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How David Stern’s dress code changed the look of the NBA

The NBA dress code has become a bastion of high-fashion, where players’ pre and postgame outfits become their own running narrative and topic of discussion.

Shots of players rolling into the stadium in elaborate, sometimes altogether ridiculous, outfits, and the subsequent roasting they get from whatever studio analyst is covering the game have become a mainstay of NBA culture.

You’ll see designer frames, studded backpacks, crocodile skin shoes, a whole palette of floral colors, culottes, and really all things that seem more GQ than NBA. Players like Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade have made fashion a side-gig.

Westbrook is the creative director of True Religion and Wade has released his own capsule collection with Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2. But how did we get here?

I remember the days of the baggie white tees and massive chains. The do-rags and the fitteds. Dudes were literally wearing jerseys of other teams to their own sporting events. To many people my age, mid-twenties, that was the peak of the NBA.

The crossovers, the clowning, the shit-talking, shots of Henny at half-time, it doesn’t get better than late 90s/early 2000s NBA.

Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, I mean it’s hard to argue that the style of play isn’t more compelling now as most teams adopt the pace ‘n’ space mentality of running up the floor and shooting as many 3s as possible.

The NBA has become a global brand, with players from 41 different countries and territories on opening day rosters for the 2016/2017 season. Viewership was way down in the post-MJ landscape of the NBA, whereas now the league has never been more watched in the United States and beyond.

On November 19, 2004 the infamous brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which included fans and players throwing bows in the stands, changed the league forever.

It’s hard to measure the exact impact of that moment on the league, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the brawl was a main reason for the implementation of the dress code and an active attempt by the owners, and then commissioner David Stern, to eschew in a new era of a new-look NBA.

It’s also important to note the state of the league that Stern took over in 1984, when cocaine, drug-use, and partying defined the league.

David Stern came in and introduced drug testing for the first time, only ratcheting up the league’s drug policy after Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose two days after being selected second overall in the 1986 NBA draft by the Celtics.

Repeat drug abusers like Roy Tarpley, Lewis Lloyd, Mitchell Wiggins and Richard Dumas were given lifetime bans from the sport as Stern cracked down on the league’s reputation.

A recent piece by ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh titled “Inside the ‘Tinderization’ of today’s NBA” looked at how once NBA players stopped partying on every flight and road trip, performances became better and home-court advantage plummeted.

One particularly illuminating excerpt from Haberstroh’s piece documents the changes in winning percentage of home court teams from the 80s, to the 90s, and then today.

“In the 1987-88 season, home teams won an astounding 67.9 percent of games, boasting an average win margin of 5.8 points, the highest on record. The advantage was so profound that home teams, on average, played at the level of a 55-win team.

“Then, in less than a decade, the home-court advantage gap was sliced in half. By 1996-97, home teams won only 57.5 percent of the time, by an average margin of only 2.6 points. And now, after hovering around 60 percent for most of the 2000s, home-court advantage is dropping again. This season, it sits at an all-time low of 57.4 percent.”

The reason? Haberstroh says, “NBA players are sleeping more and drinking less.”

This can’t all be attributed to David Stern coming in and trying to clean up the league and introducing a new dress code, advances in sports science and clean living gave players longer careers. Beer was taken off team flights and replaced with healthy gourmet spreads.

This is all to say that when David Stern took over the league, he made it a point to clean up the image of the game. Some of these changes were probably for the better of the league, like drug tests and expansion, but twelve years after the dress code was implemented, has it really accomplished anything?

When the league-wide dress code was established at the beginning of the 2005 season, players like Allen Iverson and Stephen Jackson said the rule was implicitly racist.

It’s hard to argue with that logic when the dress code banned things like, “large jewelry, hats, jerseys, tee shirts, jeans, do-rags, and Timbaland-style boots”.

I mean that’s not even especially subtle. That’s a pretty direct assault on the prevalent hip-hop style at the time of baggie jeans, huge chains, and white tees.

At this point in 2017, it seems like most players have learned to embrace the dress code. Almost every current player came into the league with the dress code already established. Hip-hop fashion changed, perhaps even in concordance with the NBA dress code, and now most players seem comfortable in their bougie attire.

Perhaps the NBA is more palatable for the masses now and stars aren’t railing on in the media about having to practice, but let’s have a moment of silence for that long lost era of the NBA.

When disrespect was at an all-time high, no one was joining up to create super-teams, and dudes were rocking Timbs to games.

