I call them professional haters.
You know who I’m talking about, right? Those people who spend exorbitant amounts of time deconstructing other people’s lives for what they deem entertainment. They excoriate celebrities because of their weight, their hair, and lately, their clothes.
Nowhere is this more popular than in NBA commentary circles, where, triggered by the recent uptick in couture stylings, dudes have now included style as a reason to critique someone.
During this time of year, when the playoffs are on every night, post game press conferences have become de facto fashion shows. Dudes have drawn a line in the sand on some “either you’re with us or against us” stance when it comes to contemporary looks. Timid fashion choices stand out like dark-skinned AKAs.
Professional haters feed off of this like it’s a whale carcass, taking every chance they can to clown.
Well, I got beef with these dudes. I’m not a fan of this kettle calling black nonsense.
I’ve always had an issue with those who come from the “you’ve never played pro sports, so you shouldn’t comment about it” contingency. I always felt like it was a fake excuse. It usually comes up when a dude is struggling and is trying to deflect the attention off of himself, with what he considers is a barbed putdown to someone in the media. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some credence. I’m not arrogant enough to say that. If you played in the pros, then, yes, you are privy to things that those who didn’t, simply are not. Actual real-life experience counts a lot in critical analysis.
But there are limits. The ability to understand complex strategies and numerical comparisons is a skill-set that isn’t the exclusive domain of former pros. Otherwise, how do you explain the countless coaches, general managers, referees and scouts involved in sports. What, you think Jeff Van Gundy played in the league?
The overwhelming number of these guys never played and yet, can achieve high levels of success, nonetheless. Besides, if playing sports automatically made you an expert, then guys like Isiah Thomas wouldn’t have such dismal track records. But he does, so here we are.
There is, however, style – the one category in which critical analysis bothers the hell outta me.
Criticism works fine if it’s directed at someone’s actual work. Whether it’s a pro athlete, a politician or a school teacher. Professional gigs all come with an explained set of expectations and rules. But, style is personal. A lot of that comes from how you see yourself and how you want the world to interpret you. It even goes as far back as how you were brought up. So when people take shots at what you wear, it comes off as inappropriate and petty.
For the sartorially obsessed, it’s after the game, after Russell Westbrook has eviscerated some team’s slew-footed PG, that the fun begins. We are, surprisingly enough, collarbone deep in an era of fashion-forwardness. Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes his clothes more serious than Westbrook. He’s liable to come out wearing a fishnet jumpsuit with a boxing belt around his waist. Think I’m joking? Look at this, or this, or this. This dude is living in the future.
Around the league, guys like Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Chris Paul and LeBron James are stepping outside like they’re about to take a stroll down the Champs Elyees every day.
The entire Knicks team comes to every game like they came straight from Tom Ford’s penthouse. The stakes are high, in case you hadn’t realized.
The NBA has a legacy of dudes with great style, like Clyde Frazier and Alonzo Mourning, so there is precedent. But it’s different now – more ubiquitous, more serious. Dudes are going hardbody with couture-everything and taking personal styling to its logical extreme. Names like Balenciaga, Lanvin and Dior have become commonplace. So have bright colors, customized suits, cuff links and fedoras.
So after every game and after every decked out post-game interview, the sharks come out. Taking shots at guys, making fun of their choices, even going so far as to question their manhood. All this because these guys aren’t scared. While fans, social media junkies and media members sit around dressed like they sleep on the subway.
It’s the height of hypocrisy.
So let’s make this simple. If you still think rocking Air Force 1s is special, you can’t take shots. If you bought your watch from the same place you get a haircut, you can’t take shots. If you don’t own a pocket square, clown, you cannot take shots.
These guys have never had style. These are the same jokers who used to rock sweat pants with church shoes in college. Same dudes who started wearing button-down shirts because Jay-Z told them it was the “grown and sexy” thing to do.
Bum dudes with zero vision and even less courage have no right to go off on riffs about what’s appropriate. You gotta let another man cook. You got dudes out here taking shots on fitted sweaters, while wearing white tub socks with slacks from Target and earrings in both of their ears.
Some people point to the dress code, that the NBA instituted a few years back, as the reason looking sharp trended up. Even NBA Commissioner David Stem thinks this is the case, as he recently explained to GQ Magazine.
“Right after the code was instituted a lot of players would whisper to me, I don’t know what the fuss is about. Let’s go! There was a sense that this allowed players to express their sense of style. Our players, individually, took it as a catalyst to show themselves off. And suddenly the response from the public was so overwhelmingly positive that, you know, it’s getting to be like the red carpet at the Grammys.”
Stern is feeling himself a little bit. Feeling all Phillip Drummond out here, thinking he took a bunch of black boys out the projects and showed them how to tie a Windsor Knot. Pfftt.
Truth is, styles come and go on their own. All you have to do is go through the archives and you will see a plethora of players decked out in whatever the dominant style was of their respective era.
The correct prompt for this era is more tied into social media – the 24/7 spotlight, where a dude can’t even go to Trader Joes without a near riot breaking out.
Feeling the sting of public ridicule and perpetual stargazing, guys are reacting to living in a fish bowl. You want to take photos of me and my family all the time, with the hope of cashing in on a bad look, right? Well, let me stay on point then. You guys aren’t gonna catch me slipping in these streets, feel me? Eff you and whatever clique you claim.
Nobody will ever confuse sportswriters for having style. Knowing how to rock a three-piece suit is not a prerequisite for putting sentences together. I’ve been in enough media rooms to know, that there are a good chunk of these dudes, who have no clue how to organize their thoughts in a way to dress with any panache. You know what? That’s fine, stay in your lane, and the next time you walk by Burlington Coat Factory, walk in and say hi. They’re expecting you.