When The NBA Style Gods Were Cool


It’s hard to remember a time when NBA players didn’t hold sway over the court of menswear—they’re all but calling the shots these days. After all, the league has turned out several players who hit style god status in the fashion world at large (James, Westbrook, Durant, you know the names). However, like any trend, no one player holds the crown forever, let alone the hearts and minds of basketball’s more fashionable fans. We tracked the volume of web searches related to a given players’ fashion sense to determine whose signature styles were most relevant when, plus the moments that transformed the ballers into the tastemakers that they are today.


Photo: Nick Young/Instagram

Nick Young
Height of influence: Mar. 2014-Present
Greatest style moment: According to our research, no NBA player has gone from relative unknown to editorial centrefold in as short a time as Nick Young. The fashion world first started noticing Swaggy P’s larger-than-life style at the tail end of 2013, but it wasn’t until the Lakers swingman was featured drenched in Versace alongside rapper Iggy Azalea in GQ’s March 2014 issue that he exploded in popularity. He was named “Best Dressed” at New York Fashion Week by the same publication in Sept. 2014, and has reigned supreme ever since as one the NBA’s top-billed menswear enthusiasts.


Photo: Russell Westbrook/Instagram

Russell Westbrook
Height of influence: May 2012-May 2014
Greatest style moment: The period of greatest interest in NBA fashion to date occurred during the June 2012 playoffs, when players broke out their craziest duds en masse during the post-game interviews. That’s when the world became obsessed with Russell Westbrook’s now-signature look—the combination of wild shirts and lensless glasses that would inspire the so-called “geek chic” trend that took the league by storm. In May 2013, Russ was spotted on the cover of Complex Magazine; the only other time he was as popular since was one year later, when he put on one of his zaniest playoffs performances to date—floral shirts, flip-up glasses and all.


Photo: Kevin Durant/Instagram

Kevin Durant
Height of influence: June 2012-May 2014
Greatest style moments: As in Westbrook’s case, Kevin Durant hit the height of his game during the June 2012 playoffs. Unlike Westbrook, however, what made the world start paying attention to KD was his penchant for on-point suiting. His fashion influence would remain steady well into February 2013, when he became a style correspondent for GQ during the NBA All-Star Weekend. In May 2014—when Durant gave one of the most stirring MVP acceptance speeches in NBA history—searches for the secrets to his steeze surged once again. We’re guessing that insanely well-tailored navy blue suit he wore to the podium had something to do with it.


Photo: Kobe Bryant/Facebook

Kobe Bryant
Height of influence: May 2010-Apr. 2013
Greatest style moments: Kobe Bryant was named GQ’s Man of the Year in Dec. 2009 (he also nabbed a signature Hublot watch that year), but any real interest in his fashion sense began after his hilarious, over-the-top “White Hot” LA Times Magazine photoshoot published in May 2010 (it was simultaneously his worst sartorial showing and the height of his online popularity—yowch). The world started taking him more seriously after he began suiting up regularly, especially during the 2012 playoffs interviews that marked another high point in his style’s popularity. A year later, Bryant’s April 2013 knee injury didn’t just throw a wrench in his career—it killed his relevance in the world of NBA fashion almost as quickly as the medics shuttled him off the court.


Photo: LeBron James/Instagram

LeBron James
Height of influence: July 2010-Present
Greatest style moments: The undisputed champion of NBA style, LeBron James, has long been an influencer in fashion circles on and off the court. He covered GQ Feb. 2009, but it took until just after The Decision in July 2010 for him to earn his first spike in online notoriety. (Granted, that fuchsia-on-white checked shirt wasn’t his strongest look, but those are the facts). After that, he pretty much took over searches for playoffs style the next three years thanks to a combination of wild shirts, sharp suits and anything else his stylist puts him in. James once again covered GQ in March 2014. After reaching his most recent low in November, his popularity picked back up this month, leading us to believe The King’s reign is far from over.


Photo: Dwyane Wade/Instagram

Dwyane Wade
Height of influence: July 2012-May 2014

Greatest style moments: The first wave of Dwyane Wade style-related traffic hit in June 2012, when he was photographed for an issue of Vogue alongside Olympians participating in the London games (as in previous cases, a GQ spread the year earlier failed to garner him an online fashion fanbase). During the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, however, he made a name for himself wearing more and more audacious outfits, from silver suits and floral Versace jackets, to baggy white dress shorts and coveralls. Online interest in his status has since dwindled greatly.
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