01.29.05

Nazr’s New Clothes

Posted in Basketball, Fashion at 12:01 am by

While we’re on the topic of image makeovers for the NBA, here’s a different one than Peter Vescey had in mind, courtesy of the New York Times’ Vincent Mallozzi.

Stannding in front of a mirror in his Manhattan hotel room last week, Nazr Mohammed of the Knicks buttoned up a button-down that splashed the colors of his current employer.

Mohammed’s shirt, a loud blend of orange and blue stripes with the word Knicks and the team’s logo emblazoned in neat vertical rows down the lapel, is part of the N.B.A.’s latest fashion trend: colorfully patterned, collared dress shirts representing each of the league’s 30 teams.

“Stripes are in,” said Mohammed, folding up the cuffs of his shirt to find that his team’s logos were printed there as well. “It’s a smart idea.”

After an era when some players sported bandannas and oversized jeans that mirrored hip-hop’s gritty culture, the N.B.A. has introduced a timely line of threads, stitched together by Headmaster, a sports-apparel company based in Santa Ana, Calif.

Can the fancy shirts – which the league hopes will enjoy the kind of sizzle at the cash resister that its line of retro jerseys enjoyed a few years ago – go beyond making a fashion statement and help dress up the league’s image?

“The league has been scarred by different incidents,” said Kevin Willis, the veteran center of the Atlanta Hawks. “Shirts like these can certainly set a tone, especially for the younger fan, because it’s clean and it’s cool.”

Willis, 42 and in his 21st N.B.A. season, is perhaps the league’s most dapper elder statesman. He has seen the N.B.A.’s evolving wardrobe, from Pat Riley’s Armani suits to Michael Jordan’s Nike-swooshed golf shirts to Allen Iverson’s baggy shorts and matching do-rags.

“Image and professionalism are all very vital from a marketing and sponsorship standpoint,” said Willis, who co-owns Willis & Walker, a design studio in Atlanta that sells denim jeans.

“As players, we make enough money to buy nice clothes, and dressing properly sends the message that you have an idea about what this job means to you, and what being a professional is all about.”

Though Mohammed acknowledged that the new shirts were “a different type of item” than what the league had marketed in the past, he also said he felt the N.B.A. was embracing changing hip-hop style. “As far as timing goes, I think it’s just a coincidence,” he said. “These shirts just happen to be in style.”

Mohammed and Willis pointed to the influence of the music and movie industries as reasons for the N.B.A.’s shifting clothing style.

The rapper Jay-Z, it was noted, wore a button-down shirt with stripes in a video, and made this point on “The Black Album,” which was released in November 2003: “And I don’t wear jerseys, I’m 30-plus.”

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