Paolo Banchero raised the right sleeve of the black hooded sweatshirt to point out the green ink of the tattoo on his forearm. His long arms make up the bulk of the 7-foot 1 wingspan that positioned him as one of the top prospects in Thursday’s NBA draft, but they also tell a story.
His right arm is filled with tattoos that portray crucial parts of his upbringing and make claims about his style: the Space Needle and the rest of the skyline of his hometown Seattle sit on his right shoulder; “19th and Spruce” is written on her inner bicep as a nod to the Boys and Girls Club where she started playing basketball; and on his inner forearm is his Seattle-based friend’s Skyblue Collective clothing brand logo, which he often sports and says it’s “a part of him.”
Banchero, 19, who led the Duke men’s basketball team to the Final Four this year, uses his tattoos and clothes as a form of personal expression, a subtle way to send messages. At a pre-draft style event at a Brooklyn barber shop on Tuesday, he wore an all-black luxury designer’s suit, which he said was modest compared to what he would have put together on draft night.
On Thursday, he wore a bright purple suit while the Orlando Magic selected him with the no. 1 absolute choice in the draft.
Banchero and many of the top players in the Draft 2022 class already have a public persona, but it will be immensely boosted if an NBA team signs them. While playing well and winning leagues are key to how an NBA player is perceived, style and image come second. After all, this is the league where Los Angeles Lakers forward / center Anthony Davis made his unibrow a celebrity in his own right, even recording the phrase “Fear The Brow” in 2012.
NBA athletes made it easy for fans to appreciate their sense of fashion by turning their pre-game entrances into their own version of the Met Gala. Fans on social media quickly share photos and videos of players’ 30-second walks in the locker room from team cars or buses in NBA arenas. GQ magazine has crowned Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the NBA’s most stylish player of 2022, above Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, because “the boy cares about getting dressed.”
Jalen Williams, Santa Clara University forward and potential first-round draft pick, is looking forward to the pre-match runway. On his cell phone, he has multiple search tabs open for different clothing brands. He laughed and pointed to G League Ignite’s Jaden Hardy, another potential 2022 draft pick, when he saw them wearing the same black MNML brand sweatpants at Tuesday’s event.
Williams said he tried to balance being aware of what he was wearing while having fun with his style, because he knew he would be judged by his clothes and looks. He incorporates clothes from less popular brands into his wardrobe to encourage those who might admire him to feel “comfortable in their own skin”.
“I think it’s the biggest thing that’s misunderstood in fashion,” said Williams, 21. “You feel like you have to please anyone or appear a certain way, but whatever you like is what you like.”
Williams said she also tried to support small brands and promote social justice issues through her clothes. She sported a jacket from Tattoo’d Cloth, which she made custom embroidered jackets for some potential customers, and tagged the brand in an Instagram story. On June 11, she wore a T-shirt featuring Malcolm X and often wears different types of clothing in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I think as athletes, it’s important to inspire people and somehow trigger a change and use our platform,” Williams said. “Sometimes, even not saying anything but wearing clothes is really important.”
Williams’ style also goes beyond her outfits. In her sophomore year of high school, she decided to wear a single braid while keeping the rest of her hair non-braided, hanging the braid at her eye level. This has become a popular style in the NBA
“I’m not going to say I started it, but I may have started it,” he joked.
Fashion has long played a significant role in Williams’ life, ever since his childhood when he started using My Player mode in the NBA 2K video game, where users create players and can shape them to hang out in a virtual park. She takes her My Player fashion choices seriously.
“You can’t go up to the park in brown and gray,” Williams said, mocking the generic outfit given to the created players. “No brown shirts!”
The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Williams with Thursday’s 12th draft pick. She wore a dark pinstripe suit and large sunglasses with her famous single braid draped over them.
For two-foot center Chet Holmgren, who played for the Gonzagas and should have been a top three pick on Thursday, being stylish was a growing challenge: he never managed to find clothes that fit his long build. and lanky, and could not afford the tailored suits she adored. He ridiculed his most impressive childhood outfit: Nike socks, basic shirts, basketball shorts, and basketball shoes. In high school, Holmgren said, his style skyrocketed when he turned to resale websites and brands that had clothes in large and tall sizes. Now, he is confident that he is the hottest prospect in this class of draft.
“In my opinion, I’m the boldest guy besides what I wear,” said Holmgren. He further explained that fashion wasn’t just about the pieces a person wore.
“You might spend $ 10,000 on a dress, but you might have a junk dress,” she said. “You may have the right pieces, but if you can’t put them together, the outfit won’t be great.”
Like Williams, Holmgren is looking forward to the NBA pre-game runway and isn’t worried about his style choices.
“I feel like I don’t really miss it when I put on pants,” said Holmgren. “So whatever I’m wearing, I’ll be fine.”
Holmgren was enlisted second overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder. His diamond chain, which contained a pair of dice, glittered in the Barclays Center as he walked towards the stage. He chose the nuts for the chain he said, because he was “great to bet on himself. “