At this point, the NBA style movement has basically become a meme. We wait to see what players will wear to the press conferences, and we marvel at Russ Westbrook's shirts, Kevin Durant's backpacks, Dwyane Wade's glasses. I think this is great, and so I decided to put all of the sartorially invested dudes up against one another to see whose steez is best. Three factors will be considered: 1) originality; 2) consistency; and 3) whether they've had a spread in GQ.
Seedings were determined randomly, with me picking the players' names out of a hat.
Also, a quick point of clarification: the major parlance in talking about players' style choices so far has been "hipster." None of the players dress like hipsters. To see what dressing like a hipster looks like, please consult Vice Magazine's Dos and Don'ts, which is the hottest hotbed of hipsterdom on the Internet.
SWEET 16: 1. Chris Bosh vs. 16. Ricky Rubio
ORIGINALITY: Bosh is the tallest guy in our bracket, and so he gets extra credit for pulling off the suited look without being too short or too long in the jacket. Rubio's steez is definitely of a different sort than most NBA players, which has to do with the fact that he's European and that he's a teddy bear.
CONSISTENCY: At times, Bosh lets his choices get out of control, i.e. a white dinner-jacket with contrast lapels. But he actually kills it most of the time he loses the tie, and that's a plus. Rubio's consistently adorable.
WINNER: Bosh. Against a weaker opponent, Rubio's casual scruffiness might've carried the day, but Bosh actually seems to put serious thought into his suits. There are a lot of missteps out there, though. A lot.
2. Carmelo Anthony vs. 15. Chris Paul
ORIGINALITY: Melo tends to be more adventurous than most of the challengers in our bracket, but less so than his teammate Amar'e — that's probably a good thing. Check out those red pants, though; he isn't bashful. CP3 is the most buttoned-down of any contender, and he tends to pull it off well. Also, he was one of the first to bring bow ties to the NBA sidelines.
WINNER: CP3. Unpredictable as Melo is, Chris Paul might be the preeminent suit-wearer in the Association.
3. Baron Davis vs. 14. Kevin Durant
ORIGINALITY: Baron Davis is nothing if not original. KD's also original, and he's got that backpack thing going on, though that was more last year than this year.
GQ SPREAD: Baron: Just the website. KD: Nope.
WINNER: Durant's backpack was so inexplicable and autonomous of a style decision that it gets him through to the second round, especially because, for the love of Ryan Gosling, is Baron Davis wearing sweatpants in this picture?
4. Amar'e Stoudemire vs. 13. Rajon Rondo
ORIGINALITY: God is Amar'e original. Tuesday night, he rocked a cut-off denim jacket and fedora and sunglasses indoors. And Rondo's pretty similar — just look at that jacket ^^^^ — but not quite as frequently out there.
CONSISTENCY: Amar'e's often nuts, but he also takes the whole thing pretty seriously; that picture above is him with GQ editors Michael Hainey and Jim Moore during NYC Fashion Week. Rondo's far more casual about it, usually letting his glasses carry the brunt of the avant-garde burden.
GQ SPREAD: Amar'e: No. Rondo: No.
WINNER: Giving the round to Amar'e, though not without reservations. Stoudemire's sleeveless denim costumes just don't translate from American Graffiti to real life in 2012. But Rondo needs to lose these god-awful hats. They make him look like he's auditioning for The Artist.
5. Blake Griffin vs. 12. James Harden
ORIGINALITY: Blake Griffin probably shares a stylist with any number of other cardigan- and flannel-wearing young Hollywood actors. James Harden probably lets aliens style him.
CONSISTENCY: BG tends to be consistently simple and understated. (Also, he gets points for avoiding fat ties, which seems to be a pitfall for most of the other dudes.) Harden, on the other hand, rocks the backpack-and-button-down look as often as he does the off-color blazer and matching bow tie. And the beard has to be included in this discussion; as far as having a signature style emblem, Harden's beard is probably tops of any player in the lague.
WINNER: Harden. Steez in spades.
6. Andre Iguodala vs. 11. Nick Young
ORIGINALITY: Without looking too staid, Iguodala manages to channel the tweed-y gentleman look pretty well. Nick Young's shirts are so far out there you need to call them long-distance.
CONSISTENCY: Iguodala doesn't have quite the same style footprint as a lot of these other guys, which makes sense: he tends to be under-appreciated as a player as well. When he does appear online, he sticks with the same thick frames and clean, versatile collars. On the other end of the spectrum, Nick Young really loves gonzo Versace shirts. He's by a large margin the most hip-hop of any of these guys — doesn't hurt that he looks sort of like Wiz Khalifa.
GQ SPREAD: Iguodala: features in the same spread as Blake. Nick Young: Nah. Young's also the worst basketball player in this bracket, so that doesn't help.
