Harden, Mike Conley, Tyson Chandler (aka The Mad Hatter), Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and Carmelo Anthony all made appearances as well. It’s just the latest indication of how much the sport has grown over the past decade.