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“Came through drippin”: The history of the NBA’s best dressed

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

“If you don’t got no sauce, then you’re lost. But you can also get lost in the sauce,” said hip-hop icon Gucci Mane. And it’s safe to say that a number of the NBA’s players (past and present) have learned and mastered the ways of “the sauce”, as fashion has always been a defining factor for the on-court and off-court personalities of the league's brightest stars. From two-piece suits to safety vests, we’ll be taking a look at some of the NBA’s best dressed throughout the years, old school and new school alike. 

Tunnel Fashion MVP’s

Michael Jordan

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

It’s only right to start this off with the greatest to ever do it. Michael’s fashion choices did a great job at reflecting the era that he was in. With bright coloured jackets, loose-fitted jeans, and tons of single-coloured outfits. Not to mention that His Airness was responsible for one of the biggest movements in modern fashion, the Air Jordan movement. Whether it’s on or off the court, on a hoodie or a pair of Air Jordan basketball sneakers, seeing that infamous Jumpman logo signifies Jordan’s impact on generations of hoopers and fashionistas alike. Even though Michael had days where his outfits were not well perceived by the general audience, such as the baggy suits and the all pink fit (pictured above), it wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that no other player had an impact on today’s fashion more than Jordan himself. Congrats Michael, you earned yourself a starting spot on the NBA’s All Drip First Team. 

In an episode of the Rosie O’Donnell Show, Michael debuts his newest clothing line. This would be the start of what we know today as the Jordan Brand. 

Dennis Rodman

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

When you put the words “fashion” and “basketball” in a sentence, one individual comes to mind. Not necessarily for his good looks, but for his looks that were peculiar, intriguing, and strange. Dennis Rodman is known to be a man of flare and attitude. Reflected by his game and his aesthetics, it would be hard not to notice Rodman in any atmosphere. Unlike his one-sided game that was extremely predictable (rebounds, defense, and more rebounds), his taste in fashion was unpredictable, unorthodox if you will. One day you could see Dennis in a plain-coloured leather jacket, but then the next day, he could be dressed in a glittered tank top or even a wedding dress (Rodman has worn both). Rodman’s aesthetics have also been known to break gender norms, as mentioned before with his glittered outfits and his infamous wedding dress, which was worn to promote his autobiography “Bad As I Wanna Be”, where claimed to be bisexual and that he was marrying himself.

In this video created by VFILES, we are introduced to some of Rodman’s wildest outfits. It’s no secret that Dennis sure had some of the most outrageous styles of his time (and even of all time). 

Aside from his clothing options, Rodman was one of the few NBA players who switched hairstyles just as often as he switched shirts. Some of The Worm’s most notable hairdos were the Chicago Bulls logo, a smiley face, and what seemed to be leopard print, which was actually a bunch of 33’s to honour the return of his teammate Scottie Pippen. Out of all the players on this list, Rodman takes the cake when it comes to the most questionable, but eye catching fashion choices. 

LeBron James

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

When your nickname is “King James”, it’s only right that you dress like one, and LeBron James does not fail at letting everyone know that he’s the one with the crown on his head. Something about The King’s outfits that differentiates him from all the other players in the league is his love for headwear. Whether it's a beanie, a durag, or a simple snapback, LeBron’s headwear game has always been on point. Unlike the other players on this list, LeBron keeps his outfits simple, but sophisticated at the same time. A brand that you’ll see LeBron rocking very often is Nike, which makes sense considering the forward’s billion-dollar deal with the athleticwear giant. From his own signature sneakers to limited edition collaborations (see picture above), it’s a common sight to see LeBron rocking the coolest kicks on and off the court. “I don't really have one style,” said James to GQ Magazine. “I can wear shorts and a tank from my Nike collection, I can wear a three-piece suit or I can wear a shirt and slacks. I'm pretty flexible. It's all about confidence, man!”

In a video by Bleacher Report, LeBron shows off his sneaker closet shortly after signing a lifetime deal with Nike.

