Back To The NBA Journey, Week Two: Character Customization

NBA Players have always had more freedom of individual expression due to their visibility. They have now been given more freedom in fashion, and guys like Russell Westbrook take every inch of that liberty. (Complex)

The 2018-19 NBA season is underway. The Association still believes that its destination will be another championship for the Golden State Warriors. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the season as a whole. Last year was wonderful, so let's return to the path. Let's go back to the Journey.

Song of the Week: The Time - "Cool"

Individual expression is what makes basketball different from the other sports. Players' bodies and faces are the most visible, thus allowing them to include their personalities in everything from celebrating big plays, contesting calls and their overall style on and off the court. This is similar to video games, especially some of the current ones like Dark Souls and even the various game from 2K Sports, where full character customization is available. Creating a character adds more uniqueness to each player's story.

The NBA has made room for style, particularly since the 1970s. The post-Civil Rights era and resulting funk and disco movements meant Afros and mutton chop sideburns for a lot of players. Walt Frazier stands out as a man whose unique taste in fashion as a player for the Knicks is still as prevalent as ever as he now is a commentator for Knicks broadcasts. The pregame and postgame outfits give players and coaches the opportunity to dress however they want to.

Then on October 17, 2005, then-commissioner David Stern announced an NBA dress code rule. The more hip-hop began to infuse with the NBA, the more the players who are products of that culture began to dress as such. Apparently, this was seen as terrible for the Association's marketing image, as it was two years removed from the "Malice at the Palace" — a fight between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers that spilled over into the stands with players engaging with fans on national television. As the NBA scrambled to do damage control, this dress code rule was a byproduct of that.

Allen Iverson, who some feel was a main target for the NBA dress code, is shown here in an outfit similar to what the hip-hop generation was wearing the previous decade. (Slam Online)

Gone were the throwback jerseys, headbands, oversized jeans and the rest. Replacing that were collared shirts and still oversized pants — just slacks instead of jeans. The 2000s were a time in which urban fashion and hardcore rap became more popular. Rap was the culture and the players dressed like it. But players acquiesced and still found a way to infuse their personalities into their better wardrobe choices. That had more to do with the changing of fashion in culture as opposed to some dress code rule. For example, the rule basically eliminated wearing throwback jerseys, but those were already being phased out of closets anyway.

Ignoring the obvious social and somewhat bigoted tones that dress code rule is based in once we consider the majority demographic of players and the majority demographic of team owners and executives, hip-hop is still at the forefront of fashion and style in the NBA. Players still dress ready to party, with a runway flare that ranges from business to nightclub, and the Association has fully embraced it along with the music. As more basketball ads have today's rap playing in the background, the NBA has had no choice but to welcome and appreciate the myriad of fashion choices. There was even a fashion show during the All-Star break. Players such as the Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr, Sacramento's Iman Shumpert and last year's MVP James Harden have risen to the forefront of eclecticism in their styles.

And then there is Russell Westbrook, who inspired this post, as the player whose individualism is most expressed in his choice of clothes.

The NBA relaxing on its dress code rules has allowed for this wonderful infusion of style. And with the Association making it okay for players to wear any color of sneakers, we should see more outrageous and incredible shoe selections in addition to what players wear to and from the arenas. We should applaud the NBA for not standing in the way of cultural changes, but embracing them and allowing their players to express themselves. That's what this game is all about.

Week Two Blurbs

  • Blake Griffin scored 50 points, including the game-winning layup and free throw to beat the Sixers last Tuesday. It was Griffin's best game in a few years, and his explosive start to the season has proven he is still capable at playing at an All-Star level. Does this mean the odds are favorable that the Detroit Pistons will make the playoffs?
  • This week's Hooper Appreciation Blurb goes to Chicago's Zach LaVine. As of Monday, LaVine is fifth in scoring, putting up 29.3 points per game. This is remarkable because the two-time Slam Dunk champion is now over a year removed from tearing ligaments in his knee. Good to see him returning to his potential and getting better as a player.
  • As if Steph Curry hasn't already destroyed our philosophy on long distance shooting, he has hit 46 threes as of Monday. If he were a team, he'd be second in the NBA by himself. The best and most electrifying shooter ever has optimized range shooting in a game that once made it paramount to get as close to the basket as possible.
  • Speaking of the Warriors, I can't let this week's Journey post go by without mentioning the team jamming to a remix of Fergie's questionable rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at last year's All-Star Game. Fergie's husband demanded an apology from Draymond Green, who could be seen laughing at Fergie while she sang. Instead, this remix was played in the Warriors' locker room after beating the Knicks. The Warriors are as wonderfully arrogant as they come, and at least Fergie was a good sport about it.
  • And of course, as I had finished this post and considered another week in the Journey done, the Warriors score 92 points in the first half Monday against the Bulls. Klay Thompson hit 10 of his record 14 threes in that first half. This team, though not filled with all the best players, is constructed as perfectly as we have ever seen. Monday night showed why they still are the destination of our NBA Journey.

That's Week Two in the books. The Journey continues. Happy NBA, folks.

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