NEW YORK -- The honest athlete is a rare breed.
What the 21st century has given us in terms of access, it’s stripped in humanity. Almost every time we hear in athlete speak, or tweet, we’re conditioned to believe it is part of a larger marketing campaign or just an extension of their concocted brand.
It’s how Derek Jeter can be so beloved while simultaneously being lauded for his privacy, reminding us we know nothing about him. And that conditioning has made it so that when we do see an honest athlete, perhaps a Richard Sherman, we don’t know how to react.
NBA players are possibly the most transparent athletes we have now. On the court, we can see their tattoos, their facial expressions and even what they say. We can dissect a LeBron James and Dwyane Wade postgame chat, or revel in Kevin Durant calling himself “a bad motherf*****.”
We also have their fashion, which was something the NBA took time to recognize at its first ever NBA All-Star weekend fashion show, awkwardly titled “NBA All-Star All-Style.” It was a three-round competition with seven players and five judges, with the winner taking home a diamond bow tie, taped Friday for an airing on Saturday.
Now, this was certainly a made-for-TV event.
NBA groupie and on-retainer funnyman Kevin Hart yukked it up with James in the [cell phone company] lounge. Shaquille O’Neal mildly flirted with host Carrie Keegan during commercial breaks. And the modern day Laurel and Hardy duo of Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were asked to judge, and Barkley couldn’t resist making a “50 Shades of Grey” joke. A movie he, of course, saw with Kenny.
But behind the blinding blue lights and scripted moments, the fashion show gave us an honest peek into the personalities of some NBA stars. After all, the phrase “fashion statement” exists for a reason.
For example, J.R. Smith wore a business outfit that featured a giant fur collar affixed to his dark blue, three-piece suit. Of course, Smith would wear a suit with a giant fur collar into a business meeting. Smith's irrational confidence is a highlight of his personality.
It makes sense Smith would have a personal mantra of “When in doubt, shoot,” because he always aims big. Although it would appear when it comes to fashion, Smith has no doubts he can pull off anything.
DeMarcus Cousins also made his own statement.
The Kings center had to share the stage with Barkley one day after Barkley said Cousins was not accomplished enough to have a say in Sacramento’s coaching hires. And man, did Cousins look uncomfortable.
Whether it was Barkley or another reason, Cousins entered the stage like he had just run in to his ex-girlfriend with her new fiancé. His skinny green cargo pants and beige-brown sweater-coat combination were more functional than fashionable.
Essentially, Cousins just showed up. It was a microcosm of his enigmatic personality. It’s the same guy who can take possessions off on offense and defense, but still seem to care more than any of his other teammates.
Of course, the NBA’s go-to hunk Chandler Parsons was also one of the contestants. His comfort on stage, Parsons also models in his spare time, ran parallel to Parsons’ confidence with women.
He belonged with the supermodels in attendance.
In retrospect, in a way it’s kind of sad the NBA decided to throw this fashion show.
For years, the way basketball players dressed was only noticed by the die-hard subculture of NBA fandom. Now, it’s another corporate-sponsored event that needs three hours to tape a one-hour special.
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Even as stars spin their fashion sense into a greater part of their brand (heck, Wade left Jordan because Li-Ning gave him more creative control) there’s still a certain level of truth that comes with what an NBA player decides to wear.
So even though the NBA’s first ever fashion show was crammed with canned applause and ham-handed product placement, in some ways we still received an unfiltered glimpse into the personalities of some big stars, and that made “All-Star All-Style” alright.