Some of these memorable outfits can all be credited to celebrity wardrobe stylist Rachel Johnson. Johnson has been credited to styling household names like LeBron James, Victor Cruz, Cam Newton, and Amar'e Stoudemire, and she's widely credited with making over the NBA. In an interview with Business Insider, Johnson said: “There are men who may have not necessarily felt comfortable wearing what's coming down the runway if they see a waif-y model wearing it, but a regular 9-to-5 businessman can look at what a LeBron James or Russell Westbrook or Victor Cruz is wearing and say, 'You know what? Maybe I can do that, too because he's more like me.” 

Russell Westbrook 

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

Speaking of Russell Westbrook, let’s talk about his explosiveness both on and off the court. No matter the day, it’s always a surprise when The Brodie walks down the tunnel in an outfit that we’ve never seen before (it’s almost like he has a different outfit for each game!). Because of the variety in his wardrobe, you can’t say that there’s one thing that separates Russ from the other players on this list, only because there are so many too count. When it comes to his outfits, Russ loves to be unpredictable. One game, he’ll pull up wearing a Jordan brand t-shirt with a pair of blue denim jeans. On another day, Russ would show up in a construction vest, a custom Anaheim Ducks jersey, or even a distressed t-shirt that exposed parts of his torso (as pictured above). 

Russ and All-Star teammate James Harden describe their tunnel fits with GQ Magazine. 

Another factor that defines Russ’ style is his love for jeans. Searching “Russell Westbrook Fashion” on Google Images will generate thousands upon thousands of images, but a good number of those search results feature Russ in a pair of jeans. Just like LeBron’s relationship with Nike, the bond between Russ and his jeans are all thanks to the many partnerships that Russ is a part of. Notable partnerships include True Religion and luxury fashion brand ACNE Studios. 

(Acne Studios) (California Apparel News) 

Tunnel Fashion MVP Runner-Ups: Kelly Oubre Jr (Phoenix Suns), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Carmelo Anthony (Portland Trail Blazers), D’Angelo Russell (Minnesota Timberwolves), , Kobe Bryant (Retired, HOF), Dwyane Wade (Retired)

Kings of the Kicks

Michael Jordan 

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

In the words of Michael Jordan: “I’m back”. The GOAT makes his second appearance on this list, for obvious reasons. If there’s anything else that amazes us just as much as his high-flying dunks, “it’s gotta be the shoes!” as Spike Lee would say. Michael’s shoes have come a long way. After watching The Last Dance, it becomes much more clear of what the Jordan Brand could’ve been today (spoilers ahead). In the docuseries, Michael originally wanted to become an Adidas athlete, which is ironic considering the rivalry that was sparked with the company that eventually landed Michael, Nike. When the swoosh took their chances with the rookie from North Carolina, they were about to witness the greatest thing that ever happened to their company. An expected sales number of 65 million turned into 150 million, as before they even knew it, Air Jordan would become the face of the franchise. 


Notable kicks: Air Jordan 1 “Bred”, Air Jordan 3 “White Cement”, Air Jordan 6 “Infrared”, Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam”, Air Jordan 12 “Flu Game”, Air Jordan 14 “Last Shot”

LeBron James

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

Back to back double appearances? Make way for King James! LeBron is no rookie to the NBA sneaker game. Ever since his very first sneaker with Nike, the Air Zoom Generation (better known as the LeBron 1), James has been notoriously known for having the most premium kicks in both the looks and performance department. 

One of the earliest commercials for the Nike LeBron line. In this video, LeBron plays “The Chosen One”, a moniker given to James when he was a rookie, while rocking a pair of Nike Air Zoom Generations in the original red and white colourway. The inspiration for the shoe’s design was based off of a Hummer H2 that was given to LeBron by his mother during his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

According to HoopsGeek (as of May 2020), LeBron’s 17th signature shoe received a rating of 8.9/10 from 4 expert ratings. Notable aspects of the Nike LeBron 17 included its premium cushioning system, featuring Nike’s Max Air technology in the heel, and a Nike Zoom unit in the forefoot, providing plenty of impact protection and bounce. With all of the premium material and technology that LeBron’s sneakers offer, it’s no doubt that the King rules over the basketball shoe industry. All hail King James. 

