With the 2011 NBA Draft today, some NBA front offices are still going back and forth on which prospects to select. Those prospects, meanwhile, are figuring out what gear to match with the garish hats they’ll be given when they are fortunate enough to have NBA Commissioner David Stern call their name. While many players dress like most recent college graduates would for a job interview—with dark conservative suits, crisp white shirts and unassuming ties—there are always a few looking to standout. Here are five outrageous and ill-advised outfits from draft day through the years, ranging from obscure to over the top.
5. Bobby Jackson 1997 Draft
Bright blue may be a tried-and-true hue when it comes to sports uniforms, but it certainly is not as reliable when it comes to fine tailoring. Sadly, nobody informed Bobby Jackson before the 1997 Draft. Of course, it’s possible that unheralded player who had played two years at a junior college before making the team at the University of Minnesota was going to audition for a part in Guys and Dolls during his trip to the Big Apple. Thankfully, he was a smash hit in the NBA and never needed to look for work treading the boards elsewhere.
4. Chuck Person 1986 Draft
With most players being taken in the NBA ranging in age from their late teens to early twenties, it’s a safe assumption that some of them haven’t bought—or rented—a suit or tuxedo since prom night. Come to think of it, those group shots of all the draftees sort of look like a much taller version of the prom photos that we all took. And just like when you went to the prom, there’s always one guy trying to get attention with a white tux. In 1986, that guy was Chuck Person. Tapped by the Indiana Pacers with the 4th pick in a draft headlined by Brad Daughtery and Len Bias, the 6-foot-8 sharp-shooting forward out of Alabama rolled onto the stage wearing a blinding white tux with an electric pink bowtie and cummerbund. We’re guessing Chuck didn’t win best dressed in his high school class superlatives.
3. Jalen Rose 1994 Draft
For the first decade after the NBA Draft became a televised affair in 1980 there wasn’t much more in the way of flare than what Person had to offer in ’86. Fittingly, this all changed when one of the game’s sartorial trailblazers inaugurated an entire new era in draft day fashion. After revolutionizing inseams from coast to coast as a member of the fabled “Fab Five” at the University of Michigan, Jalen Rose showed up in New York for the draft in 1994 looking more like a peripheral Dick Tracy villain than a promising point guard prospect.
2. Wesley Johnson 2010 Draft
While Rose’s bright red suit with the fat pinstripes spawned years of the Technicolor gangster look, NBA players have embraced more idiosyncratic looks in recent years. Thick Grizzly Adams–style beards and square-framed Buddy Holly glasses have become nearly as common as Windsor knots and pocket squares. Perhaps it’s Dwyane Wade’s band-aid that started the race to get weird. Regardless, few players have tried to march to the beat of their own drum more than Johnson did in 2010. He took a heavy helping of country club chic and spiced it up with a dash of nerd but ended up looking like a Details editor’s nightmare.
1. Samaki Walker 1996 Draft
Dressed like he was auditioning to be a backup singer for Bone Thugs N Harmony’s upcoming performance at the 1996 MTV Music Awards, Walker made some regrettable choices at the fashion crossroads before arriving at the draft. The No. 9 pick by the Indiana Pacers rocked an all-cream three-piece ensemble with a matching bowler hat. Among the factoids about Walker at his NBA.com profile page such as his favorite book (To Kill A Mockingbird) and the meaning of his first name in Swahili (Fish), is the tidbit that “he enjoys wearing unusual hats.” No kidding?
Chris Greenberg is a freelance writer covering sports and culture from Jersey City, NJ.
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