In 2005 then-NBA commissioner David Stern mandated players wear “business casual attire” to games, forbidding the baggy shorts and jerseys stars like Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony were fond of, in a move many interpreted as unfairly targeting black players. It’s safe to say that at the time, Stern didn’t envision the explosion of fabulous pre-game pageantry that would result, inadvertently, from that controversial policy.
Today’s players are sartorial stars in their own right, forming lucrative partnerships with designers and even launching their own collections. Armed with professional stylists, ballers don designer duds for what’s now known as the walk-up. It’s here, in eccentric pre-game ensembles, that the Rockets—especially GQ cover star James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Chris Paul—have earned a reputation, standing out even among the rest of the NBA for their fashion-forward sensibilities.
Harden seemingly aims for shock value, while Tucker finds creative ways to show off his famously impressive sneaker collection—often carrying a pair or two as accessories, in addition to the ones he’s wearing—and Paul uses the platform to bolster lesser-known black designers and show support for HBCUs. As they make their way to the locker room before each game, cameras flash and fashion bloggers and sports journalists alike clamor to cover the action in the Toyota Center runway—oops, tunnel. These are our favorite looks from this season.