Sports: Athletes & Fashion

Uniforms are a quintessential aspect of professional sports. Teams use them to differentiate between players on the field. Fans buy replicas of their favorite teams’ jerseys to show support (and maybe attempt to live out some childhood fantasies). But the central idea behind a team uniform is just that: uniformity.

Each major sports league in the US (fine, and Canada) have very strict rules on what articles of clothing or accessories may be worn in addition to the league-directed outfit. Aside from keeping the sport safe for all participating parties or whatever, the problem with these stuffy uniform restrictions is that they really prohibit any of the athletes from showing any on-field personality. Which is a major issue.

In order to get my fix of outrageous people doing outrageous things (since I am NOT going to engage in any Kardashian-related material (I’m resisting the obvious Lamar Odom joke)), I am forced to turn my attention to the athletes’ off-field dress code. How do the superstars of Major League Baseball dress when they step off the diamond? Boring, apparently. Those guys basically live their entire lives with hat-hair. What about those hard-nosed hockey players? Any attempts to find pictorial examples (aka a Google images search) resulted in a mix between “Jersey Shore apparel” and “The Sopranos extra”. What about America’s darling sports league, the NFL? Aside from a few choice examples (Broadway Joe Namath’s fur coats, Tom Brady and his infamous Uggs, Tim Tebow’s fully-clothed underwear ads), most football players seem to generally dress like they are either en route to/from the gym.

I started to despair. With all of the time spent in uniform and team-issued apparel, do ALL athletes gradually lose their sense of self-expression? I still had basketball. And much like the 2011-2012 NBA regular season, I found everything I wanted, and more. Like TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager.

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Seriously?!

As it turns out, basketball players are full of style and quirkiness. Apparently the combination of a basketball player’s ridiculous proportions (likely upcoming-No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis from Kentucky is 6’10”, 220lbs – good luck to whoever makes his draft-day suit!) and the ridiculous contracts that NBA players command can make for some extravagant, custom-made clothes.

Miami Heat forward and NBA superduperstar LeBron James looking "fresh to death", as the kids say.

One of the earliest and most iconic instances of a hoopster with a flair for hot threads is Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Playing in Manhattan for the New York Knicks, Frazier soaked up the limelight both on the court and off of it, in large part due to his love for “flossing”.

Frazier was nicknamed "Clyde" due to his similarity of fashion to the male half of the bank-robbing duo Bonnie & Clyde.

Now doing play-by-play for the Knicks (as well as Just For Men commercials!), Frazier still shows lots of “character” in his wardrobe.

Better just steer clear of making any jokes about that jacket. Clyde would have a cow. Moo-ving on...

NBA players in the league today have picked up the torch where Clyde left off. One need only stick around for the post-game press conference to be wowed, shocked, or angered – perhaps even more so than during the actual game.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant "schools" the media wearing his signature backpack.

For example, Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James do every post-game press conference together. This has led to some competition of its own, harkening back to the Great Walk-Off of 2001 between Hansel and Derek Zoolander.

Seriously guys, it's Miami. Your team's nickname is "The Heat" for crying out loud. What's with the cardigans?

Fashion statements made in the moment don’t always stand the test of time, however. Take former Indiana Pacers guard and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose’s 1994 draft-day suit, shown below.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you - The '90s!

With all of these examples, I think it’s safe to say that NBA players on the whole provide the excitement and intrigue necessary to spice up the drab uniforms worn on the court. Whether good or bad, the dress code worn to a post-game press conference is likely to be the very best people-watching you can do.

So, with the NBA playoffs all set up to start this weekend, be sure to tune in right after the final horn blows after each game. Get your popcorn ready, because once those gargantuan dudes come out dressed in last week’s six-digit paycheck, that’s when “amazing” really happens.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

But for real though. The man could make Prince blush.

The Natural

I’m Jordan Fox: friend of Ian. I’m located over at www.andimamess.blogspot.com, BOOM shameless plug!

“He’s a natural.” “She looks like she was born to do that.” “I don’t know what it is, but when I get out there on the floor/court/stage/whatever, I just do what comes naturally.”

We’ve all heard these phrases used to describe people before, probably so many times to where the phrase loses meaning. But there is something amazing about watching someone do an activity, whether it’s technical, social, or just for fun, that makes me stop and think. I’ve been running this idea through my head for a few years now, and it’s recently come to the forefront of my mind, so I figured I’d write down as much of it as possible so that I don’t forget it. The idea is that there is something inherent in my personality that is attracted to watching people perform who look as if the act just comes to them. You can call them savants, or geniuses, or a myriad of other terms – but for the sake of this post, let’s just call them Naturals.

One of the big aspects of a Natural is not only being able to perform at a high level, but to make it look EASY when they’re doing high-difficulty things.

