Tag Archives: Baron Davis

2011 NBA Draft Style Analysis: The Suits Finally Fit and Kemba is King

The 2011 installment of the NBA Draft was not given the opportunity to be great. Madison Square Garden, the usual host for festivities, is under renovation so the hopeful rookies had to travel across the Hudson River to Newark and walk the stage at Prudential Center. Bloggers and basketball pundits dismissed the next class of NBA talent as bottom tier. Also, with a lockout looming – will these young men ever see playing time? In 2003, LeBron James’ oversized white ensemble was better suited for a pimp and not the first overall draft pick. His personal style has evolved thanks in part to the dress code, maturity and careful image management. The NBA instituted the dress code in 2005 and it came at the perfect time as menswear was moving towards to the skinny suit and tailored styles thanks to Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme. Fitted or “European” styles began dominating locker rooms along with luxury sneakers and Louis Vuitton everything. Braids began disappearing as Carmelo Anthony shaved his off and Kobe Bryant switched from jerseys pre-game to suits. Players no longer wanted to look like Allen Iverson but now Kanye West’s fashion forward style evolution was to be mimicked. This year’s draft class may not have hit the perfect style notes but it’s clear that with the help of stylists, the new kids are learning how important fit is in a suit. Gone are the days of the LeBron white suit or Jalen Rose’s infamous red atrocity. Without further ado, here’s the best, worst and downright average style grades for the 2011 NBA draft class. It should come as no surprise that a New York kid wins my award for best dressed. Kemba Walker won my respect and fashion gold star last night because he wore a suit that was not only perfectly cut for his body type but because he was able to still let his personal style shine through. Last year, Wesley Johnson’s plaid pants and double-breasted ensemble may have been sartorially inclined but it looked like the outfit wore him, not the other way around. Walker looked both comfortable and cool in the single breasted blue-grey suit. The peaked lapels were in proportion with his shoulders and the jacket was modern without being fussy. Walker was already on my radar for his understated, well-fitting suit at Connecticut’s visit with President Obama after winning the NCAA National Championship. His big heart and great speaking skills makes him a complete player off the court as well – he’s a marketing dream. In fact, he already has endorsement deals in place with Axe and Best Buy without the elusive title of being the number one draft pick. Walker’s accessory choices elevated his look from above average to exquisite. The pocket square in beige with a pink hue picked up the rose gold outsole of his two-tone shoes. The tie bar kept his look clean but added some visual interest on his thin, patterned tie. Even his belt was a leather with a pink undertone to tie it all together. Fellas, when I say the items of your outfit don’t have to match but they have to go, I’m talking about putting an ensemble together like Walker’s. The hues (underlying color) are all in the same family – blue in the primary items and pink in the accessories. Since the colors are all related, they work in harmony. I’m excited to see what Walker brings to Charlotte off the court. According to my favorite Bobcats’ source, Ben Swanson (a.k.a. CardboardGerald), the rookie came to the press conference dressed to impress in Louis Vuitton sneakers. Kemba Walker, you’re on my fashion radar. He’s my early pick for style rookie for the season….if we get a season.

Walker’s swag dominated the night but credit has to be given both to my Canadian countryman Tristan Thompson, as well as Marshon Brooks for sporting full ensembles not just a suit. Thompson (and his personal shopper) found a suit that managed to fit him perfectly without looking snug in the shoulders or short in the sleeves – an issue for a player with a seven feet, two-inch wingspan.The polka dot tie contrasts with the pink tone in the shirt and the paisley pocket square ties it all together.His rose gold watch face is the right shade for his skin tone and the leather watch strap and shoes are the perfect complimentary shade of warm saddle brown – this is how to wear black and brown together. It certainly looked like Thompson dressed to best match his new Cavaliers cap – think he knew something the media didn’t?

In every draft class, there seems to be one player that calls dibs on the bow tie and tries to make it work for him. This year, Marshon Brooks took the honor. The last time a bow tie was worn properly was when James Harden sported his cream ensemble and has since had the neck accessory a signature. Brooks seems to be following Harden’s sartorial example. Brooks was originally drafted by the Celtics before being moved to the Nets, sported another bow tie at his introductory press conference in Newark. For draft night, his two piece grey suit fit in the shoulders and the sleeve length was fine although it could be taken in more in the torso and in arm width to remove some of the bulk – the ill fit was made obvious when he stood up to meet Commissioner Stern. Besides the technical suiting issues, the patterned shirt mixed with the neutral grey suit really make the bow tie the star to the outfit. A good tactic to draw attention up to Brooks’ face and away from the terrible adidas draft caps.

