Stylistically speaking, there may not be an NBA player who’s had a greater impact on the culture of the NBA than Allen Iverson. His flashy style on and off the court became the standard of players and fans alike.
Some in the league, however, did not like the perceived hip-hop culture taking over the NBA. So the league tried to squelch it with one swift move. Here’s what happened.
Allen Iverson’s influence
Iverson was never out to impress anybody but himself. Jewelry, hats, headphones, and baggy clothes became staples of his pre-game style. Soon, other players took notice. In reality, NBA players were emulating a style prevalent outside the NBA, but Iverson helped usher it into the league.
Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern took notice. After seeing how the Serbian national team wore matching sports jackets as opposed to Team USA’s sweatsuits, jeans, and chains, he took action in the form of a new dress code. This included strict rules regarding what the players could and could not wear:
- No sleeveless shirts
- No shorts
- No t-shirts, jerseys, or sports apparel unless pre-approved
- No hats during games, interviews, or league events
- No chains, pendants, or medallions
- No sunglasses
- No headphones while in the tunnel
- Players were to wear business casual clothing before games, including collared shirts and sports coats.
The league was pointedly targeting Iverson’s style.
Iverson’s response to the dress code
Iverson saw right through the league’s motivations. To this day he believes the league was targeting him and other black players. The NBA legend spoke with Nice Kicks back in 2017:
“I was bothered by it, because I felt like they were targeting people that dressed like me … We been wanting to dress like how we want, but we just felt like we couldn’t.”
This echoed the concerns of other players. Former Golden State Warriors star Jason Richardson called the dress code racist. Stephen Jackson echoed this sentiment. Even coaches like Stan Van Gundy and former Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe criticized the move, believing it was a double standard.
The dress code wasn’t without supporters, however. Former NBA star Grant Hill and even LeBron James understood the dress code. Then-Lakers coach Phil Jackson supported it, calling the contemporary trends “prison garb.” When Larry Brown coached Team USA, he said how players dressed was so embarrassing that he felt the urge to send the players back to the room.
Today’s impact on NBA fashion
The league has loosened up on the dress code in the years since. Players can and do express themselves through fashion once more, but it’s a far different time than when Iverson played. Baggy clothes are gone, and NBA players wear skinny jeans and tighter clothes instead.
Iverson poked fun at the current trends, joking that they should implement a dress code based on what the current crop of NBA players wear. “They made a big deal when I was doing it,” Iverson told Nice Kicks. “But some of the stuff these dudes are wearing? Come on man. They were picking on me, obviously, if they let these guys wear what they wear now.”
Iverson’s impact on the league is still felt to this day. Although fashion may have changed, many players still credit Iverson for helping spur their interest in basketball. Although he jokes about current NBA players, Iverson has also been one of the few former players to praise the current ones for what they do.