Notable kicks: Nike Air Zoom Generation, Nike LeBron 4 “Fruity Pebbles”, Nike LeBron 6 “Family Guy”, Nike LeBron 8 “South Beach”, Nike LeBron 11 “What The”, Nike LeBron 15 “Equality”. 

Montrezl Harrell 

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

The newest addition to the list of the most impressive kicks on the court, Los Angeles Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell does not disappoint when it comes to footwear. You can catch Harrell rocking anything from regular signature sneakers, or sneakers with eye catching custom designs. Some of his most notable customizations include his “Good Burger” Air Jordan 13’s, “The Simpsons” themed Air Jordan 29’s, and the “Supreme” themes Reebok Answer IV’s (all pictured above). 

“It’s not really a custom as far as animated shoes, it’s usually just something that hits home with me… things I love. When I go into being able to customize my shoes I’m able to express myself even deeper. I’ve created so many connections with so many artists because of it. I get to do what I love by being able to put those shoes on the court,” said Harrell in an interview with ForTheWin.

What’s even more impressive about Harrell’s sneaker game is the number of shoes in his collection, over 2000 pairs to be exact. With so many kicks in his rotation, it only makes sense that Harrell switches his shoes at halftime during every game (and I don’t think he’s ever worn the same kicks twice). In this video by Los Angeles Times, Harrell shows off his sneaker collection. 

Notable kicks: Nike Air Jordan 13 “Good Burger” (customs), Nike Air Jordan 29 “Simpsons” (customs), Nike Air Jordan 10 “Nipsey Hussle” (customs), Reebok Answers IV “Supreme (customs), Nike Air Jordan 3 “Yu-Gi-Oh” (customs). 

P.J. Tucker

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

If LeBron is the king of sneakers, P.J. Tucker is a sneaker GOD. With back-to-back titles as NiceKicks’ Kicks On Court Champ (2018, 2019), and Bleacher Report Kicks’ 2019 Sneaker King, there’s no doubt that Tucker runs the on-court sneaker rotation game, no questions asked. In fact, I’m confident that if you ask 10 NBA fans who has the best kicks in the league, 9/10 of them will say P.J. Tucker (I’m confident in my predictions). 

Compared to Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, who has over 2000 pairs in his rotation, Tucker boasts a whopping 4000+ sneakers in his collection, and that number is growing as you’re reading this sentence. In terms of cash, as of the 2019-2020 NBA season, Tucker has played in over $100,000 worth of sneakers. Notable examples include the “Wahlburgers” Air Jordan 4 (~$23,647 on StockX), Off-White Air Jordan 1’s (~$5,216 on StockX), and the highly coveted Nike Air Yeezy 2’s in the “Red October” colourway, valued at ~$10,912 on StockX. (All three sneakers are pictured above). 

Tucker rocks the Nike Air Fear Of God 1’s in the “Black” colourway in an away game against the Brooklyn Nets. (GQ)

ESPN reports that Tucker will be opening his very own sneaker store in the future. "We're looking to do the grand opening in October," said Tucker. "The shoe culture in Houston is cool. There's a lot of sneakerheads and a lot of people that love shoes here -- a lot more than I thought. ... I just think there should be more activity." 

Tucker sits beside his sneaker filled locker in the Houston Rockets locker room. (Sole Collector/Getty)

Notable kicks: Nike Air Jordan 1 “Off White”, Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”, Nike Air Jordan 4 “Cactus Jack”, Nike Air Jordan Oregon PE’s (various), Nike Air Jordan 4 “Florida Gators” PE.


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