The number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft was Kyrie Irving out of Duke University and the only thing that streamed first overall about his outfit was his timepiece.Besides the impressive watch, the rest of ensemble was average – decent fitting jacket and shirt, pants could be tailored and the tie was too skinny and poorly knotted. Hopefully fellow rookie Tristan Thompson and veteran NBA fashion plate Baron Davis can help their new teammate take some risks this season.

Speaking of sartorial risks, Kawhi Leonard went for preppy throwback look with white piping on black two button suit. When I originally saw this suit, I immediately thought he belonged on a yacht or perhaps parking cars at the yacht club. The buttons are a bit distracting and the pocket square seems like an afterthought but the piping has grown on me. Keeping the shirt and tie relatively neutral was a smart move so it didn’t distract from the jacket. The fit is decent, but as with many of these young men, the sleeve could be slimmed down. A pop of color or sheen in the pocket square could have upgraded the look and he might want to re-think the braids – no one should take manscaping cues from Udonis Haslem.

Pocket squares have become the new accessory of choice for NBA draftees in recent years and this year, some players either didn’t put enough thought into them (Leonard) or tried too damn hard. It’s important to remember that for these young men, most of their interviews will head and shoulder shots so the pocket square will be shown and having one that looks like a used tissue stuffed in your pocket looks sloppy. The Morris brothers were a great story of the draft, twins going one right after another to different cities for the first time in their young lives. But they had me crying foul all over Twitter as with the pocket square, bigger is not necessarily better as you have a limited space to display your accessory.

Markieff Morris, the slightly older twin and the first to be drafted, thirteenth overall to the Suns, wore a pinstripe suite that looked be right off the rack and ill-fitting on his massive frame. The jacket is too long, the shoulder are bunching and sleeves and pants must be taken in. Also, on a large man a three-piece suit adds bulk, he should have gone for a sleeker silhouette. As for the pocket square, it looks like he found some iridescent Kleenex and stuffed it in his pocket. The fact that you actually see a bulge from the access fabric in the jacket is a terrible look. Remember, it’s a square, not a scarf. While we’re on accessories, white watches, like white sunglasses, often just look cheap and it does not work with his outfit at all.

Marcus Morris, the younger brother by seven minutes, was drafted next to another Western Conference team, the Houston Rockets. Marcus, followed suit almost literally with a pinstripe three-piece suit in black that was looked to fit in the shoulders but not so well elsewhere. Not to be outdone by his brother, upped the pocket square ante as his almost reached his tie knot – far too large. I’m all for flair but the pocket square took over his entire outfit and you became distracted by his accessory and not listen to what the newly minted rookie had to say. Also, if you look the Morris’ brothers wore similar shirt and ties. The best moment from the twin’s draft came from their interview with their mother, who was also in a pinstripe suit, who said she wouldn’t wear either of the adidas draft caps – smart woman.

As for the rest of the draft class, it was nice to see the players put some effort into their attire, the recent explosion of athlete stylists are certainly helping keep the players current. Derrick Williams tried to work with a skinny suit silhouette but didn’t make it. The tailoring was fine but the tie knot didn’t work with the shirt or the tie width. The bright red tie was a nice burst of color, but some more texture would have really made Williams stand out.

Jimmer Fredette came into the draft with plenty of hype thanks to his ridiculous NCAA campaign. While Fredette’s stock dropped a touch on concerns over lack of defensive fundamentals and size, his fashion game could probably use a return to basics. His jacket hit in the wrong spot and Fredette looked like he was sporting a pot belly. The stance on his jacket was a touch high and the cut made him look boxier. Dressing in BYU blue (navy suit, blue tie, blue shirt, blue watch) was a nice nod to his alumna matter but it came off a little dull. Fredette is more modest than most NBA rookies but his giant timepiece and rapping brother give the impression that the young man from upstate New York wants to take a few more risks.

Finally, I have to give points to Jonas Valanciunas, my hometown Toronto Raptors fifth overall draft pick. Most Raptors picks were hoping that local hero Tristan Thompson would have his homecoming on the Air Canada Centre court, but as usual the Raptors went European. Valanciunas went for subtle but well-tailored. The olive-green tie and pattern mixing with a different pocket square elevated the look from basic to interesting. The sleeve length was also on point so kudos to the unknown centre. I’m sure he’ll be a frequent visitor to Yorkville this season, Toronto’s high-end shopping neighbourhood soon.