Also, shouts out to Tim Duncan’s fashion sense.

Mike Will Made-It is the best producer in hip-hop right now

It’s damn near impossible to listen to any hip-hop project in the year 2017 without the fingerprints of super producer Mike Will Made-It.

That familiar filtered tagline echoes out over the opening 10 seconds, “Mike Will made it” or simply “Eardrummers” signals Mike Will’s presence. And Mike Will’s presence essentially guarantees a hit.

But how did a kid from humble beginnings in Marietta, Georgia become the most prominent music producer, beyond just hip-hop, in the world?

Mike Will, born Michael Williams, found initial success by basically hanging around various hip-hop studios after dropping out of Georgia State to pursue music full-time.

Williams befriended multiple artists, forging relationships and trust with a Rolodex of ATL artists.

Mike Will became the go-to guy for beats for dudes like Gucci Mane, 2Chainz, and Future early on in his career.

It was Gucci that first recognized Williams’ talent after a run-in at an Atlanta recording studio and it was Gucci that gave Mike Will his tagline on a 2008 freestyle “Star Status”, rapping “Mike Will Made It/Gucci Mane slayed it.”

With the backing of Gucci Mane in the Atlanta hip-hop scene, Mike Will was able to meet and produce for the stalwarts of the burgeoning trap-rap sound.

In many ways, Mike Will shaped the sound of rappers like 2Chainz (who Mike has knew in his Tity Boi days) and Future.

Much like Zaytoven and Timbaland before him, Williams combines the typical rapid snares and banging bass of the trap sound with a keyboard or synth melody on top, creating a whirlwind of sound and feeling, despite relative simplicity of the instrumentation.

Mike Will stayed grinding on the mixtape scene and earning the respect and camaraderie of some of ATL’s most prominent rappers. His first major commercial hit came on Rick Ross and Meek Mill’s 2011 smash “Tupac Back”.

The beat sounds like Mike trying to imitate Lex Luger, it isn’t quite demonstrative of his specific style and skills as a producer.

Future’s “Turn On The Lights” in the same year is much more representative of Mike Will’s abilities. The bouncy, airy synths on top of rolling drums and hi hats.

This is what Mike Will does and the combination yields crossover hits that have both “urban” and pop chart appeal.

After his breakout in 2011, Mike Will started producing for the biggest names in hip-hop, as well as pop music.

Artists like Rihanna, Kanye West, and Miley Cyrus began to collaborate with Williams and he became the go-to guy for any artist looking for that crossover chart-topper.

To that end, in a 2013 interview with Forbes, Williams claims that not thinking about “crossover appeal”, and these various coded industry buzzwords, actively contributes to the authenticity of his music,

“Right now, I don’t feel this generation is thinking about ‘this is too urban’. It’s either cool or not; it’s not in a category, it’s not about any of that.”

This mantra is exactly what has made Williams so successful. He simply seeks to make the coolest shit possible without labels or genre defining what the product is.

On his solo studio albums, Ransom and Ransom 2, Williams clearly enjoys bringing artists from different backgrounds and genres together to create that “cool” that Williams is always seeking.

Look at Mike Will’s first major hit as a solo artist, “23” which hosts Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and Miley Cyrus. The juxtaposition between Juicy, Wiz, and Hannah Montana initially throws the listener off, but as Mike says, all that really matters is whether it’s cool or not.

It would get tiring and redundant to list all of Williams’ hits within the past couple years. But we’d be remiss not to name a few, if not just to show Williams’ ability to produce across the spectrum, defying genres and creating an entirely new mode of musical collaboration.

Some of Williams’ highest-charting production credits were on Rae Sremmurd’s Depeche Mode-inspired “Black Beatles”, to Rihanna’s “Needed Me”, and possibly Williams’ biggest hit, “Formation” for Beyonce.

In a July 2016 interview with the New Yorker, Mike described the writing process for formation during a freestyle cypher with Rae Sremmurd at Coachella,

“So we’re in the middle of the desert… And we’re just coming up—we just freestyle, you know?—and Swae Lee said, ‘O.K., ladies, now let’s get in formation.’ And we put it on the VoiceNote. Swae Lee’s got so many voice notes that he doesn’t even record, but I’m like, ‘Dog, we got to do that “get in formation” shit.’ That could be a hard song for the ladies. Some woman-empowerment shit. Like, ‘Ladies, let’s get in line, let’s not just fall for anything.’ I’m seeing that vision.”

