Stylewise, the 2019 NBA draft was all about what you didn’t see


The 2019 NBA draft, which unspooled Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., made one thing abundantly clear: No matter what team jerseys these newly minted pros end up sharing on the floor, when it comes to a red carpet opportunity, it’s going to be every man for himself.

Overall, the colorfully attired top draft picks presented a unified front of trim suits with jackets that nipped in ever so slightly at the waist, paired with slim-legged trousers and dress shoes — worn without socks in a bewildering number of cases.

For the record:

9:35 a.m. June 21, 2019An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the designer of Zion Williamson’s suit. Adrien Sauvage is a British designer of Ghanaian descent, not Nigerian.

It was nice to see the necktie — the vestigial organ of the well-dressed man — well-represented at the draft, as well as a handful of jaunty bow ties (a hard look to pull off if you’re the towering type that many of the players are). One glaring departure from the brotherhood of the neck knot was No. 1 first-round draft pick Zion Williamson — formerly of Duke University and now headed to the New Orleans Pelicans — who showed up in a cream-colored, shawl-collar tuxedo and white dress shirt with the top couple of buttons undone and the neck tie MIA.


The bespoke all-white look by Adrien Sauvage (a British fashion designer of Ghanaian descent) immediately called to mind 2003’s No. 1 pick — LeBron James — which made it all the more fitting (and, since we’re on the topic, much better fitting than King James’ voluminous sack of a suit). Given Williamson’s enthusiastic grin and steadied, confident pace to the stage to grip and grin with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the lack of necktie gave him a certain prom king swagger that wasn’t unwarranted.

No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, right, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, wore all-white for his anointing as the sport's next great star.
No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, right, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, wore all-white for his anointing as the sport’s next great star.
(Sarah Stier / Getty Images/TNS)

The player that followed Williamson to the stage — Memphis Grizzlies-bound Ja Morant — is the first player in the history of Murray State University to be drafted in the top 10 (he was second overall) and he kept the school close to his heart — literally — by sporting a custom pocket square printed with an image of himself in his Murray State uniform. His custom lavender pinstripe Hideoki Bespoke suit (with matching pinstriped shirt — also sans tie) had a lining printed with photos of his family.

Before the evening began, Morant and No. 3 pick RJ Barrett (who will be wearing a New York Knicks uniform in the upcoming season) showed off the details of their custom-lined suits to an ESPN commentator; Barrett opting for a Canadian flag lining for his pink, two-button, notch-lapel made-to-measure Indochino suit along with his nickname — Maple Mamba — embroidered inside. (The day before, no doubt in anticipation of the synergy the draft would bring, the Vancouver-based online purveyor of custom suits announced it had signed a multiyear deal with Barrett as its first-ever signature athlete.)

Another company that impressively leveraged the evening’s eyeballs was retailer JCPenney, which kitted out several of the high-profile athletes in custom suits from its JF J. Ferrar label. One of them was No. 10 pick Cam Reddish, whose busy black-and-yellow patterned jacket didn’t get any less busy inside, the lining covered with several messages; one paid tribute to the cancer-stricken mother of former Duke teammate Tre Jones with the words “Mama Jones” and his own family of supporters via the allcaps CAMFAM. Another was Coby White, the No. 7 pick snapped up by the Chicago Bulls. White seemed to zig where everyone else was zagging, opting for a dialed-down navy blue suit and navy tweed loafers that simply allowed the small, powerful details to be noticed. Among them: a contrast stitched lapel buttonhole, the letters FMF embroidered on the shirt cuff (they stand for “for my father,” in honor of his late father), and, yes, you guessed it, a custom-printed lining of folded cancer awareness ribbons.

Another draftee paid homage to this hometown area code (De’Andre Hunter, whose custom JCPenney suit was lined with an all-over print of Philadelphia’s 215) and yet another his familial heritage (No. 9 pick Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese-born player to be drafted in the top 10, showed off a suit lined with Japanese woodblock-print images paired with designs that honored his father, who hails from Benin).


While most of the athletes taking the stage at Barclays Center on Thursday night appeared to have given their ensembles at least some consideration, there were a few looks that left us full-on flummoxed. One was Tyler Herro’s floral suit that had social media abuzz with references to grandmotherly sofas and the Von Trapp family draperies; another was Darius Garland, the No. 5 pick, who who rocked a beige bathrobe/kimono/lab coat hybrid (by Fear of God) that made him look like a Jedi master bound for Galaxy’s Edge, not the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But the hands-down strangest suit of the night had to be the one that Bol Bol was wearing (reportedly by a label called Spider Worldwide); it included a black double-breasted, notch-lapel jacket and matching trousers, both embellished with bejeweled spiderwebs — a large one radiating out from the left breast of the jacket, and two smaller ones on his trousers. It felt overly costume-like — even for the perennial peacocks of the National Basketball Assn.

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