Part of what makes the NBA great is the abundance of individuality. The players are given the freedom to express themselves both on and off the court in ways not many sports leagues cater to. You could literally be anyone and still build up your brand. Either you’re the first pick in the draft or an undrafted free agent, once you step on the court, all eyes are on you. Some are famous solely for their game, others are notorious for their personal image and a select few are remembered for both. Without a helmet to conceal their faces like the NFL, we instantly recognize a player and what they look like from head to toe.
As prominent as NBA fashion is over the years, players also carry the swag ( or for some, a lack thereof) on the hardwood, with accessories that not only aid in elevating their game (and for some of these guys, I hope that’s the case), but also express who they are as individuals. Through the NBA’s rich history I’ve put together the All-NBA Accessory Team, compiling players that built their brand through not just their game, but also their expression of individuality on the court and the hustle to push the culture forward.
Carmelo Anthony – Doin’ Too Much
Sometimes more is less, and that bodes true on a number of levels when it comes to Melo. I distinctly remember a time when Melo kept it simple with one arm sleeve, and a headband to compliment his sweet cornrows back in the Denver Nuggets days. Fast forward to his tenure in New York and you’d pause to ask, “are all those accessories necessary?” Please, somebody tell me it is, because I cannot possibly figure out how you move in all that clothing, not to mention score points the way Melo has all these years. I think it’s safe to say Melo’s over accessorizing rivals only his volume shooting.
Stay Me7o on the accessories, Mr. Anthony.
What the hell is this.
I guess it’s only fitting that Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, endorsed such a legendary product, so legendary in fact that most call it a myth, as it never graced an NBA game.
Looking like a headband on most nights (it’d have to be really dark for you to even call it a band) or something a sumo wrestler to cover up their lower extremities for some, the D-Bands are described as “an extension of the headband & cap that are both fashionable & functional for today’s sports enthusiast.”, according to their IG account.
Say what you want about these head wedgies, but one thing’s for certain, the NBA and us fans were robbed of the D-Band spectacle, but at the very least, it deserves an honorable mention.
Chris Anderson: The Human Coloring Book
The NBA has its fair share of colorful personalities, and more often than not these kind of guys go on the list of guys you absolutely DO NOT cross, at any given time. Chris “Birdman” Anderson is for damn sure on that list, and it’s not hard to see why. You know when you leave your 3 year old with his/her crayon alone in the living room, you’re for sure going to find countless, unwanted random doodles all over your walls. Chris Anderson is your living room wall, and just the sight of this man is enough to intimidate anyone. Couple his imposing image with rough and scrappy style of play and you’ve got an instant fan favorite that many fans gravitate to.
Wilt Chamberlain – Headbands
Many regard Wilt Chamberlain as the first true dominant force in the league. “Wilt The Stilt” contributed a lot to the game of basketball. From establishing the significance of a dominant 5 to writing the record books in his own name, the NBA and basketball in general owe a lot to the Big Dipper. You could tack on the use of the headband to his long list of contributions. It wouldn’t be difficult to spot a 7 foot giant on the court, but the headband only added further swag to his dominance. Since then many players started using headbands.
Some tried to add their own twist to it,
others went a little overboard.
while a few turned out to be pretty damn good basketball players donning the headband,
and at one point, it was also used to cover up receding hairlines, I might add. (Sorry, I had to do it.)
But the next time you see greatness wearing elastic fabric on their domes, just know that “The Big Dipper” made it cool first.
Horace Grant – The Bespectacled One
With the amount of players that have come and gone in the league, it’s impossible to remember every single one. Players often rely on their game to create memories for their fans, harping on their individual performances to carve their place in the game’s history.
This is how we evaluate the all time greats, and for the most part that’s not a long list, as great talent doesn’t necessarily equate to transcendent talent. But it’s also true that a select few will forever be remembered not only by their game, but how they looked playing the game, and Horace Grant checks off both boxes as one of the core players, along MJ and Scottie, in the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat all while donning his iconic googles.
With the NBA reaching new highs in popularity during the 90s (thanks in large part to the league’s extending reach across the globe), and the Chicago Bulls almost always featured in the Finals, players like Grant were sure to get attention, and his unique accessory certainly helped familiarize the public with goggles, and why it’s okay to ball out bespectacled if it means you get to win three straight championships.
Grant wasn’t the first don eye wear on the court, as legends like George Mikan
and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also rocked a pair,
while Kurt Rambis’ trademark large square glasses completed the hard-nosed, scrappy role player persona Rambis played on the Showtime Lakers.
