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From the Court to the Catwalk, NBA Stars’ Sartorial Style Earns MVP Status

The NBA is rapidly becoming one of fashion’s reigning MVPs.

While basketball hasn’t always been en vogue,  retail analytics firm Edited has made the case that the National Basketball Association’s on and off-the-court style is more influential than any other U.S. sports organization.

“The implementation of a minimum standard dress code in 2005 by former NBA commissioner, David Stern, can be attributed to kicking off the fashion face-offs we’ve seen around the league,” explained Edited analyst Krista Corrigan.

Stern’s rule has forced many players to step up their wardrobe choices for their highly televised arrivals at sports arenas. These moments have become a sort of catwalk for the NBA’s finest—and most flamboyant—who relish the opportunity for a photo op that can play well across social media.

“The attention has fashion houses clamoring to dress high-profile players and stylists working around the clock to create ensembles,” Corrigan asserted.

Fans have begun looking to all-stars like Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, James Harden, Dwayne Wade and D’Angelo Russell not just for their athletic prowess, but for their sartorial sense as well. Players have been snapped in designer wares from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Dsquared2, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford, Valentino and more.

Basketball’s fashion renaissance is unique to the sport, Corrigan said. “Though there are football players known for their fashion choices, like Odell Beckham Jr. and Cam Newton, the frequency of games and higher focus on individual players gives the NBA the title of the most fashionable league.”

The NBA’s newfound fashion status has earned players front row seats at Fashion Week, Corrigan said, pointing to the Houston Rockets’ Westbrook and Harden as recent examples. Basketball influencers even graced the catwalk at Men’s Fashion Week this summer.

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The confluence of sport and fashion has made an impression on designers, too. “NBA players undoubtedly draw inspiration from fashion houses with their pre-game getups, and the boom in athleisure trends has blurred the lines even more between high fashion, streetwear and basketball,” Corrigan said.

Designers including Palm Angels, Dolce & Gabbana and Neil Barrett have fully embraced the basketball jersey as a statement piece, flooding their runways with iterations of the oversized sleeveless tank.

“Though only a couple products were introduced into the market this time last year, that number has nearly quadrupled for Fall 2019 and the average price has climbed from $175 last year to $360 this year thanks to high-priced options at Farfetch and Supreme,” Edited said in a statement.

Similarly, “longline” basketball shorts have also entered the style lexicon. Edited claimed to see a “steady 14 percent uptick in the investment of basketball shorts within the luxury market” from last year.

The popularity of streetwear has also led to a rise in hoodies within the luxury market, Edited said, with arrivals up 21 percent year-over-year. Marked by bright colors, eye-catching graphics and logos, and all-over prints, Edited expects to see the trend continue into 2020 and beyond.

The wearable nature of these comfort-first styles lends to their mass appeal. Unlike many high fashion looks, which are difficult or impractical for the average consumer to replicate in daily life, these athletic-inspired ensembles play into already pervasive trends like the ongoing love affair with athleisure.

Individual players have also capitalized on their growing influence at mass retail.

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love launched his first men’s wear collection with Banana Republic in October 2018, while the Boston Celtics’ Jason Tatum debuted a line with Abercrombie & Fitch earlier this year.

Express has also curated a full line of men’s wear with NBA stars, headlining the campaign with Victor Oladipo, Trae Young and Jamal Murray.