How NBA Players Find Stylish Clothes That Fit


Medha Imam: Basketball players
are today’s style icons, but there’s a pretty
big problem with that. Finding fly clothes that fit. That’s where designer
Isaac Saqib comes in. Yo, Isaac, come here! He’s the founder of
luxury streetwear brand Mercy X Mankind. Isaac Saqib: Hey!
Medha: Hello! So, who have you dressed? Isaac: I’ve dressed
some great artists Young Thug, J Balvin,
and Juice WRLD, and then some
really fresh NBA players. Medha: But how does Saqib
make eye-popping clothes that also fit some of
the best NBA players? Isaac: Welcome to the studio. When it comes to creating
something for an NBA player, it’s that you can’t use your standard men’s
or women’s pattern. Because you have
your standard small, your standard medium,
your standard large, but with an NBA player,
because they don’t fit that standard, everything has to be
made to measure, so there has to be a pattern
made from scratch, essentially, off of their
particular measurements. Medha: Basketball players aren’t
built like other athletes. They’re long and lean, and their disproportionate
body measurements break all the rules of
manufactured clothing. Leaving players like Kyrie Irving
to go to designers like Saqib to find something, anything,
that makes them look normal. Isaac: Designing for
any high-profile clientele is always complex. It’s never an easy task, and
people like Kyrie Irving, because he’s longer and because his body isn’t,
like, an average body size, we had to make adjustments
to the fit of the pants, the hip, all the way
down to the leg opening to make sure that his
foot would fit inside. And then bigger, way bigger
people, like Chris Copeland, we had to make many
adjustments just to make sure that he fits into that coat
the way he wants it to fit. Isaac: Sometimes making
stuff for NBA players can be really nerve-wracking, but
other times it’s not too bad. Someone like Kyrie Irving is, like, a little bit bigger than average, but someone like
Chris Copeland, or, like, Karl-Anthony Towns that
we made a jacket for, they’re like monsters, you
know, these guys are, like, 6-9, 7 feet, and it’s really weird because their torsos will not
always be super abnormal, like, they might have,
like, a regular-sized torso, but the length of,
like, their arms, is, like, huge, you know,
and their height is huge, and then their hips are
bigger than normal, you know. Medha: But perfecting the
fit is just one part of it, the technical part. Players want clothes that
reflect who they are. Sometimes that means
going loud and flamboyant. And other times, it’s choosing
something a little quieter that still stands out. Isaac: You know, if they’re
spending that much money, they want something that’s
not just gonna be overlooked. But in the same sense,
you have NBA players like Chris Copeland, like Kyrie Irving. They want something a
little bit more subtle. They don’t want something
that’s super loud, they want to be comfortable, and the pants that we made
for Kyrie Irving were just a regular pair of distressed,
like, suit trousers. It wasn’t anything
bold or special, but it’s something that he
liked and something that, you know, he’s probably
gonna rock on a daily basis. the fact that we make
everything here in New York and the fact that
we’re in a major city and we’re able to meet with
them and discuss with them, that helps us a lot,
because we’re able to create these fly clothes for
them that they can rock, you know, walking
into their arena. We’re able to provide that
because we make everything here. So we can make everything
made to measure, essentially. Medha: But when did arena
tunnels become runways for the top NBA players? It all started with a fight. It all started with a fight. The Detroit Pistons were
hosting the Indiana Pacers in a heavily contested
regular-season NBA game between two
championship contenders. With less than a minute left, a few of the players
get into a fight, raising tension in the building. A few moments later, a fan
in the crowd hurls a drink directly at the
Pacers’ Ron Artest, and a full-scale brawl occurs. The teams and players at
the center of this event were champions and all-stars. The NBA was hit with a PR crisis. And one way to
address it was attire. Baggy T-shirts, sweatpants,
snapbacks, and jewelry. That was the typical
look for NBA players back in the early 2000s,
before “Malice in the Palace.” And David Stern, the NBA
commissioner at the time, wasn’t a big fan. Journalists and fans constantly
linked urban style trends with the league’s, quote,
“thug-like” reputation. Make no mistake;
this was and still is a pretty far-reaching
racist assumption. Stern responded to the
brawl by implementing the NBA’s first-ever dress code. Players were no longer allowed
to freely express themselves but were now required to dress
in business-casual attire during any team or
league business. Dwyane Wade: Like,
OK, now we gotta, you know, really dress up, and we can’t just
throw on a sweatsuit. Then it became a
competition amongst guys. Medha: Players
changed the narrative. They took the restrictive
dress code into their own hands and transformed a pregame
walk into, well, a catwalk. Off-court attire
became an excuse to dress up, be creative,
and express yourself. And the fashion
industry took notice. Now brands and fashion
designers like Saqib turn to basketball players to
showcase their latest looks. Isaac: People are
always looking for the next best thing. Right? So they always want to be
the first ones to rock, like, a new brand
or a new designer. And the fact that I’m
upcoming and I’m unique, in the sense that I don’t
come from a fashion house, I think that kind of makes
me attractive in that sense. Medha: Finding clothes that
fit remains a daily struggle for players like
Irving and Copeland, but it’s more
important than ever because postgame discussions
are no longer restricted because postgame discussions
are no longer restricted because postgame discussions
are no longer restricted to a player’s
on-the-court performance. Their appearance off the
court could just as easily become a national headline.