By naming people Naturals, the last thing I want to do is to open up the criteria so that just ANYONE can be included. I want it to be exclusive, really an elite company. So here are a few people who I think are deserving of the title of Natural:

Neil Patrick Harris, Natural comedian.
Evidence – Twitter feed: http://api.twitter.com/#!/ActuallyNPH

NPH started off as a child actor, and to be honest I’ve never even seen Doogie Howser, MD…so I’m not going to pretend I have. However, I love How I Met Your Mother, the show he’s on now. On it, the real-life homosexual Harris plays a ladies’ man, and sells it so well that I have had to reassure myself (via wikipedia) multiple times that he’s ACTUALLY gay. But apparently I’m not the only one who loves his work: he has a 4 straight Emmy nominations for HIMYM.

Neil finds a way to let his comedic nature show in many different ways – not only on television. For example, he was the namesake of a 5-part sing-along blog (I know, right?), playing Dr. Horrible in….you ready?…Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. He even won a Streamy Award for it! Granted, it’s probably not as coveted as an Emmy…but still. The point is that he’s funny, and it just is going to find peoples’ eyes and ears, even through something so unorthodox as Dr. Horrible.

Probably the biggest evidence of NPH’s humor is getting to see the world through his eyes (or his fingertips, excuse me) by following him on Twitter. I love seeing how he can turn something mundane into a funny or witty take in 140 characters or less. Cream will rise to the top, and with the whole comedy scene it definitely has since a Natural like Neil Patrick Harris is now rightfully being recognized as funny-man extraordinaire.

Jay-Z, Natural rapper.
Evidence – Youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKKLqEqZ81w

There are lots of stories I’ve heard about Jay that speak of his style in rap. I’ve heard multiple interviews from fellow rappers who say that, unlike most others, when Jay-Z lays down a track for a song, he does it in one take. No repeats, no do-overs, once he gets into the studio and behind the mic, he just lays down gold.

On a sidenote, that reminds me of one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen, much less played with: a guy from my high school named Josh Goates. Josh is a good-sized dude, played football in college, that sort of thing – but in life he is mostly, in a word, quiet. Then you see him sit on the drum throne, and he lets the drums do his talking and becomes larger-than-life. The dude, much like Jay-Z, continuously just needs one run-through to play flawlessly. Josh, I would say, is a Natural drummer.

Back to S.Carter. Understanding his background helps to show his style: he grew up wanting to be a rapper, making beats on his kitchen table and rapping ’til the wee hours of the night, then sold drugs and hustled as a way to make money for the ultimate end of making it in the “rap game”. To recap, he’s not kidding when he has a single like “99 Problems,” or “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” – he really has been there, living out the words of his songs. He has all of these stories and experiences that make him who he is, and he shares these complex lifesongs in the most Natural way possible: by rapping them.

He also has 11 #1 albums on the Billboard charts, second only to The Beatles.

LeBron James, Natural basketball player.
Evidence – Youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysgY46W4Dao

I’m just going to say this, LeBron is my favorite basketball player in the NBA right now, and actually my favorite in a long time. He has a joy for the game that shows through an infectious smile. He is one of a few elite players who seems to enjoy setting up another guy just as much as he loves to slam down a thunder dunk on a breakaway. He takes as much pride in his defense (including his patent-pending “chase-down blocks”) as he does in his mastery on the offensive end. And although pretty much everyone but King James himself can agree that he screwed up his Decision to leave Cleveland for the calm shores of South Beach (the Miami Heat do not actually play their home games in South Beach), I like that he’s on the Heat. Now he and two pretty remarkable players can play at very high levels, and I feel sure that LeBron will be grinning his way deep into this summer.

But make no mistake, James isn’t just happy to be here – he’s leaving his mark on the league. He’s the two-time reigning Most Valuable Player, he is #22 all-time in assists per game and #3 in points per game. ALL-TIME. The man is 26 years old.

This brings to mind a debate I think is fairly intriguing: MJ vs. King James. From lots and lots of stories I’ve heard regarding MJ after retirement, as well as his foray into minor league baseball, I would contend that Michael is one of the hardest working human beings on the planet. However, I’m not sure that he is AS natural of a basketball player as LeBron. That sounds stupid, but you have to watch the off-court actions of both players. Off the court, MJ still is the same as on: cut-throat, and a ruthless competitor (be it on a blackjack table or on a baseball diamond). LeBron off the court? Goofy, immature, and light-hearted. But see him step onto the court and he becomes something else entirely: an efficient machine who sometimes single-handedly wrecks defenses or can turn a game around with a block-to-fastbreak dunk combo. LeBron on the basketball court is effortless. His game just looks so Natural.