Overall, this year’s draft class was an improvement over last year’s. The new crop of NBA rookies need to continue to practice and perfect the art of fit and how to dress their frames. Hopefully they’ll start taking more risks and find their own personal style among the NBA trends and Louis Vuitton littered locker rooms. Good luck gentlemen and welcome to the big leagues.

Photos courtesy of ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports and NBA.com.

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Filed under endorsement, fashion, NBA, personal style, sports, trends, Uncategorized

Made in China: Steve Nash Leaves Nike for Luyou

It seems that this NBA season is a time of transition for Steve Nash. In late 2010, he announced that he was divorcing from his wife. He endured another separation with Amar’e Stoudemire leaving for the Knicks. And now, the two-time most valuable player is parting ways with Nike Basketball, after fifteen years, to sign with a Chinese athletics brand called Luyou. Why the sudden change at mid-season? Leaving major brands for start-ups is a new trend among veteran NBA players. Baron Davis, a noted fashion plate and friend of Nash, was one of the first to sign with an Asian-based company. Davis has his own signature shoe and his Beardman logo literally makes him the face of Li-Ning. Shaquille O’Neal is also part of Li-Ning. Kevin Garnett left adidas to join ATNA and became their marquee player, and not just a member of adidas’ basketball “brotherhood”.

Photo credit: SneakersNews.com

Why the sudden trend? Are larger companies just not giving enough attention to the superstars? Is it about money? Or about growing their brand as players to ensure longevity once their playing days come to an end? Doing well the Asian market can translate to huge dollars in terms of jersey sales, revenue from signature shoes and marketability with other brands overseas that could continue into retirement. Players like Nash, Garnett and Shaq are so well-recognized in North America that it makes sense to to try to make headway in the world’s largest economy. All three players signed with different upstart Chinese brands that are still based in China. Li-Ning opened a store in Portland, the hotbed of athletic gear, last year, but none of these brands have an NBA presence or endorsement roster like Nike, adidas or even Reebok. Why take the risk and leave Nike after so many years?

Nash's last game in Nike's? Photo Credit: Getty Images/Yahoo Sports

Sneaker website CounterKicks attained the following statement from Nike:

“We can confirm Steve Nash is no longer under contract with us. We had a great run with Steve and we wish him all the best. We’re extremely pleased to work with the NBA’s top players like Kobe, LeBron, Durant and Wade, who wear our basketball products, the most innovative in the game today.”

The statement seems like public relations speak for  “good luck but we really don’t need you”. Nike has the largest roster and arguably the best talent with Kobe and LeBron but also new young stars like Blake Griffin, whose meager endorsement contract will likely bring a large payday and extension for Blake and huge hype for another signature shoe next season for Nike Basketball. Nash is taking a risk, but he becomes the face of a brand instead of competing with so many dynamic players.

Photo credit: WorldsBestLogos

It’s curious that the Luyou, Li-Ning and ATNA logos all look reminiscent of the infamous Nike swoosh. At first glance, they look like something that you may find in a knockoff factory in China. Are the companies doing their own swoosh to be recognizable? Is it symbolism or just a copy cat tactic? Perhaps if their logo was something unique, like another Chinese basketball brand, Peak, they would stand out more in North American market. They run the risk of being grouped into the Nike knock off section on the sales floor. However, it does leave room for serious branding for the signature sneaker models, like with what Li-Ning did with Baron Davis. The production process of both the Asian brands and the American names like Nike are likely in the same or or neighbouring factories in China.The incredibly lucrative footwear counterfeit business has another brand to compete with and mimic.

Nash in China in 2009. Photo credit: BDL/Getty Images.

An interesting factor in this recent trend is that both Baron Davis and Steve Nash are represented by BDA Sports Management, an agency known for exposing their clients to a worldwide fan base, especially in China. BDA has a strong international roster of players including Yao Ming. It’s also somewhat common for BDA athletes to endorse companies that are new in the basketball footwear market like Brandon Jennings, who is Under Armour’s only NBA athlete and at the forefront of all their marketing campaigns. He also signed the contract while playing overseas in Rome, instead of going to college. Under Armour is an American brand that instead of being based in Portland or China, is based in Baltimore, Maryland and is well-known for their apparel, instead of a company like Luyou, which is unknown to North American NBA fans. Nash is Canadian with international roots and is known as the pride of the province of British Columbia. Vancouver has a significant Asian population so that could translate to marketing opportunities, events with the Chinese community and of course, more sales.

