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´╗┐CANADA'S SPORTS LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE won't tell you the worst dressed guy on the team," says Toronto Raptors forward Morris Peterson, "but I will say most basic: Jerome (Williams). He mostly wears his own stuff." designs a line of sweats and t shirts, JYD Clothing. today's NBA, that makes Williams an exception. Basketball players are the most image conscious athletes this side of Anna Kournikova, spending more on clothes than a lot of us normals earn in a year. wasn't always so. Before Clyde NBA fashion was an oxymoron. Off court, players dressed like accountants or gym teachers during games, they wore short shorts and plain white shoes. Only the Celtics were different: Red Auerbach put his team in black sneaks because he figured dark shoes did a better job of hiding scuffs. He could save on replacements. Clyde arrived. Walt Frazier moved like Gregory Hines between the baselines, leading the Knicks to championships in 1970 and 1973. (Forget Willis Reed: Frazier's line from 1970's fabled Game 7 over the Lakers reads 36 points, 19 assists, seven rebounds, five steals.) The All Star point guard had an equally profound impact on New York nightlife, ruling clubland with a cane, cape, fedora and whatever else he needed to bridge the gap between Cab Calloway and John Shaft. Clyde was sizzle and steak he drove a Rolls Royce, wore baby blue bellbottoms in the locker room and was the first baller to nike running play in signature shoes, styling suede low top Pumas from 1970 until his retirement (as a Cleveland Cavalier) in 1980. might have been ready for Frazier, but his ankle length furs didn't fly in the NBA's hinterlands. Clyde came and went as one of a kind, the lone circle in a league full of square pegs. (Well, nearly full: Bill Walton as a Trailblazer looked like a Deadhead who got lost on the way in from the parking lot.) Slacks and sweats held on as the status quo for four years after Frazier's departure. the first days of his career, Michael Jordan presented himself as a serious man going about serious business. He controlled his image whenever possible, insisting on a jacket and tie for on camera interviews. The Greatest Of All Time repeatedly left his teammates (and coaches) waiting on the Bulls' bus while he preened for the ten second walk from arena to curb. He used to spend hours poring over fabric swatches for his custom suits, all ordered (at a rate of four to six per week) from the same Chicago nike 6pm tailor. When Nike approached him to begin work on the first Air Jordans, MJ invited the designers to dig through his closets for inspiration. Jordan's cue, garment bags became a locker room mainstay through the early '90s, as ballers tailored up and started dropping money by the thousands on exotic cuts and fabrics. (Patrick Ewing even posed in ads for Frazier's old tailor in New York.) Jordan disliked tight uniforms, so he traded his shorts in for a longer and baggier pair. Soon, every player in the league save John Stockton loosened up. Even Jordan's opponents wanted to be like Mike. question," says Sixers rookie John Salmons, "Jordan changed the game in all situations on the court, off the court, everywhere." Salmons, a former University of Miami star, grew up studying MJ's every move, as did most of the NBA's current crop of young players. Although these "new jacks" (to borrow Jordan's term) still covet their hero's game, they are less enamoured with his choice of clothes. a young man's league," says Raptors' backup PG Rafer Alston. "Veterans are the only ones getting dressed up anymore. Guys like me all wear hip hop gear." Alston, 26, is a New York playground god who goes by the name Skip To My Lou at home in Harlem. He receives a steady supply of shoes and urban wear from And 1 (Alston is the star attraction of the shoemaker's Mix Tape streetball video series), but still name checks the holy trinity of new jack fashion: Rocawear (Jay Z's label), Sean John (P. Diddy's) and Akademiks. a typical winter day, Alston layers denim from head to heel with Timberland boots and a down filled parka or Yankees bomber jacket. The last is a throwback, or new product made to match an old uniform style. Throwback jerseys are the hottest trend to hit hip hop and the new jacks since Courvoisier. The jerseys, manufactured by Philadelphia clothier Mitchell Ness, sell for between $250 470 (US), with names like Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin and Alex English moving at high demand. Whitaker, online editor of Slam, unofficial magazine of the NBA's bling generation, traces the birth of the throwback craze to Aquemini, a 1998 album by Atlanta rap duo OutKast. Rapper Big Boi was among Mitchell Ness's first disciples, and posed in Aquemini's liner notes wearing a San Diego Padres throwback jersey. The album went triple platinum, and sent rival rappers (Jay Z, Nelly, Fat Joe, etc.) running for their own jerseys. The new jacks nike shoes 1996 came next. Allen Iverson, the original love child of hip hop and basketball, was an early adopter. The Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal took to the habit in earnest: he owns 150 throwbacks. Ness revenues jumped from $2.8 million (US) in 2000 to $23 million US last year. Interest picked up after 2002 NBA Finals, when Kobe Bryant conducted press conferences wearing throwback Jordan and Joe Montana jerseys (previous page photo). It climbed again this January in the wake of high school star Lebron James' temporary suspension for accepting two free throwbacks from a Chicago sports store. any good trend, though, the jerseys are already showing signs of death by mainstream exposure. "I have a lot of throwbacks, but I don't wear them much anymore," Whitaker says. "At the All Star Game this year, there were more throwbacks than regular clothes. If everyone in the world is wearing a black sweater, would you want one too?" He called for a cease and desist on Slam's website this April: "There's a story on [throwbacks] in Time and in People this week. At least we can now put an official date on the end of the craze." ranks Jordan with Kevin Willis, Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley and Allan Houston as the league's best dressed (Oakley reportedly buys 50 suits per year, spending $3,000 $10,000 (US) on each. rarely wears them more than once.) At the opposite end of the spectrum, "you can count on Shaq for a matching plaid suit or something crazy like that. Artest dresses down all the time sometimes he doesn't even bother showering after games. (Latrell) Sprewell always wears Coogi sweaters. You know, like Bill Cosby."

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