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When former commissioner David Stern implemented the NBA dress code in late 2005, he effectively outlawed a 20-plus year synergy between hip-hop and basketball that had become rooted within the culture of the sport.
The connection had become symbiotic over time, and could be traced back to 1984, with Kurtis Blow referencing Julius Erving and Moses Malone in his hit single ‘Basketball’. NBA players were a source of inspiration for the hip-hop artists of the day, which gave them an increased social influence and notoriety.
Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, the two spheres of popular culture grew ever closer, sharing much of the same clothing and lifestyle. They would often have shared similar social-economic experiences, with fashion acting as their means of expression, rebelling against the oppressiveness faced by previous generations.
During the 1990s, television shows such as The Fresh Prince and Arrested Development would provide a heavy influence on this expressiveness and individualism. Cameo’s very loud, colourful attire and ‘flip-up’ sunglasses, along with the likes of Philip Banks and his power suit style, seeped into hearts and minds of a cross-generation of hip-hop and basketball stars.
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GiveMeSport previously detailed the growing significance of sneaker culture during this era — with the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James spear-heading the shoe game — illustrating how it all interlinked with the emerging cultural revolution that was happening among ‘80s and ‘90s youths.
The tipping point for Stern’s radical announcement may have been the influence of Jermain O’Neal, and most notably Allen Iverson, who were causing a stir with their fashion choices, the braids, do-rags, long chains and baggy clothing, that had become symbolic of hip-hop’s developing ties to the NBA.
Another breaking point may well have been the mass brawl that occurred during a 2004 game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons – now infamously known as the ‘Malice at the Palace’. While others speculate it could have been the Team USA Olympic dinner in 2004, where the players turned up in what Bulls coach Phil Jackson described as ‘prison garb’.
2005 brought this movement to a swift end. The players entered arenas on game night, sat on the side-lines, and conducted official NBA business. However, it was met by some resistance from the likes of Paul Pierce, Stephen Jackson and Iverson himself.
Nonetheless, it did begin to change the way players viewed the game. A new level of professionalism was welcomed by stars such as LeBron James, who was in his sophomore year and garnered a lot of attention, with his opinion carrying a lot of weight.
Adam Silver relaxed the dress code when he became commissioner in 2014, but by then the mind-set of NBA players had shifted towards using their platforms to showcase freedom of expression, something not only rooted in hip-hop culture but also in entrepreneurship.
This style and customisation also plays a significant role within NBA 2K22. While you’re making your mark on the court in MyCAREER, you can also look the part off it. Head for the Neighbourhood or The City to find your custom MyPLAYER on the street court. The t-shirt creator option will give you the control to modify your MyPLAYER’s outfits away from the arena, too.
There are many current players you could mention that have propelled this fashion-forward culture into a new era, but it’s Russell Westbrook who’s arguably had the most furore around his statement outfits.
To name a few: Westbrook’s leopard print jacket on the front of Sports Illustrated in 2016, the official photographer vest when he played Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors also in 2016, and most recently wearing a skirt during New York fashion week in September 2021.
The synergy between hip-hop and basketball remains as recognisable as ever, but with today’s flag-bearers taking it to a whole new level. And you can now make use of many of these iconic fashion brands with NBA 2K22 to bring your MyPLAYER’s unique style to life.
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