But in an era where technology was progressing to aid global commercialization of the league, Grant popularized the goggles and remains to this day, the most recognized player to have worn the signature specs.
Dennis Rodman – Just Dennis Being Dennis
I could honestly make a completely different list of ridiculous NBA hairstyles (and it so deserves a list of its own), but nobody quite pulled it off like Dennis Rodman. Remember when we talked about the NBA’s many “colorful” personalities? Dennis Rodman is the whole freakin’ rainbow with a few lucky charms to boot. Notorious for both his on-cout and off-court antics, Rodman’s personality may only be rivaled by his embodiment of the junkyard dog, leading the league in rebounding for several years while standing at just 6″6! The iconic image of himself he portrayed on the court was only an added accessory to his notoriety. The NBA has been blessed with crazy hairstyles over the years, but if one thing remains constant, it’s that Rodman is the champion of NBA hair.
Some came close,
some tried to come close,
(“Holdat” L, Carlos.)
but no one did it quite like “The Worm”.
Rip Hamilton – Hoops Superhero
After suffering a through a broken nose (twice!), to avoid further damage and necessary nasal surgery, Rip Hamilton was advised to wear a face mask. Talk about a blessing in disguise.
That face mask became THE face mask of the association, as Hamilton never played a game without it ever again. And after winning the NBA Finals, upsetting the Lakers in 5 games, Rip Hamilton entered public conscience as the masked shooting guard who went toe-to-toe with a young, rising star in Kobe Bryant.
Rarely do we see an athlete as synonymous to an accessory as Rip Hamilton is, but having one of the most unique looks on the hardwood makes anyone take notice of you, and Hamilton’s game only elevated his status as one of the games stars even further, making a name for himself as the masked man in a solid core of “non-superstars” that brought Detroit a title. I honestly feel like, unless you’re a Pistons fan or diehard hoops junkie, you wouldn’t recognize Rip Hamilton walking down the streets without his facemask, which testifies to the power of an accessory in building an athlete’s persona brand.
Now whenever we see guys ball out on the court with a facemask on ala Kobe Bryant,
or dominate ever facet of the game like LeBron James,
or even break unbreakable records like Russell Westbrook’s triple double frenzy this past season,
we get that feeling of a superhero, putting all his talents on display and busting every move in his arsenal to carry the weight of adversity and responsibility, and lead his people to victory. This is a feeling we first felt with Pistons legend, and more importantly, NBA Champion Richard Hamilton, who will forever be credited for the facemask.
Too bad it doesn’t make all of us look like superheroes…
Allen Iverson – A Man of Culture
We all know who Allen Iverson is, and his countless contributions to the game as we know it is a list that solidifies his status as a Hall of Famer. From the large, crisp white T-shirts, baggie jeans and durags he wore during pressers and the tattoos and cornrows that completed the look of “The Answer” on the court, Iverson was culture personified for the NBA, and who embodied who he is as a person and owned it proudly both on and off the court.
The influence A.I. had on his peers and on the generations to follow is prominent to this day, from the countless tattoo you see on an NBA players arms, to the intricate cornrows they have on their heads, A.I. pushed the limits early in the 2000s and in turn pushed the culture to the forefront, with global, professional sports league as his platform. The iconic arm sleeve he contributed to on court swag remains the most prominent piece of accessory in the game today.
The game’s biggest stars today have worn an arm sleeve, even delivering masterful and legendary performances in the process.
Whether it was a game saving shot,
or a pivotal chase down block,
or even one last gamer to cap off not just a retirement tour, but a legendary 20 year career on a 60 point final game,
all these pictures wouldn’t be complete without the arm sleeve. Some people call it the shooting sleeve, but I refuse to do so unless guys like Andre Roberson cease to wear one. But such is the influence of a legend like Allen Iverson to have everyone and anyone wear something that he wore and made famous with masterful games of his own.
The shooting sleeve is now a staple in today’s game, and in a small way we have Allen Iverson to thank for these iconic pictures because it wouldn’t be complete without him creating the look first. Salute to A.I., a true man of culture.
As for my final thoughts, every one of these players on the all-accessory team are innovators in their own right, not because they decided to wear simply wear an article of clothing on the court, or decided to draw on their bodies with permanent ink or change up their hairstyles. They’re innovators because they took it upon themselves to stand out, embrace their individuality and create a lasting image of themselves that will remain with us forever.