Photo credit: sports.qq.comz

What it will really come down for Nash is whether he can sell sneakers to both markets and if it performs well enough for Nash to play in. Luyou’s brand slogan is “I think I can” so perhaps the mantra can pay off. Looking at their current offerings in China, they do not seem to have designed basketball sneakers in the past – most lifestyle and casual running shoes. At the announcement in Beijing, the brand had Nash call in videophone and announced that there would be both a charity playground project called “Nash’s House” as well as a Nash logo competition. Luyou trotted out diverse models who wore new designs and preached a new vision and direction for the brand. While I do not fully trust the capabilities of Google translate, it seems that Luyou is re-launching in their own market with Nash as the centrepiece. It doesn’t seem that there was any plans for worldwide expansion but perhaps that will come later this season or during the All-Star game in Los Angeles. Technically and aesthetically I’m curious to see what the brand comes up with as their other shoe designs look dated and uninspired. Would you wear Luyou shoes? Perhaps only time and availability in all markets will tell. For now, I’m sticking to my Nike’s.

Photo credit: CounterKicks.com + Luyou

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Li-Ning: Original Expansion

The sneaker game is nothing but competitive. Most companies that seem to have their own brand identities, are really just subdivisions of sportswear empires. Converse became infamous teaming up rivals and friends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird for the still relevant Weapon sneaker. But now, Nike owns Converse, turning it more into a fashion brand with collaborations with American designer John Varvatos. Nike moved Dwyane Wade from Converse to Jordan Brand and taking away his signature shoe but making him the new main pitchman for the yearly Jordan release – this season the Jordan 2010. Adidas owns Puma, among other brands, so needless to say, it’s hard to be a new independent brand in the conglomerate market place.

Li-Ning Flagship Store front in Beijing.

Li-Ning Company Limited, is a major “sports brand enterprise” from China, that covers development, research, distribution, manufacturing, marketing, and of course, design. The company focusses on apparel, footwear, accessories and sports equipment. They’ve tapped athletes for sponsorship at home and abroad including the NBA market and are focussing on global expansion and market share.

Baron Davis brings more than the classic Clippers colourway, a smile and a shot to Li-Ning - he brings personality and marketability.

Their list of athletes includes the effervescent Baron Davis. Not only is Baron a great point guard, but a film director, an actor and a well-known fashion plate in the NBA. When Boom Dizzle where’s something new, others take notice. His signature shoe, the BD Doom  came out this season too much buzz and apparently a lot of on court questions from fellow players.

One of the five versions of the Li-Ning BD Doom Signature Shoe and one of the two limited edition Beardman vinyl action figure.

The logo for the shoe is without question, Baron himself – the Beardman, sporting his trademark homeless-chic beard. The shoe came in five different colour ways, all available for sale – something that major brands don’t always offer. LeBron James plays almost nightly in a different colour and style of his LeBron Air Max VII, but very few are available for sale. Baron’s sneaker offered customization with a variety of eyelets and lacing options. It also came with a vinyl figure, picking up on the collectible toy market that is so synonymous with street and sneaker collecting culture. The Beardman is also adorned on apparel like varsity jackets and tees. While it wasn’t the prettiest shoe, it certainly makes a statement – something the company needed to do to assert itself amongst the big sportswear dogs.

Interior of the Li-Ning Store in Portland, Oregon.

Li-Ning has taken this success and propelled it into building their first store front in Portland, Oregon, where the brand’s headquarters are state side. The flagship opened in January 2010 – not far from Nike’s compound in Beaverton, Oregon. With the opening of the store, Champs Sports announced that Li-Ning will be in 80 stores by this summer. Recently, Li-Ning expanded the Portland store and it now spans 2,200 square feet. The company wanted to display more than just their basketball lines and show a full variety of products, especially indoor sports. The showroom and retail store originally opened at 850 square  Clearly, the company is doing something right.

Exterior of the Li-Ning Store in Portland, Oregon.

To really compete with Nike, they need to continue their interesting shoes with viral campaigns, giving consumers something different. As a sneaker fiend, I’m over seeing every Jordan shoe bastardized into a new fusion model. Seeing something new, and not a company that lives in the past trying to capitalize on old classics shows true innovation and fresh ideas. It’s exciting  to see what Li-Ning can bring and if they can continue recruit not only talented but interesting athletes, like Baron Davis and also Shaquille O’Neal, they can create a niche in the massive market. Bring on the Beardman.

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