The era of the peacock pro-basketball player is upon us. Having an off-court look is as important as on-court play, stylists are de rigueur and a player's presence in the front row of fashion shows no longer turns heads. Since the City of Angels is now a bona fide two-team town, we thought it time to take a look at how the Lakers and Clippers would fare in a full-fledged fashion throw-down.
Clippers: Not fireworks worthy but maybe seaworthy. The Los Angeles Clippers home uniform is old-school patriotic white with red and blue trim, the away version predominantly red with pops of blue and white.
But this season, as part of the league's "pride program," the Clippers are hitting the court for seven Sunday home games in a new powder-blue "nautical pride" uniform with short-sleeved (instead of tank) jerseys and the team's initials, L.A.C., spelled out in maritime signal flags on the side panels of the shorts.
Lakers: Hollywood royalty. The Los Angeles Lakers' purple and gold colors have a regal feel, with the team traveling in predominantly purple uniforms and usually hosting at home in gold — making them the only NBA team with a mostly non-white home uniform. (In 2002 they added an alternative white home uniform that's still in occasional rotation.)
This season, the Lakers have trotted out a pride uniform of their own. Dubbed "Hollywood nights," it's black with purple and gold trim that calls to mind the old black-and-yellow "bumble bee" California license plates.
Advantage: Lakers. Not just because of the four-uniform options versus the Clippers' three, but because the color and the sleeve length of the Clips' Sunday blues make them look kind of like a cadre of pajama-clad grade-schoolers next to the Lakers' bad-boy bees.
Clippers: Chris Paul. In addition to having an October 2012 GQ cover under his stylish belt, Lob City's sartorial standout consistently lands on NBA best-dressed lists (including Vanity Fair's) and ranks an impressive No. 13 on GQ's list of most stylish NBA players of all time.
With an aesthetic that could be called Ralph Lauren super luxe, Paul's working a youthful enthusiastic vibe, embracing bold patterns, accessorizing with pocket squares and wearing the sweater in all its manifestations (recent versions include a blue-and-white striped maritime sweater, a shawl-collar cardigan and a color-blocked Alexander McQueen number). And while he may be the leader of the Clippers' style pack, he's not alone. DeAndre Jordan has been upping his off-court game, and Blake Griffin has started to find a fashion footing of his own. The result? Some online sports fashion blogs are going so far as to call the Clippers the most stylish team in the NBA.
Lakers: Kobe Bryant. He is on the same GQ list — two clicks ahead of Paul at No. 11. He has appeared on GQ's cover twice — once for the U.S. version and once for GQ Italia — as well as in L'Uomo Vogue. Although his look has changed over the years, these days Bryant seems to hew to traditional high-end Italian brands, such as made-to-measure Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. He has endorsement deals with luxury watch makers, first with Nubeo and currently with Hublot, which created the $25,200 limited-edition King Power Black Mamba wristwatch in his honor.
Advantage: Clippers, thanks to Paul's enthusiastic embrace of style as self-expression — not to mention the selfies of color-coordinated outfits he occasionally posts to Instagram. And while the looks thelmselves may be the result of a little help (like many of the flashiest NBA players, he works with a professional stylist), that swagger and sense of adventure is all Paul — and gives him an edge over Bryant's off-court look, which is starting to look a little staid.
Clippers: Hardly hair-raising. Their namesake is a sailing ship, but the 2013-14 roster appears to be familiar with the business end of hair-cutting clippers too, hitting the floor as a relatively conservatively coiffed club that tends to keep things short and sweet above the neckline.
Lakers: A furry feast. Mohawk, faux hawk, high-top fade, corn rows — and those were just the hairstyles Nick Young sported before joining the purple and gold. Today the hero in zero rocks an eye-catching head of hair that's short on the sides but both elevates and widens as it moves north into a spectacular topiary. Throw in Steve Nash's constantly shape-shifting 'do, the impressive set of dreadlocks sported by Jordan Hill and the one-two punch of gleaming bald pates adopted by Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre, and there's hardly a hairstyle this side of the bob that isn't represented.
Advantage: Lakers. When it comes to this town's tonsorial top dogs, there's no disputing who takes it — and by more than a hair.
Clippers: Paul again. While a number of Clippers have endorsement deals, it's Chris Paul's signature shoe with the Nike-owned Jordan brand that's the standout. The most recent version, the CP3.VII, dropped in early October and is described in press materials as "draw[ing] inspiration from East L.A. and the '80s of Paul's youth," with nods to car culture. The shoe is noted for perforated uppers, bold hues that include black, white and green, and colorful interiors that could well have been inspired by a harlequin hiding in a confetti factory.
Lakers: Kobe and Nike again. The most recent iteration of the Mamba's Nike kicks, the Kobe 9, was unveiled at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA Dec. 4. Inspired in part by the footwear worn by boxers and wrestlers, art, the (as-yet-unnamed) "muses" in Bryant's life — and the desire to create a "masterpiece" — it's a high-top silhouette with a black, mesh-like layer over a knit layer of bright oranges, reds and yellows that marks the first use of Nike's advanced fly-knit technology.
Advantage: A "high-top that acts like a low-top"? Shoulder shrug. Nine bright red horizontal lines embroidered down the back of the heel to symbolize Bryant's Achilles tendon stitches? For that alone Kobe's kicks land in the winner's circle.