Allen Iverson defined an era for not only the NBA but culture at large. The 11-time NBA All-Star’s wild styles weren’t simple reflections of hip hop culture. He often set new trends in the first place. The early 2000s fashion gave way, but Iverson’s whimsical entrances are a big part of the league today.
What was once controversial is now a lucrative part of the NBA’s identity. Let’s look at Iverson’s struggles to express himself during a different era and see how he feels about this year’s relaxed dress code.
Allen Iverson’s clashes with the NBA over fashion
Today, the NBA is regarded as the player-focused alternative to the NFL’s top-down structure. Players express themselves exactly as they please, arrive dressed however they want, and fans love them for it. It wasn’t always that way. Iverson had to cut through prejudice and suspicion to earn that on behalf of the players that came later.
Consider his career-long clashes with both commissioner David Stern and ESPN. Bleacher Report broke it down in a 2010 report, accusing the league and ESPN of having “destroyed” Iverson’s career. It’s hard to recall, given Iverson’s praise today. But he was a constant source of controversy.
Iverson’s tattoos, hip hop-inflected style, and outspoken personality were beyond the pale for owners. ESPN’s coverage was often negative. It played a role in his decision to leave the NBA early once his minutes got limited. Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were notoriously difficult behind the scenes. But Iverson’s attention-grabbing personality simply rubbed powerful NBA figures and media the wrong way.
The NBA became a fashion show by the time Iverson retired
As Iverson’s career wound down, new stars slowly became more like Iverson. Merchandising deals blossomed around the league, going deeper than simple sportswear. GQ calls the NBA the sports world’s fashion-forward league. The looks cover all the bases, from streetwear, to avant-garde high fashion, to smart tailored fits.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver took a different stance than his predecessor. It paid off handsomely, as WWD reports. NBA All-Star Weekend is now a major flashpoint for the biggest fashion brands. Pop-up shops for names like Gucci, Dior, and Rimowa dot the host city to capitalize on the action. It’s a far cry from Iverson’s days when Stern even tightened the league’s dress code as recently as 2005.
What Iverson thinks about the NBA bubble’s dress code
For Iverson, going fashion-forward and pushing the limits of the dress code was a constant struggle. Yet he served as proof that by creating attention for the NBA and bringing powerful brands into the mix, there was a great deal of money to be made. Today’s players get to benefit from what was once thought of as an unruly player pushing things too far.
As part of a deal with players to make the 2020 bubble situation more amenable, Silver agreed to relax the dress code even further this year. So how does Iverson feel about it? In an interview with GQ, he laid it all out.
“Man, I think guys are supposed to dress the way they want to dress. I don’t have no problem with a guy dressing the way that makes him comfortable, that makes that person feel like themselves.” Showing no signs of sour grapes over new players enjoying less pressure over their style, Iverson continued, “… I don’t think you should tell someone how to dress.”