WINNER: Nick Young, because 1) he goes by Swaggy P, 2) he's capable of dialing it back, and 3) he's so much fun.
7. Dwyane Wade vs. 10. LeBron James
ORIGINALITY: Wade isn't original so much as off-base sometimes; for example, the pink-on-pink-on-pink ensemble featured above gets a little too flamingo. And far from being original, LeBron tends to be the most keyed-in to the fashion establishment of any NBA player. That picture above is him with Michael Bastian, American prep's secular pope.
CONSISTENCY: Fortunately, Wade isn't terribly consistent, because if he was, and that consistency revolved around channeling semi-aquatic wildlife, he wouldn't be in the running here. Instead, he manages to pull off a decent number of respectable suits before straying back into highlighter territory. Also, his glasses can be pretty stupid. (I don't take offense because they say he isn't serious; I take offense because they make him look like a '60s '50s switchboard operator who just got mugged.) LeBron's consistently exceptional. Not sure I've ever seen him off his game.
WINNER: LeBron James clobbers his teammate, and it isn't even close.
8. Steve Nash vs. 9. Russell Westbrook
ORIGINALITY: Nash wears a suit well, though the line he "designed" has ads that are goofier than they are appealing. (Also, nice try with turning the lapels up, but it doesn't work great with a full tie-and-slacks thing.) Russ Westbrook runs the shirt game from here to eternity.
CONSISTENCY: Not infrequently, Nash can lapse into what my college friends used to call "gym-rat casual," though that's hardly a sin for a professional athlete. Russ Westbrook is ALWAYS on his shirt-and-glasses game.
WINNER: Westbrook. Despite the calamity that is Nash's advertising campaign for his new suits, I don't hate his style, which is age-appropriate and generally tasteful. But Westbrook pulls off some entirely extraterrestrial shit, and that's way tougher.
ELITE EIGHT: 1. Chris Bosh vs. 15. Chris Paul
WINNER: Bosh's occasional eccentricities give way to CP3's solid-as-hell jackets and shirts.
BONUS FACTOID: Bosh played one of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park!
14. Kevin Durant vs. 4. Amar'e Stoudemire
WINNER: Stoudemire. At some point, your style needs to evolve beyond backpacks. KD's got a lot of promise for the future, but he isn't quite there yet, and when Amar'e actually reins it in, he looks good.
BONUS FACTOID: The only thing Durant carries inside his backpack is another backpack.
12. James Harden vs. 11. Nick Young
WINNER: Thy Swag, It Runneth Over. Conventional wisdom suggests James Harden gets the easy win here, but I don't think it's quite that simple — Nick Young really does bring a certain admirable insanity to any situation. Still, Harden's beard, and this waffle-iron-sized checkerboard print, get him through.
BONUS FACTOID: Big Sean makes his friends call him Nick Young.
9. Russell Westbrook vs. 10. LeBron James
WINNER: It pains me to do this, because I might like Russ Westbrook's carnival of short-sleeves more than any other human being on the planet. LeBron's whole thing is too tight and thought-out, though. Dude rarely, if ever, makes a misstep, even when he dresses down some. And he managed to make a Liverpool scarf as well as those ultra-sartorial Mediterranean coaches do.
BONUS FACTOID: Hiding in Russ' closet is a short-sleeve button-down with huge images of a cartooon Russ Westbrook on it, but even he hasn't had the chutzpah to pull it out yet.
FINAL FOUR: 15. Chris Paul vs. 4. Amar'e Stoudemire
WINNER: CP3. Cutoff torso-jorts Amar'e finally catches up to bespoke Amar'e. Also, Paul has one of the best accessories there is: an awesome kid.
ASK BUZZFEED SHIFT: "Chris Paul looks fine, but he kind of looks like a banker. Amar'e's socks are good, but tan on brown is kind of icky. Paul's colors are better, but Amar'e has a more natural sense of style. Chris Paul looks like his girlfriend dressed him, while Amar'e just looks like he's wearing what he wants to wear."
12. James Harden vs. 10. LeBron James
WINNER: Here's where Harden's sloppiness catches up with him. Harden always has one unimpeachable thing going on, but usually there's something else slightly off — shoes, pants, whatever. LeBron's remarkably well-assembled basically all the time.
ASK BUZZFEED SHIFT: "I think Harden wins because LeBron looks nicely dressed, but there isn't really any flair. How can you lose with a pink suit and a bow tie?"
THE CHAMPIONSHIP: 15. Chris Paul vs. 10. LeBron James
WINNER: LeBron James. I'm sorry, all, it's just that I've got to do it. LeBron cares way more than anyone else, and it shows. Plus, it looks like this might be the only championship he gets for at least another year, so I don't feel too bad.
And here he is with Kanye, as befits any winner. Congratulations, LeBronicus.