This anecdote perfectly encapsulates the genius of Mike Will. He took a random freestyle line from Swae Lee, which probably wasn’t exactly said in the most empowering of women tones, and turned it into Beyonce’s feminist anthem.

Mike Will has simply taken over the hip-hop game. Hardly a popular project, beyond just hip-hop, can come out without Williams’ assistance on at least one or two tracks.

Most recently, Mike Will appeared on three songs on Kendrick Lamar’s album DAMN., cheffing up “DNA”, “HUMBLE”, and “XXX”.

All signs point to Mike Will continuing his reign on the hip-hop and pop music charts.

The dude knows what is cool, we hope he’ll keep blessing our eardrums.

Building a starting 5 of the best ball playing rappers

In the words of Drake on “Thank Me Now” there’s always been mutual appreciation, perhaps envy, between ball players and rappers, “Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous/’cause we wanna be them and they wanna be us.”

True words for your headtop from Drizzy, god knows he’s tried to ride the wave of multiple sports teams, both collegiate and professional. But this article is not about Drake’s wave-riding and its discontents.

This article is about the rappers out there who made a decision to go from playing ball to spitting bars. While not every one of these dudes could’ve necessarily made it in the league, they all played at a pretty high level, but fell off for various reasons.

We’re glad all these dudes chose to get off the court and into the booth, but we can’t help but think what might have been…


Cam’ron recently posted on his Instagram that he gave the business to multiple-ex NBA players who grew up in New York, including Stephon Marbury. He added a postscript that the only dude that got the best of him was the infamous New York City playground legend Shamgod.

During Cam’ron’s sophomore year of high school at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, a trio of Cam, Mase, and Richie Parker (who got a scholarship to Seton Hall revoked for sex assault charges) led their high school to the state championship game, defeating Marbury’s Lincoln team on the way.

In the final, Cam bricked a three with his team down 55-53 and that one shot determined his future. Cam claims to have offers from Miami, Georgetown, Syracuse, et al., but after missing the shot, he immediately bought two ounces, never went back to school, and the rest is history.

Cam recently challenged Stephon Marbury to a game of one-on-one in MSG with the proceeds going to charity. We’ll have to wait to see if that ever pans out, in the meantime you can watch clips of Cam balling back in the day. But could he have gone pro?


As the second-half of the backcourt on that Manhattan Science and Mathematics game, Mase also is a legend of the New York City high school basketball scene. His story isn’t quite as intense or dramatic as Cam’s, but still perhaps left him thinking what could have been.

Mase was recruited out of Harlem to play at SUNY-Purchase, and was the starting point guard as a freshman. His plan for his entire life was always to play in the NBA, but after a couple semesters at Purchase, Mase moved home back to Harlem, determined to make it as a rapper.

The Game

The Game, as his moniker suggests, could ball. Coming from the same Compton High School as Tayshaun Prince, Baron Davis (Game’s best friend), Tyson Chandler, and Gilbert Arenas, Game was virtually surrounded by elite basketball talent.

Game claims to have enrolled at Washington State University only to be expelled for drugs possession. For what it’s worth, WSU denies he was ever enrolled at the University, but Baron Davis has vouched for Game’s game, especially his dunks.

2 Chainz

2 Chainz, real name Tauheed Epps, was a college ballplayer, and he was apparently pretty good. Coming out of College Park, Georgia, 2 Chainz was recruited to Alabama State, where his college coach hailed his versatility. According to Complex, Alabama State’s coach Clayton Harris was so impressed with Chainz’s

“ability to play the point guard, shooting guard, and small forward position and amazed by his family background and focus on scholastics that Alabama State felt compelled to extend him a scholarship offer.”

That’s some pretty high praise coming from the coach. It makes sense the Daniel Son Necklace Don artist could play, given his lanky 6’5” frame.

In 35 games with Alabama State, 2Chainz scored 2.8 ppg in 11 minutes. It’s safe to say, we’re glad to have him in the hip-hop world, no lie.

Master P

The only guy on this list that actually made a roster in The Association, Master P could ball.

Coming out of Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans, Master P got an athletic scholarship to the University of Houston but had to drop out after a couple of months due to a knee injury and would go on to start No Limit Records.

But P’s dream was never dead. In both 1998 and 1999 Master P had pre-season contracts with both the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors, respectively.

He actually played pretty well, averaging 8 points in pre-season, but he never got a shot at the big time. He can proudly say he wore an NBA jersey, though.